A googol was once said to have more than the number of raindrops falling on the city in a century, or the number of grains of sand on the Coney Island beach.
Joshua was all a goggle when he tried to comprehend the number googol. In fact, William had to use Google to get the correct definition.
Although not from a Greek or Latin source, this nomenclature is frequently used in mathematics for this numerical group. In the late 1930s, the noted mathematician and Columbia University professor, Edward Kasner was asked to come up with a name for an extraordinarily large number; so, while on a walk one day, he asked his 9-year-old nephew, Milton Sirotta, if he had any ideas.
"Googol", the youngster replied.
The concept was announced in 1940, in Kasner's book, Mathematics and the Imagination. A googol, he wrote, is 10 raised to the 100th power; or the number 1 followed by a hundred zeros.
In an obituary in The New York Times in 1955, Kasner was quoted as saying that a googol was "more than the number of raindrops falling on the city in a century, or the number of grains of sand on the Coney Island beach."
Today, though, when most people hear the term, they are no doubt thinking not of Kasner, but of the popular internet search engine, Google.
Was Barney Google, a cartoon character, the inspiration for the Google Internet Search Engine name?
Barney Google, created by Billy DeBeck, originally appeared in newspaper comics distributed by King Features Syndicate and first appeared in 1919.
The name, Barney Google, is probably familiar to anyone who ever watched a TV historical review of comic strips. He's the guy with the "goo-goo-googly eyes" in the 1923 Billy Rose song they always play in such reruns.
Many newspapers still use his name in the title of one of their comic strips. In 1995, he was honored by the U.S. Postal Service in its "Comic Strip Classics" series of commemorative stamps.
How many people currently remember seeing Barney Google in a comic strip? Barney came into public existence on June 17, 1919, in a King Features strip with the cumbersome title of Take Barney Google, F'rinstance.
The cartoonist, Billy DeBeck, is said to have been working in newspaper comics only until he could accumulate enough money to pursue his "true calling", a career in fine arts. If so, he must at some point have decided his true calling was in comic strips, because Barney Google, as the strip was quickly renamed, earned him the financial means to determine his desired life-style.
Like Mutt & Jeff, Barney Google started out as a sports strip. Barney (who was about half as tall as the other characters) enjoyed horse races, prize fights and similar contests, and was nagged by "a wife three times his size". The strip enjoyed modest success during its first couple of years and then came Spark Plug.
On July 17, 1922, Barney happened to be standing on the sidewalk in front of the Pastime Jockey Club, when an argument inside got physical and a man came sailing out the window, knocking Barney to the sidewalk. Convinced this relatively soft landing had saved his life, the grateful victim made Barney a gift of a horse named "Spark Plug" and that's when DeBeck's strip really took off.
Sparky's first race became one of comics' first national media events, eagerly anticipated by millions of newspaper readers. So great was the public's enthusiasm that DeBeck, who had been planning to retire "Spark Plug" after that one issue, made him a permanent part of the cast.
Sparky was such a star during the 1920s that children who enjoyed the comics were liable to get "Sparky" for a nickname; for example, Charles M. "Sparky" Schulz, who grew up to create the Peanuts comic strip.
So it is, that a comic-strip character like Barney Google, became googol, a name for a very large set of numbers; and then Google, a very large and popular internet search engine.