Transcendental Bloviation

Politics, Space, Japan

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Google's IPO: $e billion vs. pi in the sky

I haven't closely followed the Google IPO news, and much of my neglect owes to simple aversion. My dread is only increased when I dip into the tech biz news feeds, only to discover Google founders overestimating their site-hits by three orders of magnitude, and this in a Playboy interview, during an SEC-mandated quiet period. I guess that hasn't been the only slip in this comedy of errors. The SEC's solution? To mandate the inclusion of a Playboy story for the first time ever in a stock prospectus. Oh goody, does it come with a fold-out?

OK, here's a really weird one: Google's plan isn't for a $3 billion dollar offering, but for a $2,718,281,828 offering. That absurdly precise figure is 1 billion times the mathematical constant 'e', minus the trailing sub-dollar digits, which would otherwise go on forever. You might write it as "e billion dollars". If you want to check that value, just type
e
into the Google search box and hit enter. You'll get the value of e (and a link to 'More about calculator', a Google feature I didn't know about until just now), and maybe 23 million links after that.

OK, but why 'e'? Here I speculate. FIrst, e is irrational, and that makes sense in the case of Google's IPO, especially for its estimated stock price. However, pi is also irrational, and it's closer to the value 3. If the founders of Google are hoping to inspire some irrational exuberance, any of several irrational number constants would do. So perhaps 'e' was chosen for its association with exponentiation, with "e to the power of x" (written "exp") being supplied as a function in many, if not most, programming languages. Maybe Google's founders hope to reignite exponentially irrational exuberance, of the kind we saw up until early 2000. As well, 'e' is a universal prefix that got attached to almost every new idea during the Bubble. So I must admit: e has got some real resonance value over other constants. ("Theta"? Sounds like Scientology going public. "Gamma"? I don't know if investors would be interested in such a "hot" stock.)

Me, I would considered including i. i, you might remember from high school algebra, is the square root of -1, the problem being that there is no ordinary number yielding -1 when you multiply it by itself. Still, this didn't stop mathematicians, who grudgingly accepted 'imaginary numbers' when it turned out they could do some pretty useful interesting math with them. Just as they grudgingly accepted 'irrational numbers' well before that.

As long as we're being hermetically geeky with our IPOS, let's recall a famous equation in mathematics, "e to the power of i times pi equals -1", beloved of math geeks for so mystically and pithily combining so many interesting and weird constants. I think Google's formula might be leaving something out, and this equation inspires the erstwhile math geek in me.

My choice of a number for a Google IPO offering would be $1 billion times i times pi, where i is the imaginary value of free information. Or shall we say "pi billion i-dollars"? As a figure, its magnitude is pretty close to 'e billion dollars', but it fits in two terms of the Geek Equation and it expresses something else about the value of Google that an ordinary number - even an ordinary
irrational number - does not.

12 Comments:

At 6:17 AM, Blogger Scott A. Edwards said...

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At 3:55 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

lawl they pwned you tho, they're e * 100 billion * i^4 now, lawl lawl not so imaginary any more is it, lawl, witcha broke ass

 
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