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 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 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.


In the Sacramento Bee

Tuesday, March 2, Carlos Alcala broke the story on the "hella" movement by publishing the following piece:

UC Davis student pushes new math unit: 'Hella'

Austin Sendek, a UC Davis physics student, has started a petition to establish a new, scientifically accepted prefix, "hella," to be used in front of units of weight, distance or computer storage, much as "milli," "kilo," "mega" and "giga" are now used.

His petition already has hella signatures.

"Hella" is a Northern California term that is a slangy synonym for "really" or "a lot of."

Under Sendek's proposal, the International System of Units would adopt "hella" to follow "zetta," which indicates 1021, and "yotta," 1024.

"Hella" would indicate 1027, or 1 followed by 27 zeros.

His petition has nearly 19,000 fans on Facebook, and seems to be growing by about 1,000 per day.

The idea was generated in class when he and his fellow students were discussing electricity.

"I started joking about hellavolts," said Sendek, who remembers using "hella" as a kid in Yreka.

Then, still as a joke, he started his petition on Facebook and was surprised to see how it took off.

The idea gets plenty of praise from Northern Californians and some criticism from Southern Californians, who often disdain the expression.

"It is a diagnostic for regional dialect," said linguist Rachelle Waksler, explaining how the word's use implies the speaker is from Northern California.

Waksler is a professor at San Francisco State University who has studied "hella" and written a paper on it, as used in slang.

To get grammatically technical: " 'Hella' is an intensifier, which is a kind of adverb that is used to place targets on a continuum for some salient property," Waksler said.

But does "hella" have a snowball's chance of being applied to science?

Scientific prefixes like "deca," "kilo" and "nano" are established by the International Bureau of Weights and Measures, based in France and known by the French acronym BPIM.

A variety of factors are used in considering a new prefix, said Ben Stein, spokesman for theNational Institute of Standards and Technology in Maryland.

Among them: Is the standard needed? Is it widely applicable? Does it follow previously established patterns?

For the first question, it would require that "hella" be useful for scientific descriptions.

Sendek has already worked out some examples to suggest it would.

"The power of the sun," he said, "is .3 hellawatts."

The distance across the observable universe, he added, is 1.4 hellameters.

It may not follow existing patterns, though.

The last prefixes approved, zetta and yotta, are based on words for "seven" and "eight." They apply to 10 to the 21st power (21=7x3) and 10 to the 24th power (24=8x3).

By that logic, the next prefix would relate to a word for "nine," not to California slang.

After Sendek made his suggestion, UC Davis linguistics professor Patrick Farrell put the question on a list of possible topics for his students to analyze in term papers.

"It's something that's most common in the speech of Northern California," Farrell said.

Stein of the NIST admitted having a "warm feeling" for the petition, having once been a physics undergraduate.

A bit of whimsy, he said, is common in physics.

This can be seen in the naming of elementary particles and their properties, such as quarks, which come in "flavors" that include "up," "down" and "strange."

Stein also said Sendek may have stumbled on a field of increasing importance in science – that of establishing definitions for scientific concepts.

Some scientists are working on new and more precise definitions of things – like the kilogram – that may seem obvious to the lay person.

Stein forwarded Sendek's idea to I.M. Mills, a professor in Reading, England, who is working on the kilogram issue.

Mills also heads the Consultative Committee for Units, CCU, the international BPIM committee that would be the first stop for the proposal if it were to be adopted for the International System of Units.

Mills responded – in an e-mail to Sendek and The Bee – that the CCU has talked about extending the range of prefixes in the past, but felt "it would not be sensible to recommend extensions to the prefixes that would be rarely used."

Mills was not entirely negative, though.

"I like the humorous touch of your suggestion of the prefix "hella" for 10^27!" Mills wrote. "I will mention this exchange at our next CCU meeting, and I'm sure it will be received with smiles – but I doubt that it will go further!"

Hella too bad.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Store is online!

Hey everyone,

Just wanted to let you know that the MakeHellaOfficial store is now online and running! The store can be accessed here. The web address, in case you're curious, is So far I only have tees for sale, but I should be getting some stickers in soon! Go check it out!

Till next time,

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

"Hella-" makes it in the California Aggie

Hey everyone,

We've made it into the California Aggie, the school newspaper here at UC Davis. The article printed Thursday, February 18, and was written by Gabrielle Grow.

You can read the article online here.

What's crazier, though, is that the article has spread throughout the internet like wildfire. If you google the terms "hella petition davis", you'll find countless blogs and forums that have discussed the movement (by way of the article), including CrunchGear, Something Awful, and Underbelly. There was one blog, which I will not be linking here, which actually had the nerve to refer to me as a "Bay Area physics student." Darn the Bay, always taking the credit for everything that happens in Northern California...

The California Aggie website has gotten hundreds of thousands of hits because of the article, and our movement has once again picked up speed. After a week-long plateau at around 11,000 signatories, our petition has jumped up to 17,500 signatories in just the past six days.

Yesterday, I spoke with a writer from the Sacramento Bee, who was putting together a piece on the movement. I don't have any details on the article (e.g. when or if it will go to print), but I'll share them as soon as I get them.

You guys are hella-mazing, keep fighting the good fight! Soon, we'll be able to measure stars in hellawatts.

Take care,

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

A Note to Students of Linguistics 1

To the students of Linguistics 1, planning to write their essay on the "hella" prefix-

Welcome to the MakeHellaOfficial blog! Although this blog is fairly new, you should be able to find a satisfactory amount of information on the "hella" prefix proposal here, especially by reading the official petition. I'm not an expert on the "etymological, grammatical, or sociolinguistic" aspects of the word hella, but I'm happy to answer any additional questions you may have about the movement; feel free to ask your questions here by posting a comment. Though I'll try my best, bear in mind that I may not be able to get back to you by a certain time or date.

Thanks for stopping by, and good luck on your assignment!

Stay Classy,
Austin Sendek

Notable Endorsement

Hello all,

I'd just like to let you know that our petition has been formally endorsed by its first PhD, Dr. Matthew McConeghy of Johnson and Wales University. An article on the movement will be dropping in the UC Davis newspaper soon, so I'm hoping I'll be able to bring you many more notable endorsements soon!

See ya soon,

Hella- movement to be analyzed by students of UCD Prof. Patrick Farrell's Linguistics 1 class

Earlier today, I got a facebook comment from one of my friend and fellow UC Davis Aggie, Johnpaul, who told me to check my email ASAP. When I did, I saw that he had emailed me a copy of the writing assignment he had received in his Linguistics 1 class. It took me a second to realize what he wanted to show me, but once I figured it out, I was blown away. Below I have pasted the assignment in its entirety; check out prompt C!

Linguistics 1 Essay Assignment, Due March 13

Choose one of the following three topics and write an essay of 4-6 double-spaced word-processed pages (in 12 point type with 1-inch margins all around). The essay must be handed in via SmartSite (click on “Assignments” from the course site and then “Essay” and follow the instructions for submitting an assignment, using the “add attachment” option). Be sure to save the file you will upload in .pdf, .doc, or .rtf format only. Please do not upload a .docx file (which is the default for thelatest version of Word). You can simply do a “save as” and choose to save the file in .doc format. Ifyou use WordPerfect (or something else other than Word), you can do a “save as” and choose rich text format (.rtf), if .pdf is not an option. Also, any file in any format (pretty much) can be converted to PDF for free via such web sites as The exact due date is: 11:55 PM, March 13.

A) Do women talk more than men? This is a controversial question, as can be seen by reading someof the hits on the first page of an internet search for the phrase “women talk more than men.”Summarize and evaluate some of the key contrasting claims that have been made and theevidence that these claims have been based on. How do the claims and evidence square with Deborah Tannen’s stance on differences between men’s and women’s conversational styles, asexpressed in the video “He said, She Said” (to be shown in class) and in other work (e.g., thebestselling book You Just Don’t Understand: Women and Men in Conversation), summaries ofthis work (e.g.,, or other commentaries (e.g., dyn/content/article/2007/07/13/AR2007071301815.html)? You may draw on your own observations of women and men in conversations to illustrate your points.

B) Based on an evaluation of the article “Dialect Readers Revisited” by John and Angela Rickford (, discussthe problems that speakers of African American Vernacular English (AAVE) face in learning to read “standard” English, the successes and limitations of experimental uses of dialect readers, and the pros and cons of the authors’ conclusion that dialect readers are worthy of consideration as a tool for teaching reading to speakers of AAVE. You may draw on other sources ofinformation that you deem relevant.

C) Austin Sendek, a UC Davis Physics student is the founder of a movement advocating that theword hella be designated the official SI prefix for the value 10^27 that is now being used instead of 10^24 (= yotta) in calculations of such things as the wattage of the sun and distances between galaxies (see: Thus, one might say, for example, that thedistance between the Milky Way and Andromeda is 6 hellakilometers, rather than 6,000 yottakilometers. Summarize and evaluate this proposal, drawing on an etymological, grammatical, and sociolinguistic analysis of the word hella (i.e., how, when, and where this word developed, how it is used in the grammar of English, and what the social parameters of its useare) and an explanation of the SI prefix system. How well would hella fit into the SI prefix system and is the proposal reasonable? Discuss the pros and cons.

Organization and style

• Generally, you should begin an essay with an introductory paragraph in which you say what it isgoing to be about.
• In the body of the essay you summarize the results of your investigation and present your ideasand conclusions. If you are taking a certain position on an issue, it is important to justify thisposition with evidence and examples.
• If you report on matters you have read about, put things in your own words as much as possible. Quotations may be used only sparingly and must be marked as quotations, with a citation of the source.
• If you mention or rely on source materials of any kind, indicate this in the text using any standard format for citing references and include a list of references at the end. EvaluationThe main questions to be asked when it comes to assigning a grade are as follows.
• Did the author do what was asked for?
• Was the topic well investigated?
• Are the points made clearly and concisely?
• Are the conclusions well motivated?
• Are the examples well chosen?
• If ideas from source materials (readings, videos, web sites, etc.) are discussed, are they characterized accurately?
• Is technical terminology used appropriately?
• Are source materials appropriately cited and listed at the end of the paper?
• Overall, and in matters of detail, is the essay stylistically sound?
• Is it reasonably close to the suggested length?
• Was it handed in by the due date?

Thursday, February 11, 2010

MakeHellaOfficial Store


After proposing some shirt designs to our signatories, many of them expressed interest in purchasing some "hella-" merchandise. Because of this, I am currently in the process of setting up an online store so we can begin getting these shirts out to you. The store should be up by this weekend, so keep checking back for updates. The tentative designs are available for viewing on the facebook group, but I'll post them to the store page as soon as I get it up and running. Check back soon!


Century Mark

Hey all,

Our petition is now over 10,000 strong! Over the course of only two weeks, we have grown from 1 to over 10,000 all thanks to you. Let's keep the movement going! Hella!


Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The Petition

Below is a copy of the official petition, as it stands now:

To Whom It May Concern:

For all intents and purposes, the SI prefix system has served the scientific community extremely well since its inception. However, we believe there is one significant flaw in the system which demands immediate attention.

As you know, the largest number with a designated SI prefix is 10^24, which carries the name "yotta-". However, in our world of increasing physical awareness and experimental precision, this number is no longer a satisfactory "upper bound" in scientific nomenclature. The analysis of many physical phenomena reveals natural quantities in excess of 27 orders of magnitude, a number which is currently ignored by the SI system.

Designating a prefix for 10^27 is of critical importance for scientists in all fields. This number is significant in many crucial calculations, including the wattage of the sun, distances between galaxies, or the number of atoms in a large sample.

Addressing this issue presents an exciting opportunity. Since the SI system has traditionally adopted the last names of accomplished scientists for unit nomenclature, it follows that prefix designation should do the same. From this tradition comes the chance for the SI system to use nomenclature to honor a constantly overlooked scientific contributor: Northern California.

Northern California is home to many influential research institutions, including the University of California, Davis, the University of California, Berkeley, Stanford University, and the Lawrence Livermore and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratories. Countless contributions to science have been made by these and other local schools; in fact, elements 93-103 were all discovered at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in a span of 21 years.

However, science isn't all that sets Northern California apart from the rest of the world. The area is also the only region in the world currently practicing widespread usage of the English slang "hella," which typically means "very," or can refer to a large quantity (e.g. "there are hella stars out tonight").

Thus, we believe that the SI system can not only rectify their failing prefix system but also honor the scientific progress of Northern California by formally establishing "hella-" as the prefix for 10^27.

Under this designation, the complexity of high-magnitude nomenclature would be greatly reduced. For example, the number of atoms in 120 kg of carbon-12 would be simplified from 6,000 yottaatoms to 6 hellaatoms. Similarly, the sun (mass of 2.2 hellatons) would release energy at 0.3 hellawatts, rather than 300 yottawatts.

We believe the designation of the "hella-" prefix would have a positive impact on all parties involved, and thus warrants serious consideration. We thank you for your time.

Austin Sendek
Movement Founder
UC Davis Physics

(List of signatories)

Welcome to the Hellablog!

Hey all,

The "MakeHellaOfficial" blog is up! Through this blog, I'll be able to give updates on our movement to add "hella-" to the list of SI prefixes. I'll be posting such information as notable endorsements, publications regarding "hella," and new merchandise. MakeHellaOfficial is the only place to get all the latest information on the movement! Thanks for stopping by, and be sure to check back soon.