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Largest Possible Number?

Asked by Carlos Gomez on January 24, 1998:
What is the name of the Highest Possible Number? Is it called a "Gugle"? I know there's a specific name, and I don't mean "Infinity".

Thank You, Carlos A. Gomez

There is no such thing as a highest possible number. No matter what number you have, there is always a larger one. (For example, you could always add 1 to your number to get a larger number).

What you are intending to ask is "what is the largest number that anyone has ever decided to give a specific name to?" It is very important to understand that this is a completely different question from the one you asked, because it is a question about human culture not about mathematics.

The largest number that has a commonly-known specific name is a "googleplex", which is a 1 followed by a googol zeros, where a "googol" is 10^(100) (a 1 followed by 100 zeros).

However, there would be nothing stopping you from giving a special name to a still larger number (such as a googleplex plus 1), and then that would become the largest named number once the term became commonly known.

In summary, then: the mathematical question "what is the highest possible number" has no answer, because there is no such thing. But the sociological question "what is the largest number that anyone has ever decided to give a specific name to, a name which has become commonly known" is, for now, a "googleplex" (until someone decides to coin a phrase for a still larger number and it catches on and becomes commonly known).

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