OF THE CITY OF THE SAVED...

DELETED SCENES / COMMENTARY: A NOTE ON MAGNITUDE

This was originally placed between the Epilogue and Acknowledgements. I was sorry to lose it, as it finished the book in a reasonably down-to-earth way, as well as clarifying some of the more complicated terminology in the novel. Still, since it was a choice between losing this and losing something of relevance to the actual plot, I can see why this had to go. It was restored to the text as part of the 2013 ebook edition.

Sad Fact #948 about Of the City of the Saved... is that the title of this note is a quote from Olaf Stapledon's magnificent 1930s sf novel Star Maker. Stapledon's “Note on Magnitude”, which concerns itself mainly with the difficulty of envisaging the size of the cosmos, opens by cautioning the reader: ‘Immensity is not itself a good thing. A living man is worth more than a lifeless galaxy’. Wise advice for the sf writer there.


A NOTE ON MAGNITUDE

     With all due respect to The Book of the War (where it is described poetically as ‘a fabulous shimmering lightscape nonillions of miles across’), the City of the Saved is, in fact, a mere 1018 kilometres in diameter – a sextillion metres, or a zettametre. For comparison, a conventional light year is roughly 1013 km. Minimal application of mathematics will make it clear that the figures given in The Book both for population (‘in the septillions’) and the number of Districts (‘five-hundred-quintillion’) are equally impractical. An unusually cynical reader might almost imagine that the words had been chosen for how they sounded, rather than what they meant.

     For the record, the figure of a hundred undecillion or 1038, cited by Prof. Vril as the true figure for the City’s population, when written out in full is 100,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000. This represents roughly 200 septillion Citizens for each human being inhabiting the Earth at the time of this book going to press. As far as the Districts are concerned, there must clearly be a large enough number that this many Citizens divided between them does not generate absurdly large administrative divisions, yet also few enough that a representative from each can fit in the gas-giant sized arena of the Chamber of Residents. The precise parameters are left as an exercise for the reader.

     Incidentally, Julian and Lon Shel sometimes refer to Citizens as “yotters”. This is not unconnected with the fact that the information-carrying capacity of the human body (not, it should be noted, the human mind) has been calculated at around a septillion individual bytes, or a yottabyte.

     While reading Of the City of the Saved... you may find the following numerical values, together with associated prefixes, useful:

An undecillion   = 1036 = 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000
A decillion   = 1033 = 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000
A nonillion   = 1030 = 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000
An octillion   = 1027 = 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000
A septillion ( Yotta- ) = 1024 = 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000
A sextillion ( Zetta- ) = 1021 = 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000
A quintillion ( Exa- ) = 1018 = 1,000,000,000,000,000,000
A quadrillion ( Peta- ) = 1015 = 1,000,000,000,000,000
A trillion ( Tera- ) = 1012 = 1,000,000,000,000
A billion ( Giga- ) = 109 = 1,000,000,000
A million ( Mega- ) = 106 = 1,000,000
A thousand ( Kilo- ) = 103 = 1,000
       
A thousandth ( Milli- ) = 10-3 = 0.001
A millionth ( Micro- ) = 10-6 = 0.000,001
A billionth ( Nano- ) = 10-9 = 0.000,000,001
A trillionth ( Pico- ) = 10-12 = 0.000,000,000,001
A quadrillionth ( Femto- ) = 10-15 = 0.000,000,000,000,001
A quintillionth ( Atto- ) = 10-18 = 0.000,000,000,000,000,001
A sextillionth ( Zepto- ) = 10-21 = 0.000,000,000,000,000,000,001
A septillionth ( Yocto- ) = 10-24 = 0.000,000,000,000,000,000,000,001

On the other hand, you may not, and that’s fine too.


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