What about the number of atoms in the observable universe? I mean, we didn’t count them longhand, but there’s a definite number, a physical object, and we derived it using an art that’s basically a really tricky way to speed up counting things in many cases.

70 sextillion stars, according to 2003 research.

How many were individually counted, and how many inferred by extrapolation of known numbers, I couldn’t tell you.

Well, they would certainly outnumber the stars. Is there an actual estimate out there somewhere? Or is this a suggestion that they *could* be counted?

How 'bout the number of electron, or neutrons, then. There’s a metric shitload of them.

That’s why I asked the question the way I did. I was curious what things are actually, physically counted, not just measured, estimated, or derived.

The way you asked the question I interpreted “counting” meaning “derived in some manner.” Usually when they’re counting donuts nobody ever actually counts each and every one, they’re usually counting boxes and then multiplying. Even with McDonald’s hamburgers, they’re probably don’t count each sale (or at least, probably didn’t before computers), what likely happens is they have a certain amount of stock, and then they use a combination of the sales records on their books, their ledger containing their frozen patty deliveries etc to calculate an approximate amount. With things like atoms you just have more diverse boxes, and you have to use more complex mathematical operations to be able to write it down. I fail to see how they’re different, they’re just different ways of approaching the problem.

How similar do objects have to be to be counted as one? More than 400 billion LEGO bricks have been produced since 1958 Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Lego

Or HeLa cells? I don’t have the book with me now, but this quote Reddit - Dive into anything says 50 million metric tons. If one ton has only 1 million cells, that’s already 5 * 10^13.

I didn’t get that from your OP at all.

Like I said, I don’t know exactly how many stars *can* be individually counted with sufficiently powerful instruments, but I’ll bet that it’s a lot more than45 billion. Whether they actually *have* been individually counted is a whole 'nother question.

I would argue the same could be true about pennies. We don’t know exactly how that number was calculated, but I would bet it wasn’t by teams of people counting individual pennies, and more teams of people summing up those individual counts.

Are machine counters acceptable?

You count “one” with your thumb? By the time I count with my thumb, I’m on “five”.

Do bars of bread or bricks count, for the OP’s purposes? I’m sure there have been many, many of those counted through the years, but of course not the same brand - items like those didn’t even get branded until quite recently.

Hmmm… ounces of weed, grams of coke, …

BTW, how does one set a standard of units? You can count gallons of gas, but there will be a higher number if you count liters, or ounces, etc.

I guess I didn’t make the OP as clear as I thought. I’m looking for some physical object for which there has been an attempt to count individual items.

Why couldn’t they count individual pennies? They come through various machines to create the blanks and stamp the reliefs on them. Hook up something like a car odometer to that and you’re good to go.

I’m sure they’ve made a mistake or two in the last hundred years; it would be a miracle if the number quoted by the mint is the actual number of pennies made, down to the cent. But there is at least the claim that they’ve counted that many.

Yes. The process for buying a scone is to stand in line, give your money to someone who gives you tickets, then move three feet down the counter to someone and give the tickets right back and get your scones. The tickets were like raffle tickets. Check the number of the first ticket in the morning and the last one at night and you know how many scones you’ve sold.

I should say that I appreciate the digressions in this thread. Even something as simple as counting has its subtleties and limitations.

No where close to that. The Gaia mission will catalog about one billion objects, most, but not all of which, will be stars. That’s considerably larger than any current catalogs, the largest of which have somewhere in the low millions of stars.

If any large numbers of objects were actually counted by humans, I would expect the largest of them would be pieces of money.

Nowadays, any large number will either be counted by machines (e.g. Gaia as above) or estimates such as the number of atoms/protons/whatever in the observable universe. BTW, any numbers on how many atoms/etc in the universe are just trying to get the right order of magnitude.

…99,999,999,999,999,999,999,999,999,999,999,999,999,999,999 aaaaand *Infinity!*

Whooooo! I just counted all the numbers. Do I win anything?

HeLa cells certainly haven’t been individually counted. Usually that’s another case of estimation; typically a small sample is physically counted (either by eye under a microscope or with some machine) and that’s used to determine the density of cells. E.g. I count 50 cells in my counting chamber, which converts to an average density of 5 x 10^5 cells per mL. To estimate how many cells I’ve grown over a long period, I just figure out the volume of cells I make in a year. E.g. I passage the cells twice a week (make a fresh 10 mL flask) which means about 1L per year. Just multiply that by the maximum density reached (~2 x 10^7 cells/mL for HeLa) and whatever the mass of the cell is. Then, extrapolate that sort of estimate along all research labs, particularly the large facilities who grow giant industrial vats of the stuff.

In other words, another case where a small sample is counted and the total is estimated.

I’ll throw out another suggestion: the number of particles observed by the LHC. There, the detectors produce vast gobs of data, and each data point is basically “a particle was seen by a particular detector”. Managing the vast quantities of information has been a major challange – Wiki says the detectors produce 300 GB per second. That’s filtered to throw out “boring” events, but still 300 MB/s is saved as “interesting” raw data. In 2010 the detector produced 13 petabytes of data. I don’t know how to translate data quantities into particle detections, but theoretically someone could write some a bit of code to go through the raw data and do an actual count.

By the time I’m on my **right** thumb I’m up to 10. LT, LF, RF, RT just seems more natural to me for anyone who reads left to right.

The number one is the most counted - everyone starts there…

And yet it remains the loneliest number that we’ll ever do.

Just a question because I am not familiar with the store…

What if you buy 2 scones, or a dozen? Do you get multiple tickets or just one for your order?

If you get just one ticket, then the numbers on the tickets will only tell you the number of orders for the day, not the number of scones sold.

There are two different colors of tickets. If you order one, or two, or whatever, individual scones, you get that many orange tickets. If you order a baker’s dozen you get a purple ticket.

Number of orange tickets + (13 x number of purple tickets) = number of scones

So with this scone example, I would argue that you’re not counting scones. You’re counting tickets, or cash register receipts, and inferring the number of scones from that. Or maybe even you’re counting scone *orders* – about the only thing you’re not counting is actual scones.