Tuesday, May 31, 2011

First goes Google, now goes WolframAlpha

In May 2010, Google officially recognized the "hella" prefix by including it in the Google calculator. Now, a year later, we've won another important battle in the war to make hella official: WolframAlpha. That's right, every science and engineering student's favorite website has finally jumped onboard.

When "1 hellameter" is entered into WolframAlpha's search bar, the following page comes up:

Check it out for yourself; you can search for "30 hellavolts", "1000 hellaseconds", or whatever you want. It even gives you some corresponding quantities for comparison!

If you're familiar with WolframAlpha.com, it's probably because you've used their amazing integration calculator to evaluate integrals that you're too lazy to work out for yourself (or because your assignment is due in three minutes). However, WolframAlpha also includes a wealth of other information, such as information on the elements, special relativity, and, of course, units. It's quickly becoming a go-to source for students and researchers alike, and consistently draws praise from, of all people, my quantum mechanics professor.

And it's precisely because WolframAlpha is so reputable that this victory is a significant one; most people are used to Google's flippant, whimsical humor, but WolframAlpha generally tries to stay as straight and... erm... "sciencey" as possible. Perhaps this means that feelings towards the "hella-" prefix are shifting from playful to earnest. But it's hard to say. It certainly seems that this should be the natural progression as the idea becomes more familiar and (somehow) starts to seem less ridiculous. And as my friend Dr. David Bacon of the University of Washington once reminded me, standards don't become standards just because some committee designates them as such -- they become standards because people simply use them. Just as the non-standard English system of units is the "standard" in the US, so the non-standard "hella-" prefix could also become standard science vernacular simply through widespread usage and exposure. SI? We don't need no stinking SI!

Is this signaling the beginning of international acceptance of the "hella-" prefix? As hard as it is to infer deeper meaning from WolframAlpha's inclusion of "hella-" in their unit definiton pages, one thing is clear: this is hella awesome. I mean, it's WolframAlpha!

Onward and upward!


Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Finally! Hella makes it to SoCal

"Hella" scored a major point on July 6 when the Los Angeles Times ran an article on the movement. The piece, written by columnist Steve Chawkins, explains the petition, talks about Google's incorporation of the hella- prefix into their calculator, and includes commentary from Ben Stein (not that Ben Stein), spokesman for the National Institute of Standards and Technology. The article also bears a picture of me which warrants a little explaining.

On my way to meet photographer Nathan Morgan, I walked through the windy streets of Dunsmuir, CA to the restaurant where we had planned to meet. As I walked, the wind did something unexpected, yet completely appropriate: it whipped my normally Jim Halpert-esque hair into an Einstein-esque quasi-afro (a physifro, if you will). Furthermore, my financial restraints have kept me from hiring a full-time cosmetologist, so I walked into the photo shoot completely oblivious. The first thing my friend Ryan said when he saw the article was, "Dude, what's up with your hair in that picture? It looks like you combed it with a blowtorch."

Anyway, enough about me; the important thing here is that hecka (sorry, my childhood continues to occasionally impact me) Southern Californians have been reading about the impending quantification and legitimization of "hella". Most of the readers of the LA Times probably have never used the word, so Mr. Chawkins' article is an accomplishment in itself. Since most of the opposition to the hella petition comes from boring people and Southern Californians, at least we're making headway in one tough, yet critical demographic. At that's carries, um, a grip of importance.

Until next time,

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

As Goes Google, So Goes the Nation...

Hello everybody-

Well, the time has come for me to retract part of my last (May 6) post. Fortunately, I've never been happier to retract a post than I am today.

Ladies and gentlemen, the "hella" prefix has been officially integrated into the Google calculator! To see it for yourself, simply go to google, and type in a conversion, e.g. 4,249,234 kilograms to hellagrams, or 931 lightyears to hellameters.

I'm extremely grateful to my friend Greg and the engineers at Google, who are responsible for the latest addition to the Google calculator. Greg, a fellow UCD physics student, used his connections from previous employment at Google to reach a number of engineers, and then proposed the idea of integrating the hella prefix into the Google calculator. The team, consisting of my new best friend Eric "Iceman" and his coworkers, worked hard to see it through. A big thanks to all those who worked to see this happen... you're hella awesome!

It's been said that "as goes Google, so goes the nation." Hopefully, the google-ization of the hella prefix will give the prefix the sense of familiarity and legitimacy that it needs to become nationally (and internationally) accepted.

So, next time you're required to give some sort of measurement, our friends at Google can easily convert that to hella-units for you. And if your professor/boss tells you you've used made-up units, just remind him that if it's on Google, it's official.


Thursday, May 6, 2010

Movement Update, May 6

Hey everyone,

My apologies for the long delay since the last update. Here's what's new:

The next meeting of the Consultative Committee for Units (CCU) is in September. It is at this meeting that Dr. I. M. Mills, Chairman, has promised to propose the "hella-" prefix to the committee. The CCU is the first stop on the long road to approval for the prefix, so it's critical to the movement that the CCU approve the idea. If they give "hella-" the nod, it will move on to another committee for debate. It's time to start building the momentum we need to push "hella-" through the CCU now!

Though I have not discussed the idea with Professor Mills yet, I'm looking forward to speaking with him about the possibility of speaking at this meeting and personally addressing the committee with my best arguments. I'll keep you in the loop for when I speak to the professor and get his reaction on this idea.

In other news, IDG News reporter Joab Jackson just put together this great article on the prefix for computerworld.com. It's the first bit of new press in awhile, so that's always good.

And now for some bad news: I recently spoke with an engineer from Google, who said his colleagues were so entertained by the "hella" proposal that they decided to integrate it into the Google unit conversion calculator. After writing the code to do this, they ran it by management, only to have the idea shut down. Unfortunately, this means that hella units won't be appearing on the Google calculator any time soon - unless you join me in writing to Google and telling them to include the prefix (they're based in the Bay Area; they, of all people, should appreciate it!). You can contact Google here.

On a more personal note, one of my former physics professors has taken to simply calling me "Hella" for short. An unorthodox nickname to be sure, but I'm just happy he knows who I am.

-Austin "Hella" Sendek

Sunday, March 14, 2010

The Hella Movement Hits TIME, CNN, NY Times

Hey all,

Great work everyone- the hella movement has made it to a series of mainstream online media outlets and blogs.

FOX News covered the story here, CNN did so here, and the New York Times discussed the movement here.

I've also realized that the movement has been endorsed by a number of professors and scientists, but I do not have any names. I'm interested in putting together a list of "notable endorsements," so if you're a professor, scientist, grad student, etc., and have signed the petition (by joining the facebook group or sending in your signature at the MakeHellaOfficial store webpage), please send me an email at adsendek@ucdavis.edu and let me know. I'd really appreciate it.

That's all for now- I'm in the middle of finals so I've been very busy lately. Once spring break hits, I'll be more active in promoting the cause. I'm mentally putting my best arguments together for when I speak to Prof. Ian Mills, chairman of the Consultative Committee for Units. He's the first one to win over, and I think we've got a good chance at doing so!

Keep on keeping on,


Thursday, March 4, 2010

The Hella Movement Goes International

Hey all,

Following the publication of Carlos Alcala's article in the Sacramento Bee, news of the movement has gone international. And no, I'm not exaggerating.

Articles on the movement have appeared in England's The Telegraph, the Chinese WorldJournal, the Finnish (I think?) Forte, Germany's News AdHoc, and Jakarta's Inilah, just to name a few. It's pretty entertaining to see a "hella" amidst a sea of foreign letters.

This morning, I did two interviews with radio talk shows - one with ABC Melbourne, and one on Hamilton, Canada's "The Matt Holmes Show." Both went well, though it was a little hard to understand the Aussies when they talked fast. I felt like a total amateur talking to a guy in English, but still saying, "wait, what?"


"Hella-" on TV: FOX40, CBS13, News10

Following the publication of Carlos Alcala's article in the Sacramento Bee about the "hella" petition (which can be read here), three local news programs picked up on the story.

CBS13 beat the others to the punch (actually, they even beat the Sac Bee), by running a piece on the night of Monday, March 1, which you can view on their website here. Unfortunately, they don't have a way for me to embed the video on this blog, so you'll have to go to their website to check it out.

Following the CBS13 story, FOX40 this bit:

An hour after the FOX40 story ran, News10 ran this piece:

All the news outlets did a great job in promoting the cause, and it was hella fun working with all of them.