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I accidentally typed 4 ** 5 into Google and received 1,024 instead of 20. But 4^5 is also 1024...

Does the double multiplication sign also mean the power sign? Why two symbols?

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That's Fortran syntax. – TonyK Nov 27 '10 at 21:14
An idea for different syntax: ^ can be hard to type with some keyboard layouts. With German (or ...) layout, for example, the key for it lies above the TAB key. Additionally, n^a will be put as nâ; you have to hit the awkwardly placed key twice to get ^ out. * is situated better. Ruby uses **, too. – Raphael Nov 27 '10 at 22:38
For people who use Google as a calculator, this is helpful. (There was once a complete listing in the help files on Google, but it seems to have disappeared.) – J. M. Nov 28 '10 at 1:43
up vote 8 down vote accepted

Exponentiation in some software. So a**b means a^b.

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Caveat: The symbol ^ in C family languages is bitwise xor. This is true in Python, too. The ** symbol is also seen in Python.

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