SCIENCE
08/09/2012 08:00 am ET

Staring Contest: What Does The Science Say About Blinking? (VIDEO)

How long can you go without blinking? Think back to the last time you were in a staring contest. Do you remember your best time?

Incredibly, a man in Australia's Northern Territory kept his eyes open for over 40 minutes! How did he do it? Was it dangerous? What really happens when you go that long without closing your eyelids once?

Watch the video above and click below for a full transcript. And don't forget to sound off by leaving a comment at the bottom of the page. Try it yourself. I want to know your best time! Talk nerdy to me!

CLICK HERE FOR FULL TRANSCRIPT

Hi everyone. Cara Santa Maria here. How long can you go without blinking? We've all challenged our friends to staring contests before. Do you know your best time? And would you believe that this guy actually went 40 minutes and 59 seconds without closing his eyelids once? No joke. He set this record last year at "So You Think You Can Stare," Australia's first staring competition in the Northern Territory. I promise I'm not making this up.

His name is Fergal Fleming, but in the staring competition circuit (yes there is such a thing), he's known as Eyesore. Fitting. But how did he do it? And was it dangerous? I mean, what really happens if you intentionally keep your eyes open for that long without blinking?

We all have to blink. It's an involuntary reflex that keeps our corneas from drying out and stops dust and other junk from getting in there. On a normal day, we blink about 15 times a minute. But if it's windy or smoky, that rate goes way up.

Apparently, we also blink for psychological reasons. Like if we're attentively reading or listening, our blink rate cuts to less than half. A team of researchers at the University of Waterloo found that even while reading, if our minds wander, we blink significantly more often than when we're focused. It seems like the brain is in cahoots with the eyelids when the "ignore" flip is switched.

But I digress. Back to Mr. Eyesore. Although some conditions, like Parkinson's, Grave's disease, and facial paralysis cause reduced blinking, something tells me that's not how he set his record. I think this guy just has a lot of focus and control. And I doubt he had any lasting damage. But during the competition, his eyes would've been bone dry. At the 35 minute mark, he said (and I quote) "it feels like getting a tattoo on my eyeball." Ugh.

So how long were you able to keep your eyes open? Let me know your time on Twitter, Facebook, or by leaving a comment right here on The Huffington Post. Come on, talk nerdy to me!

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