Monday, December 13, 2010


A while back, I wrote about the number of possible stop combinations on the mighty Aeolian organ in Duke Chapel, calculating a total of 2(120)-1, or ~1.3 x 10(36). It turns out there are only 114 stops, not 120, which brings the total down to 2(114)-1, or ~2.1 x 10(34), a difference of two orders of magnitude. Two orders of magnitude are significant if you're talking about the velocity of a Porsche on the Autobahn (200 km/hr vs. 20,000 km/hr) or the distance to Vega (25 lightyears vs. 2,500 lightyears), but it doesn't make much practical difference when you have a mere 10 decillion combinations rather than an undecillion.* Apologies, regardless, for any confusion this error may have caused.

*Europeans would call 10 decillion "10,000 quintillion," and an undecillion "a sextillion." A European sextillion has six times more zeros than has a million. How logical! A European billion has twice as many zeros as has a million--see the pattern?--although in the U.S., we call a European billion "a trillion." How...sequential. A U.S. sextillion is a measly 10(21).

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