In this article, I saw the phrase tens of thousands. Normally, I understand tens of thousands means some number between 10.000 to 90.000. But in this situation, I don't really understand it:

Oganessian reported his discovery to Flerov on his return. At first his mentor appeared dismissive – the usual fate for a successful guerrilla. It was only when the president of the USSR Academy of Sciences visited Jinr that Flerov pointed to Oganessian and said ‘He produces transuranes in their tens of thousands.’ The president, realising what this meant, gave Oganessian a kiss on his cheek.

What does tens of thousands mean in this situation?

Please explain to me.


  • 1
    It's pretty badly translated. Transuranes isn't even English. Apr 11, 2018 at 3:45
  • 2
    tens of thousands has its regular meaning. But I have no idea what the rest of the sentence means.
    – Jim
    Apr 11, 2018 at 3:45
  • 2
    (cont) "The chemical element oganesson (Og, atomic number 118) was named after him in 2016, making him the only currently living person with an element named after him. " Source: (Wikipedia)[en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yuri_Oganessian]. " transuranes in their tens of thousands" must mean tens of thousands of transuranium nuclei -- an impressive amount of the harder to make far transuranics.
    – ab2
    Apr 11, 2018 at 4:53
  • 1
    I'm voting to close this question as a NARQ.
    – Kris
    Apr 11, 2018 at 7:26
  • 1
    I suspect that, in this context, it simply means "a whole bunch".
    – Hot Licks
    Apr 11, 2018 at 23:29

3 Answers 3


The answer is actually in the article itself, and the meaning is just the ordinary one. The fragment in the question of course begs the question whether tens of thousands refers to separate elements (in which case we would have a hyperbole, because there are not even a hundred transurane elements) or to the amount of transurane material that was produced.

The article says, in the paragraph before the one in the question (emphasis mine):

When Flerov went on an expedition to Siberia, Oganessian seized his chance. Testing his theory, he fired argon-40 at lead-208 to make fermium-244, predicting it would shed four neutrons and create an isotope with a half-life of only 4ms. The new technique produced fermium-246, losing only two neutrons, with a half-life of 1.1s. The resulting yield was 10,000 times greater than he imagined.

So Oganessian managed to produce 10,000 times more fermium than other techniques.

All said, the phrasing is certainly non-scientific and imprecise. Since it is a reported quote, we cannot put all the blame on the author. The reported reaction to the quote indicates that its meaning was well understood at the time, though, even if the wording is somewhat imprecise.

  • And since the typical yield is a handful of atoms, 10,000 times greater than a handful of atoms is indeed tens of thousands of atoms. Jun 11, 2018 at 10:19

it means a lot TFD or even a bazillion!

10's of thousands ... give or take

a lot or lots Informal A large extent, amount, or number

Vague numbers like tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands and tens of millions are not scientific. They typically are examples of hyperbole. Vague, intentionally vague, sensational or exaggerations, they make a generalized statement about the extent, amount or numbers. Word Counter Blog

As in:

There must be hundreds of thousands of bacteria living on that decaying food!

No more like a gazillion!

  • It suggests an order of magnitude, which is sometimes enough even in science. It is poor science to provide more precision than you have the data to support.
    – einar
    Nov 11, 2020 at 13:34

Normally, I understand tens of thousands means some number between 10.000 to 90.000.

10s of 1000s can also include such quantities over 90.000 as 100.000, 110.000, 500.000, 1.100.000, and up--as long as they're divisible by 10.000.

As an analog, consider 1000s. You can raise 1000s of dollars, which can mean any quantity divisible by 1000, even $ Such a high number is probably not in mind when someone uses the phrase 1000s but it is not excluded linguistically and it is also mathematically valid. The same parameters apply to 10s of 1000s except that the quantity must be divisible by 10.000, if we stick with numbers with no remainders (i.e., even numbers).

  • 1
    Literally, that might be the case. In common usage, though, “tens of thousands” doesn’t have the sense of “multiples of 10 000”.
    – Lawrence
    Apr 12, 2018 at 2:56

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