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Lotsa-Bytes in a Yottabyte

Numbers have sizes based on their values, such as 4 being smaller in value than both 10 and 5,345. And, we can perhaps conclude that the difference in values between 4 and 10 is minor compared to the difference in values between 4 and 5,345. Yet, we can visualize the amounts (e.g. pile of pennies) associated with the numbers 4, 10, and 5,345.

But, when we get into the realm of very large numbers, it is hard to get a hold of the meaning of these numbers. An example is the realm of the terabyte, a measure for digital information.

As "tera" means 1012

  • 1 terabyte -- A hard drive that holds 260,000 songs
  • 20 terabytes -- Photos uploaded to Facebook each month
  • 120 terabytes -- All the data and images collected by the Hubble Space Telescope
  • 330 terabytes -- Data that the large Hadron Collider will produce each week
  • 460 terabytes -- All the digital weather data compiled by the National Climatic Data Center
  • 530 terabytes -- All the videos on YouTube
  • 600 terabytes -- Ancestry.com's genealogy database (includes all U.S. census records)
  • 1 petabyte (or 1000 terabytes) -- Data processed by Google's servers every 72 minutes
  • Your Task: The known sequence is terabytes (1012), petabyte (1015), exabyte (1018), zettabyte (1021), and yottabyte (1024). Try to come up with some rough "visual" meaning for each of these numbers.

    Source: WIRED, Issue 16.07