-Z- (z@gundam.com)
Mon, 20 Nov 2000 08:55:24 -0800

> -----Original Message-----
> From: owner-gundam@1u.aeug.org [mailto:owner-gundam@1u.aeug.org]On
> Behalf Of Joaquin Torres
> Sent: Sunday, November 19, 2000 13:52
> To: gundam@aeug.org
> Subject: Re: [gundam] What about Minovski Drives? (Re: Long!] Minovsky
> Applications Theories)
 Why don't you use the E<power> used by many calculators and computers? EX:
> 1.34E-25, 4.3E17, etc.

Well, that's really just the same convention as the caret, double-asterisk, and

1.34E-25 = 1.34^-25 = 1.34**-25 = 1.34(-25)

4.3E17 = 4.3^17 = 4.3**17 = 4.3(17)

All of them are just ASCII text workarounds to the fact that we can't
superscript or subscript in plain text. The question is which is the most
readable or comprehensible and the answer varies from person to person. I find
the parenthesis to be the most comprehensible convention, but only so long as no
other parentheses are used anywhere nearby; then it becomes the least.

In any case, I generally eschew exponential notation altogether unless some
seriously large value (10th power or more) is involved, as it was here. I got
into trouble because half of my mind was trying to frame the exponent according
to the convention (10^-15) and the other half was "reading it aloud" to itself
(10 to the minus 15th), so I ended up with "10 to 15" in the final text. It
owuldn't have made any difference which convention I used, although I think I
wouldn't have made this mistake had I been able to indicate superscript they way
I do in HTML: 10<SUP>-15</SUP>. If HTML-capable mail clients would interpret
and display that correctly while otherwise processing the rest of the message as
plain text, the problem would be solved, ne?

Superscripts and subscripts are troublesome in formatted text, too. I an
article that I wrote for Computer Source Magazine, I explained the difference
between metric decimal "kilo" and computer binary "kilo" -- the former being
10^3 = 1,000 while theklatter is 2^10 = 1,024. I was writing in Microsoft Word
and applied the superscript property to the font on each exponent, but that
formatting got stripped off when the document was converted to PageMaker or
FrameMaker or whatever desktop publishing program they used, becoming 103 and
210, respectively. The dead tree edition was beyond repaitr, of course, but we
fixed it when the document was published in HTML on the Web site.


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