Riddle Me This, Riddler
Kirt's Cogitations™ #201

These original Kirt's Cogitations™ may be reproduced (no more than 5, please) provided proper credit is given to me, Kirt Blattenberger.

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   Cog·i·ta·tion [koj-i-tey'-shun] – noun: Concerted thought or reflection; meditation; contemplation.
   Kirt [kert] – proper noun: RF Cafe webmaster.

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Riddle Me This, Riddler

Riddle me this, Riddler: When is a search engine not a search engine? Ans: When it is a calculator.  Batman might have asked just that question after learning of the amazing calculator and units conversion facility that is built into the Google search engine.  As an avid Google user, I have noticed occasionally that I would do a search for some numerical or units related topic and the result would include a simple, unexpected calculation with an answer at the top. Since it happened again recently, I did a little investigation and discovered that indeed there is a very extensive calculator built into Google.

Open your favorite browser, go to Google and type in "10 ohms * 5 milliamps" and watch the result: "(10 ohms) * 5 milliamperes = 0.05 volts" Neat, non? Now, type in "10 ohms * 5 milliamps in millivolts " for a result of "(10 ohms) * 5 milliamperes = 50 millivolts ." Neat again. Now for an inane example of how it will present in any (valid) format. Do, "10 ohms * 5 milliamps in milliohms picoamperes " to yield "(10 ohms) * 5 milliamperes = 5.0 × 1013 milliohms picoamperes ."

Of course, the calculator is not limited to electrical calculations. With built-in units like stones, cubits, grains, sidereal years, baker’s dozen, and scores, there is a good chance the Google calculator will calculate and/or convert just about anything you need. Anyone who has taken a college physics course has been challenged to do the old "furlong per fortnight" conversion when solving a speed/velocity problem. Your $100 HP or Casio calculator might not have the units built in, but let us give Google a try. Do "c in furlongs per fortnight," and voila, Google gives you, "the speed of light = 1.8026175 × 1012 furlongs per fortnight."

Did I mention the built-in physical constants? Yup, as in the last example, Google knows that "c" is for the speed of light. It knows that: "the speed of light = 299 792 458 m / s," when typing in just the letter "c."  Want Boltzmann’s constant? Type in "k" to get "Boltzmann constant = 1.3806503 × 10-23 m2 kg s-2 K-1." Need the elementary charge of an electron? Type "electron charge" to get "elementary charge = 1.60217646 × 10-19 coulombs." "eV" returns, "1 electron volt = 1.60217646 × 10-19 joules." Want that answer in watt*seconds? No problem, just type "eV in watt seconds" to get "1 electron volt = 1.60217646 × 10-19 watt seconds." Of course, the units are equivalent (1 joule = 1 watt*sec) so the number is the same, but you get the picture. A couple more to amaze you: "epsilon_0" returns "electric constant = 8.85418782 × 10-12 m-3 kg-1 s4 A2." Type "G" for "gravitational constant = 6.67300 × 10-11 m3 kg-1 s-2." You gotta love it.

But wait, there’s more. Google calculator can convert between numerical bases, too. Easy example: "0b100000 in octal" yields "0b100000 = 0o40." 0b100000 in hex " yields "0b100000 = 0x20." How about this for you: "CLXII in decimal" converts from Roman numerals to decimal, "CLXII = 162." If you would like that answer in binary, then here it is, "CLXII = 0b10100010." By the way, it also does the mundane calculations like trigonometry functions, factorials, roots and powers, logarithms, modulo, etc. Even complex math is no sweat "(1i + 1) * (2i + 3)" gets you "((1 * i) + 1) * ((2 * i) + 3) = 1 + 5 i."

So, the next time you need a quick, easy utility to perform a calculation and/or units conversion, just fire up Google . As with so many other realms, the engineers there have managed to seize an opportunity and improve upon it. The Google calculator out-features the majority of the online and stand-alone versions out there. How much better is it? Maybe "1 googol = 1.0 × 10100" times better?