They’re calling it a million

In Sergio Lenoe’s ‘Once upon a time in the West’ there’s a scene Charles Bronson describes to another cowboy what a thousand, thousand dollars is telling him “They’re calling it a million”. It seemed funny less than a hundred years ago, people would not have any knowledge of a number greater than a thousand and that the response to the news that there is more than a thousand of something was met with wide eyed disbelief…..well, the NCBI Short Read Archive (SRA) contains DNA sequence, there are one quadrillion, one hundred and seventy four trillion, six billion, nine hundred and five million, four hundred and ninety two thousand, eight hundred and twenty eight nucleotides in it.

Fortunately there are a series of far greater numbers already described so when the SRA passes into and beyond the quintillion nucleotides mark we’ll have nothing to worry about ……except for those intense headaches as we try to remember if we’re dealing with a 12 or 15 digits number.