Google calculator – handy, but not always correct
[27 Aug 2008]
Have you ever played with Google’s nifty calculator?
Just go to Google and type something like the following into the search field:
4 + 5
The answer will come back at the top of the search results.
What else can it do? Well, lots, actually.
- Raise to a power – Example: 5^2
- Square root – Example: sqrt(34.7)
- Trigonometric functions – Example: sin(3pi/4) [It assumes the angle is in radians]
- Counting (in the study of probability) – Example: If you need to know the number of ways 5 objects can be chosen from 14 objects, put: 14 choose 5
There are more examples and information here: Google’s calculator.
BTW, you may not need to actually go to Google’s site. If you have Google selected as the search in Firefox, the answer will appear as a “suggestion” and you don’t even need to leave your current page:
Large Numbers and Calculators
Most hand-held calculators are limited when it comes to large numbers. This is a problem if you want to find the factorial of some large-ish number. For example, an old 8-digit calculator I have here can go up to 69! only (the answer is 1.71122 × 1098). [This answer is almost equal to the number "googol" (10100), which was the number that inspired Google's name.]
Now, on Google’s calculator, I can do up to 170! (The answer is 7.25741562 × 10306). After that, it falls over. But hey, not bad.
Google’s Calculator Mistakes
Now, what about those mistakes I was talking about? The following article from CNET.com writer Steven Shankland shows that when the numbers are huge, Google’s calculator could be off a bit.
I tend to agree with the Shankland. Google should put effort into getting this right.