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Joseph B. Asks: how long would certainly it require to count come a million? What about a billion? What’s the highest anyone has ever before counted?

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Counting is one of life’s most simple skills and something most human beings are quite adept at. Regardless of most of united state being experts on the subject, theoretically qualified of counting infinitely high v the ceiling bounded just by accessible time and how good we are at staving turn off psychosis, few can correctly guess just how long that would take to count to a million, allow alone a billion. This is mostly owing come the fact that ours brains have actually an remarkable amount of difficulty conceptualizing such big numbers. This all brings united state to the inquiry of the hour- just just how long would it require to count come a million or a billion?

Let’s start with a million. The most commonly put front time it would take to count native one come a million out loud is about 23 days. This time structure is quote in a variety of textbooks we consulted and seems to have actually originated, as much as we can tell, in a children’s book suitably called, How lot is a Million by David Schwartz, which offers various examples to put into perspective just how amazingly large numbers favor a million really are.

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Given the figure being quote in plenty of a textbook and very first appearing in a book literally title How lot is a Million, you might assume it’s fairly close come correct. This is no the case, however; this number significantly underestimates the really time needed.

You see, Mr. Schwartz wasn’t trying to come up through a real people figure here, just a straightforward exercise to punch kid’s minds without bogging them under in the details. As such, there room a couple assumptions gift made in the “23 days” number that revolve out to do it completely useless as a real human being estimate of just how long that would take to count come a million. The first assumption is that the human counting would be able to do for this reason 24 hours a work non-stop.


The second assumption is not rather so absurd top top the surface: assuming that it would certainly take only about 2 seconds on average to say every number. However, while certainly some of the lowest numbers can easily be claimed much much faster than that and with small time needed for thinking, the majority of the numbers for an mean speed speaker would take contempt longer. Because that example, just think about how lengthy it would certainly take you come say out loud “one hundreds ninety-five thousand five hundred sixty-five”.

Granted, once speed speaking, one can conveniently hit the 2 second mark, or also less. But when actually counting great for countless hours on end, over there is a certain level that physical and also mental tiredness that goes along with it that provides it so rate speaking isn’t yes, really viable long-term. This is a marathon, not a sprint.

So just how long would certainly it actually take it someone to counting to a million? many thanks to the efforts of one Jeremy Harper, we understand the real human being answer is somewhere in the vicinity of 89 days.

How go Mr. Harper figure this out? Well, the did it from June 18 to September 14, 2007 and also live-streamed the entire thing digital for anyone to watch. Harper, a software engineer who boss provided him time off to perform this, neither left his apartment no one shaved during the event; the recited number aloud (read turn off a computer system monitor) for about an median of 16 hours every 24 hour period for 89 straight days. This is around 3.9 times much longer than the oft’ quoted 23 work estimate.

To be clear, we’re no saying this all couldn’t be realistically excellent faster. Harper did take it the sometimes mini-break to break out in dance and also things of this nature- he wasn’t make the efforts to set a speed record to count to a million. However, given his as whole pacing once counting was reasonably quick, he specialized the vast bulk of his waking hours to the job at hand, and also the large sample size of counting time we’re taking care of here, this seems a pretty good ballpark number to go v on the “How long does it take to count come a million?” front.

As because that why Harper did it, he was looking come raise money for push America (now The capacity Experience), a charity the helps disabled people. In addition to raising about $12,000 because that the charity straight (and gaining them a many of cost-free publicity), Harper’s accomplishment was recognised by no less of one authority than the Guinness publication of documents for being the greatest number ever counted to by a human.

As you might imagine, the truth of spending almost every waking moment for simply shy of three months law nothing yet counting great was very mentally taxing follow to Harper. As he noted, “The cameras the were on the whole time, ns think, are really what retained me sane with the totality thing. If ns would have actually been locked in my apartment and counted to a million and also nobody was watching, ns would absolutely have shed my mind. I would certainly be like, friend know, simply out of it. ”


Naturally, after hitting 1,000,000, the did what anyone would perform after such a momentous achievement- the chicken dance.

As for the feeling of finishing counting greater than any type of person before, follow to Harper:

at the moment, I lost – I just kind of shed all control, and also then, friend know, I said the number. And also then, that was just like a big bubble – it’s sort of – simply popping on me. In ~ one time, I just said it and also went with it. Friend know, there’s a weird emotion.

Now, in ~ those 89 days, it took Harper around 1,424 waking hours, or around 5.13 million secs to counting to a million doing almost nothing but counting. This would median the real world average time come speak every number is approximately 5.13 secs or around 2.6 times slower than Mr. Schwartz’s 2 2nd assumption. Granted, once we time Harper saying several of the biggest numbers here and averaged the out, the two 2nd mark wasn’t that much off, ending up about 2.6 seconds each. Yet in between time was necessary to, you know, breathe, offer the tongue, jaws, etc. A quick rest, and take time to think around the following number ~ above the screen before saying it, to avoid messing up.

So what around a billion? together no one has ever before counted the high (and no separation, personal, instance human ever before will unless we fix that entirety mortality thing), it’s complicated to get quite as specific of a general ballpark figure. Look at the best means to execute this would certainly be come gather, say, 10,000 people and also have them every take 100,000 number lengthy segments the end of the 1 exchange rate number line and begin counting. We’d then just need to add up the total time and get a great rough estimate. However as we don’t know 10,000 civilization willing come volunteer a pair weeks the their resides to such a job (unfortunately), we’ll provide it our best college try at one estimate utilizing Harper’s numbers as a reference point.

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On that note, together a kind of baseline, if us assume that the median time to say every number was the very same as about what it is to counting to one million, and also assume the same very reasonable criteria as Mr. Harper supplied (counting around 16 hours per job with little breaks here and there come eat, drink, etc.), that would certainly be a chuck 5,126,400,000 secs or 1,424,000 hours of really counting time. After adding in the other eight hours of the day, this comes the end to 89,000 work or around 244 years. (And if you’re curious around the totality “no must do anything else yet count” scenario, that would be roughly 59,333 work or about 163 years.)

But, the course, the time to say each number would certainly actually walk up slightly together one ascended the number ladder. But how much? Considerably based on a couple of practice runs we attempted on some of the larger numbers. Past it being much harder than you could expect maintaining the huge number in your head to increment appropriately (an concern that can be avoided via analysis the numbers turn off a screen as Harper did), the actual average time to say something choose “three hundreds twenty two million 4 hundred fifty two thousand seven hundred ninety nine” for us was roughly 4 secs at a normal speaking pace. Provided Mr. Harper averaged second roughly 2.5 secs in between each number, we’re looking in ~ a slightly an ext realistic number (though still with a big error bar) of around 6.5 seconds median for those larger figures.


The reduced digits, that course, would certainly be closer to Mr. Harper’s 5.13 full seconds, but, as with counting to a million, the upper end would pertained to dominate quite quickly. So just for an exceptionally rough ballpark figure, we’ll go through a more realistic 6 secs per number average, offering us around 1,666,667 hrs or 104,167 job (counting 16 hours per day) or around 285 years, presume one had the benefit to obtain to check out the numbers turn off a screen. (Without this, we’re quite specific given our tiny practice runs with counting such large figures, that it would certainly take much, much much longer due to added interim seconds essential for focusing/thinking in bespeak to save the number in one’s head… and also stave off a mental break down as the years go on.)

So exactly how long would it require to count to a billion? We’ll go v somewhere in between 244-285 years counting for around 16 hours per day. If you happen to know 10,000 world who want to dedicate a couple weeks come counting, possibly we have the right to come up v a more accurate figure.