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

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Counting is just one of life’s most basic skills and also something most people are rather adept at. In spite of most of us being experts on the subject, theoretically qualified of count infinitely high with the ceiling bounded just by available time and also how an excellent we space at staving off psychosis, few can correctly guess how long that would take to count come a million, permit alone a billion. This is mainly owing to the reality that our brains have an amazing amount of an obstacle conceptualizing such big numbers. This every brings united state to the question of the hour- just just how long would it require to count to a million or a billion?

Let’s start with a million. The most commonly put forward time that would require to count native one come a million out loud is around 23 days. This time structure is quote in a variety of textbooks we consulted and seems to have originated, as far as we deserve to tell, in a children’s book suitably called, How lot is a Million by David Schwartz, which uses various examples to put into perspective just how amazingly large numbers favor a million yes, really are.

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Given the figure being quote in numerous a textbook and an initial appearing in a publication literally title How much is a Million, you can assume it’s reasonably close to correct. This is no the case, however; this number considerably underestimates the actual time needed.

You see, Mr. Schwartz wasn’t trying come come up with a real civilization figure here, just a simple exercise to blow kid’s minds there is no bogging them down in the details. Together such, there space a couple assumptions gift made in the “23 days” number that rotate out to do it totally useless as a real civilization estimate of exactly how long that would take to count come a million. The very first assumption is the the human being counting would have the ability to do therefore 24 hours a day non-stop.


The 2nd assumption is not fairly so absurd top top the surface: assuming that it would take only around 2 secs on median to say each number. However, while absolutely some the the shortest numbers can conveniently be stated much quicker than that and also with small time required for thinking, the bulk of the numbers because that an typical speed speaker would certainly take slightly longer. Because that example, just take into consideration how long it would take you to say out loud “one hundred ninety-five thousand 5 hundred sixty-five”.

Granted, as soon as speed speaking, one can easily hit the 2 2nd mark, or even less. However when in reality counting great for numerous hours on end, over there is a specific level the physical and mental fatigue that goes along with it that provides it so speed speaking isn’t really viable long-term. This is a marathon, not a sprint.

So just exactly 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 world answer is somewhere in the vicinity of 89 days.

How go Mr. Harper figure this out? Well, that did that from June 18 come September 14, 2007 and live-streamed the whole thing digital for everyone to watch. Harper, a software engineer who boss provided him time off to do this, neither left his apartment nor shaved during the event; the recited numbers aloud (read turn off a computer monitor) for about an average of 16 hrs every 24 hour duration for 89 directly days. This is around 3.9 times much longer than the oft’ quoted 23 job estimate.

To it is in clear, we’re not saying this all couldn’t be realistically excellent faster. Harper did take the occasional mini-break to break out in dance and things that this nature- the wasn’t trying to set a speed document to counting to a million. However, offered his in its entirety pacing as soon as counting was fairly quick, he devoted the vast majority of his waking hours to the task at hand, and also the large sample dimension of counting time we’re taking care of here, this seems a pretty an excellent ballpark figure to go with on the “How long does it require to count to a million?” front.

As for why Harper go it, he to be looking come raise money for push America (now The capacity Experience), a charity the helps disabled people. Together with raising about $12,000 because that the charity directly (and gaining them a lot of of cost-free publicity), Harper’s achievement was recognised through no less of an authority 보다 the Guinness publication of records for being the highest number ever before counted come by a human.

As you could imagine, the fact of spending practically every waking minute for just shy of three months act nothing yet counting great was incredibly mentally taxing according to Harper. As he noted, “The cameras that were on the whole time, ns think, space really what kept me sane v the whole thing. If ns would have actually been locked in mine apartment and counted to a million and nobody was watching, i would certainly have shed my mind. I would be like, you know, simply out of it. ”


Naturally, after ~ hitting 1,000,000, that did what anyone would carry out after together a momentous achievement- the chicken dance.

As because that the feeling of finishing counting higher than any kind of person before, according to Harper:

at that moment, I shed – I simply kind of shed all control, and also then, friend know, I said the number. And also then, that was similar to a large bubble – it’s kind of – simply popping top top me. In ~ one time, I simply said it and also went v it. Friend know, there’s a monster emotion.

Now, in ~ those 89 days, it take it Harper about 1,424 waking hours, or about 5.13 million seconds to count to a million doing virtually nothing yet counting. This would average the real human being average time come speak every number is around 5.13 secs or about 2.6 times slower than Mr. Schwartz’s 2 second assumption. Granted, once we timed Harper saying some of the biggest numbers here and averaged it out, the two second mark wasn’t that much off, ending up roughly 2.6 seconds each. Yet in in between time was necessary to, you know, breathe, give the tongue, jaws, etc. A quick rest, and also take time to think around the following number top top the screen prior to saying it, to avoid messing up.

So what about a billion? together no one has ever before counted the high (and no separation, personal, instance human ever will unless we resolve that entirety mortality thing), it’s daunting to obtain quite as accurate of a basic ballpark figure. Watch the best method to perform this would be to gather, say, 10,000 people and have them every take 100,000 number lengthy segments the end of the 1 exchange rate number line and also begin counting. We’d then merely need to add up the full time and get a an excellent rough estimate. But as we don’t recognize 10,000 people willing to volunteer a couple weeks that their stays to together a task (unfortunately), we’ll provide it our ideal college try at an estimate using Harper’s numbers as a referral point.

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On the note, together a sort of baseline, if we assume the the typical time come say every number was the exact same as roughly what it is to count to one million, and assume the same an extremely reasonable criteria together Mr. Harper supplied (counting approximately 16 hrs per work with small breaks here and there come eat, drink, etc.), that would be a chuck 5,126,400,000 seconds or 1,424,000 hrs of really counting time. After adding in the various other eight hrs of the day, this comes out to 89,000 work or approximately 244 years. (And if you’re curious around the totality “no have to do something else yet count” scenario, that would be approximately 59,333 job or about 163 years.)

But, of course, the time to say each number would certainly actually go up slightly as one ascended the number ladder. Yet how much? Considerably based upon a couple of practice runs us attempted on some of the bigger numbers. Past it being lot harder than you could expect maintaining the huge number in her head come increment accordingly (an worry that could be avoided via reading the numbers off a screen as Harper did), the actual mean time come say something favor “three hundreds twenty two million four hundred fifty 2 thousand 7 hundred ninety nine” for us was approximately 4 secs at a common speaking pace. Offered Mr. Harper averaged second roughly 2.5 secs in in between each number, we’re looking in ~ a slightly an ext realistic number (though still with a large error bar) of approximately 6.5 seconds median for those larger figures.


The reduced digits, that course, would be closer to Mr. Harper’s 5.13 total seconds, but, as with counting to a million, the upper finish would pertained to dominate quite quickly. So simply for one exceptionally stormy ballpark figure, we’ll go with a more realistic 6 secs per number average, providing us about 1,666,667 hours or 104,167 job (counting 16 hrs per day) or roughly 285 years, suspect one had the advantage to get to read the numbers off a screen. (Without this, we’re quite certain given our tiny practice runs through counting such huge figures, that it would take much, much longer due to included interim seconds essential for focusing/thinking in order to save the number in one’s head… and also stave turn off a mental break down as the years walk on.)

So just how long would certainly it take to count come a billion? We’ll go through somewhere in between 244-285 years counting for around 16 hrs per day. If you occur to understand 10,000 people who desire to dedicate a couple weeks to counting, probably we have the right to come up through a an ext accurate figure.