If you asked a friend or relative what place value comes after a million, what would their answer be? Many would likely be able to answer a billion and some would get a trillion, but it is very unlikely that they would get anything beyond a trillion. The reason these numbers are not common knowledge is because they are not typically used outside of science. We sometimes use "billions" to descibe the accumulated wealth of the richest men in the world (Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, etc.) and we can use "trillions" to express the United States national debt ($14 trillion as of 2011). However, it is less often that we hear that the Orion Nebula is approximately 7 quadrillion miles away.
Here are some place values greater than a million:
How are these numbers formed?
To answer this question, we need to look at the roots of each place value: the mil in million represents one, the bi in billion equals two, the tri in trillion equals three, and so on. These numbers stand for the "n" in the equation 10^{3}^{n}^{+3}. This is a general equation which represents place value written in exponential notation. Here's an example:
Million MIL n = 1 10^{3}^{n}^{+3} = 10^{3}^{n}^{+3} = 10^{3}^{n}^{+3} = 1,000,000
Billion BIL n = 2 10^{3}^{n}^{+3} = 10^{3}^{n}^{+3} = 10^{3}^{n}^{+3} = 1,000,000,000
Trillion TRI n = 3 10^{3}^{n}^{+3} = 10^{3}^{n}^{+3} = 10^{3}^{n}^{+3} = 1,000,000,000,000
etc...
What is the biggest number?
The largest named number I could find is googolplex. This number was coined by Edward Kastner in 1938. His nine year old nephew coined the term googol to represent 10^{100}, which he believed to be the largest number in the universe. Kastner then created googolplex to show him that there is no largest number because any number can be made larger by performing operations to it. It is this concept that mathematicians are refering to when we use the term infinity.
How long would it take to count to a million? A billion?
If each count was one second long, it woud take 12 days to count to a million and 32 years to count to a billion. In fact, if you started counting when the universe was first formed you would only be at approximately 433,917,000,000,000,000 or about 434 quadrillion.
References
Fact Monster/Information Please® Database, © 2007 Pearson Education, Inc.
2001 by Russ Rowlett and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
There are more place values listed below:
