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Copyright: 1996 - 2024


    Kirt Blattenberger,


RF Cafe began life in 1996 as "RF Tools" in an AOL screen name web space totaling 2 MB. Its primary purpose was to provide me with ready access to commonly needed formulas and reference material while performing my work as an RF system and circuit design engineer. The World Wide Web (Internet) was largely an unknown entity at the time and bandwidth was a scarce commodity. Dial-up modems blazed along at 14.4 kbps while tying up your telephone line, and a nice lady's voice announced "You've Got Mail" when a new message arrived...

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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?

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