When Austin Sendek was growing up in Northern California, he was never allowed to use the regional slang term “hella.”
Now the 20-year-old physics major at UC Davis uses “hella” often — and he’s trying to get scientists from Boise to Beijing to do the same. Sendek, who was forced to use “hecka” as a child, has petitioned an international scientific body to make “hella” the name for the hitherto nameless, unimaginably huge, seldom-cited quantity of 10 to the 27th power — or 1 followed by 27 zeros.
It started as a joke, but Sendek’s Facebook petition: to the Consultative Committee on Units, a subdivision of the Bureau International des Poids et Mesures, has drawn more than 60,000 supporters. Its chances for formal adoption by the global weights-and-measures community are hella dim, but Google was so taken with Sendek’s modest proposal that it incorporated “hella” in its online calculator.