Skip to main content

What is the biggest number?

Banner

Most of us have been tricked into this one before.
Person 1: "What's the biggest number?"
Person 2: "Infinity?"
Person 1: "Noooo — it's infinity +1!"

The thing is, infinity is not a number, but a concept or idea. A "googol" is the number 1 followed by 100 zeroes. The biggest number with a name is a "googolplex," which is the number 1 followed by a googol zeroes.

The story goes that mathematician Edward Kasner asked his 9-year-old nephew to come up with a name for a very large number. According to Britannica Library, this was in 1938. But a newspaper interviewed some of Dr. Kasner's living relatives and they think it happened closer to 1920. In any case, a kid came up with the name. Give it a try! If you could invent a word for a gigantic, humongous number, what would you call it?

By the way, yes, Google is a play on the word googol. The name of the company represents the huge amount of information that a search engine has to sift through. Humans can imagine bigger numbers than this, but we have yet to decide (or discover) where it all ends!

Recommended Reads