Is It Possible To Count To A Billion In One Lifetime?

Counting is one of those skills that most children learn before starting kindergarten. And, since the world has collectively decided to use a base-10 counting system, the fundamentals are pretty easily grasped even by preschoolers: count to ten, then start over by adding another digit, and so on. The process works even into the hundreds, thousands, and so on.

At a certain point, though, these numbers are more abstractions than reality. Maybe you've heard news reports discussing government budgets in the millions, billions, or even trillions of dollars. Similarly, when reading about astronomy, you read about stars or quasars or such that are billions, trillions, or quadrillions of miles away.

So while these numbers may be just words on a page to most, is it possible to reign in the concept of a billion to the point that it can be counted to, just like it's possible to count to 100 or 1,000, or 10,000?

It would take decades to count to a billion

The math-teaching website Math Is Fun gave children a thought experiment: see how long it would take to count to various milestone numbers. To count to 100, the author said, took them about 25 seconds; about ten minutes to count to one thousand, and so on.

To count to one billion, says the author, would take over 100 years.

It's unclear if this calculation accounts for breaks for food, sleep, and so on. Assuming no breaks, if you counted once each second, it would still take over 30 years (one billion seconds = 31.69 years). If you counted quickly and were able to count four numbers each second (easy in the beginning, but considerably harder as the numbers get bigger), it would only take under a decade: 7.9225 years, to be specific.

Obviously, no one has ever done this, but marathon counting sessions (to lower numbers) are nothing new. Math Is Fun notes that, in 2007, a man named Jeremy Harper counted to one million for charity — with breaks for food and rest, of course — and it took him just under three months. Similarly, YouTuber Mr. Beast counted to 100,000 straight through, and it took him 40 hours.