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Want to add up a list of numbers, convert from miles to kilometers, or evaluate some other mathematical expression? Instead of using a piece of paper, your calculator, or a computer math software program, you can now solve mathematical problems with Google’s built-in calculator function.

Simply enter the expression you’d like evaluated in Google’s web search box and click the ENTER key or click the Google Search button.

When Google recognizes your query as a calculation of a mathematical expression, it computes the result.

The Google Guide Calculator Reference provides a nice summary of some of Google’s calculator features.

Once you have a result, you can use your browser’s Copy feature (usually on its Edit menu) to copy the result. Then you can paste it into another program, a box in a form on another web page, and so on.

The calculator can evaluate mathematical expressions involving Basic Arithmetic, Advanced Math, Units of Measure and Conversions, and Physical Constants. Let’s see details about each of these.

1. Basic Arithmetic

Compute expressions containing standard mathematical symbols. The following table lists operators that come between the two numbers on which they operate, e.g., to multiply 2 times 3, use 2 * 3.

Operator Function Example
+ Addition 15.99 + 32.50 + 13.25 ]
Subtraction 79 – 18 – 19 ]
* Multiplication 2 * 3 * 7 ]
/ Division 378 / 9 ]
^ or ** Exponentiation (raise to a power of) 4^10 ] or [ 4**10 ]
% of Percent 15% of 93.45 ]
mod or % modulo (the remainder after division) 15 mod 9 ] or [ 15 % 9 ]
the nth root of calculates the nth root 4th root of 16 ]; [ cube root of 109 ]; [ square root of 42 ] or [ sqrt(42) ]

Note: To do multiplication, you must include the * symbol; [ 3 * 4 ] will be calculated, 3 4 won’t.

2. Advanced Math

Compute results involving mathematical constants, such as e, pi, i (the square root of –1), and mathematical functions. The following table lists just some of the functions built into Google’s calculator.

Operator Function Example
sin, cos, tan, sec, csc, cot, etc. Trigonometric functions (arguments are assumed to be in radians) cos(pi/6) ]; [ cosine(pi/6) ]
arcsin, arccos, arctan, arccsc, etc. Inverse trigonometric functions arccos(.5) ]
sinh, cosh, tanh, csch, arsinh, arccsch, etc. Hyperbolic functions cosh(6) ]
ln Logarithm base e ln(16) ]
log Logarithm base 10 log(16) ]
lg Logarithm base 2 lg(16) ]
exp Exponential function exp(16) ]
! Factorial 5! ]
choose x choose y calculates the number of ways of choosing a set of y elements from a set of x distinct elements 5 choose 3 ]

The following table lists just a few of the commonly used mathematical constants known to the calculator function.

Name and description Example
base of the natural system of logarithms e ]
pi, the ratio of the circumference to the diameter of a circle pi/6 ]
imaginary number, i, which represents one of the two square roots of -1 i^2 ]
Euler’s constant, gamma e^gamma ]

3. Units of Measure and Conversions

Compute expressions involving different units. By default, units are converted to and results expressed in meter-kilogram-second (mks) units. Many units have both long and short names. Use whichever name you prefer.

Type of Units Examples
Currency Australian Dollars (AUD), British pounds (GBP), Euros, US Dollars (USD)
Mass kilogram or kg, grams or g, grains, pounds or lbs, carats, stones, tons, tonnes
Length meters or m, miles, feet, Angstroms, cubits, furlongs
Volume gallons, liters or l, bushels, teaspoons, pints
Area square kilometers, acres, hectares
Time days, seconds or s, centuries, sidereal years, fortnights
Electricity volts, amps, ohms, henrys
Energy Calories, British thermal units (BTU), joules, ergs, foot-pounds
Power watt, kilowatts, horsepower or hp
Information bits, bytes, kbytes, etc.
Quantity dozen, baker’s dozen, percent, gross, great gross, score, googol
Numbering systems decimal, hexadecimal or hex, octal, binary, roman numerals, etc. Prefix hexadecimal numbers with 0x, octal numbers with 0o and binary numbers with 0b. For example: 0×7f + 0b10010101.

Here are calculations that involve units.

Convert from one set of units to another by using the notation, x units in y units.

Warning: When your query includes “Calories” with a capital “C,” Google returns kilocalories called “calories” by nutritionists.

Convert from one numbering system to another.

In many cases, you can also get the conversion factor between units:

That last conversion is a common joke among engineers — though, as Jim Jardine points out, “There is no reason to denigrate neither furlongs nor fortnights as they are both very easily defined measurements.” (See his page Furlongs Today.)

4. Physical Constants

The following table lists just a few of the many commonly used physical constants known to the calculator function. Parts of this table were adapted from the table at the end of David W. Ward’s article Physics the Google Way.

Note: Sometimes Google’s calculator interprets lower case letters different from upper case letters.

Long Name Shorthand Notation Click the Link for the Approximate Value
atomic mass units amu amu ] or [ atomic mass unit ]
Astronomical Unit au au ] or [ astronomical unit ]
Avogadro’s number N_A ] or [ Avogadro’s number ]
Boltzmann constant k k ] or [ Boltzmann constant ]
electric constant, permittivity of free space epsilon_0 ]
electron mass m_e ] or [ electron mass ]
electron volt eV eV ] or [ electron volt ]
elementary charge elementary charge ]
Euler’s constant Euler’s constant ]
Faraday constant Faraday constant ]
fine-structure constant fine-structure constant ]
gravitational constant G G ] or [ gravitational constant ]
magnetic flux quantum magnetic flux quantum ]
mass of each planet and of the sun m_mars ], [ m_earth ], [ m_uranus ], …, [ m_sun ]
molar gas constant molar gas constant ]
permeability of free space permeability of free space ]
Planck’s constant h h ] or [ Planck’s constant ]
proton mass m_p ] or [ proton mass ]
radius of each planet and of the sun r_earth ], [ r_pluto ], …, [ r_sun ]
Rydberg constant Rydberg constant ]
speed of light in a vacuum c c ] or [ speed of light ]
speed of sound in air at sea level speed of sound ]
Stefan-Boltzmann constant Stefan-Boltzmann constant ]

Here are some calculations using built-in constants.

5. Using Parentheses

Parentheses (( )) can be used whenever they’ll serve to make complicated expressions unambiguous, and also sets of parentheses can be used within parentheses. Don’t use brackets ([ ]) for grouping.

The following are tips from Google’s online help for the calculator, which can be found on the web at www.google.com/help/calculator.html.

  • You can force the calculator to try to evaluate an expression by putting an equals sign (=) after it. This works only if the expression is arithmetically computable. For example, 1-800-555-1234= (a US phone number followed by an equals sign) will return a result, but 1/0= will not.
  • Parentheses can be used to enclose the parts of your expression that you want evaluated first. For example, (1+2)*3 causes the addition to happen before the multiplication.

Feel free to experiment with the calculator as not all of its capabilities are listed here.

6. Soople

If you want a visual interface to some of the capabilities of Google’s calculator, visit Soople’s Calculator page, www.soople.com/soople_intcalchome.php.

Screen shot showing Soople Calculator page

Exercises

This problem set is designed to give you practice in using Google’s new calculator function. For hints and answers to selected problems, see the Solutions page.

  1. Convert 1 mile to meters.
  2. Convert 1 kg (kilogram) to lbs (pounds).
  3. Convert 0 degrees Kelvin to Fahrenheit or Celsius.
  4. Compute the number of minutes in a 365-day year.
  5. Which is larger pi^e or e^pi? The same relationship holds between x^e and e^x for all non-negative values of x except e. The exponential constant, e, is approximately 2.72 and the ratio of the circumference to the diameter of a circle, pi, is approximately 3.14.
  6. How many lottery combinations are there if the winning combination consists of 5 distinct integers between 1 and 99, i.e., there are 99 balls in an urn and once one is selected, it isn’t returned to the box.
  7. Compute the probability of your winning the lottery if you buy 1,000 tickets each bearing five distinct independently randomly chosen integers between 1 and 99.

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This page was last modified on: Saturday January 5, 2008

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By Nancy Blachman and Jerry Peek who aren't Google employees. For permission to copy & create derivative works, visit Google Guide's Creative Commons License webpage.

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