Is 'Hella' About To Become Legit? One UC Student Hopes So

05/10/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

The word "hella" is about to get some of its dignity back.

Austin Sendek, a University of California Davis student studying physics, is lobbying to make the niche slang term from Northern California an official scientific unit. After using the term to describe the magnitude of volts in an electric field, Sendek realized it would be a good idea to try to make "hella" a prefix for an unnamed quantity, and now has an entire effort underway.

The idea started as a joke, he told TIME magazine, but as the Facebook group grew to 50,000 members, the inside joke turned into a petition. TIME explains how it's possible that he is now lobbying to get 10^27th power named in homage to his NorCal roots:

The effort stems from the fact that many numbers -- particularly large ones -- don't have official names. Small ones are familiar -- mega- is the officially recognized prefix for 1.0x106, or 1 million. Giga- is the prefix for 1.0x109, or 1 billion. But past 1.0x1024, or yotta-, there are no official names...We're always learning more about the universe, stars, black holes, planets and galaxies, Sendek says. That's when those big numbers start to come up.

CNN's SciTech blog
has one specific measurement that could soon be described as "hella":

The word "hella" would be useful to describe the sun's energy, which is 4 x 10^27 watts according to NASA. That would be 4 hellawatts according to the proposal.

It's tempting to wish him hella luck, if only for the amusement of bored physics students in classrooms everywhere.

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