Scientific notation is a standard method that is used to write numbers in a simplified way. This notation is also referred to as the exponential notation. According to Chan (1999), the concept of scientific notation was invented by Descartes in 1637 and today, it is extremely useful when one needs to express numbers that are quite big or really small. As an example, it is much easier to write the area of a surface as 1.45 x 1012 rather than 1,450,000,000,000 square meters.
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When a value is represented in scientific notation, it becomes easier to read and at a glance, one is able to determine what its size is. The tedious task of counting the number of zeros is thus eliminated (Chan, 1999).
The importance of scientific notation lies in the fact that it will always be needed in any field that requires people to handle either very big or very small measurements. Using scientific notations, a scientist is able to trim down a number having too many zeros into a much simpler form that reduces the complexity of solving chemical equations.
According to Wenner (2011), students are often faced with challenges when dealing with very large or very small numbers. Instructors are therefore able to simplify their learning by using the scientific notations. Scientific notation is regarded as a short hand approach and plays a big role in reducing the number of zeros seen by the students (Wenner, 2011).
What would be the value of expressing something like the national debt in scientific notation? What information would be lost in such a usage? Is that important? Explain why or why not.
The national debt will typically be very large. Expressing it using the scientific notation creates a value that is less intimidating and simpler to understand. Take a number like 2,345,768,000,000,000 for example. Removing the many zeros in the number and showing it using the scientific notation will make it easier to manipulate. The scientific notation can also be used to get rid of inaccurate digits in measurements (Chan, 2011).
In using the scientific notation, however, one would end up losing a number of decimals since the use of many decimals complicates the reading of the numbers. The loss of the decimals is, however, quite insignificant and does not greatly affect the numbers. It makes no big difference whether or not one chooses to keep the decimals.
Chan, J. (1999). Scientific Notation in Everyday Life. Toronto, CA: University of Toronto Mathematics Network. Web.
Wenner, J. (2011). Big Numbers and Scientific Notation. Northfield, MN: Science Education Resource Center, Carleton College. Web.