What If You Didn’t Blink for 29 Days

Imagine a classic Mexican stand-off. Dust
everywhere, the wind rolling tumbleweeds around three nervous figures, frozen in place, not
even blinking. The first to blink will give his opponents a fatal moment to shoot first.
How weird would it be if none of them blinked at all for minutes, hours or maybe days? What
would happen then? This comical situation may sound absurd to
you, but there are actually people that gather together just to stare at each other for as
long as they can without any Wild West stuff at all. Yep, “staring contests” are an
actual thing. In fact, the most famous staring contest happened in Darwin, Australia. I know,
the name is ironic considering the mindlessly dangerous competitions. Nevertheless, this
particular competition was called “So You Think You Can Stare” and it was there, in
2012, in the final staring duel between two men appropriately named “Eyesore” and
“Stare Master”, one of the world records for time without blinking was set – 40 minutes
and 59 seconds. That’s like watching an episode or two of your favorite series with
your eyes wide open the whole time! For most of us, it sounds almost impossible,
but contestants use some clever tricks to achieve this kind of endurance. First of all,
there are, of course, various eye drops that help keep eyes moist for a long period of
time, but they’re strictly banned in most competitions and shouldn’t be used without
asking a doctor first. Participants of staring competitions use yawning instead. Yes, did
you ever notice how your eyes become wet when you yawn too hard? It definitely works, and
no one can ban yawning – that would be too cruel! Another trick is in squinting. If you
can’t fully close your eyes, at least squint them to keep them from hurting. And finally,
contestants won’t usually look directly in the eyes of their opponent; instead, they
zone out and dive into deep meditation, while also making sure that their eyes stay open.
This helps not only to numb their feelings a bit but also to deal with tricks the opponent
might pull, like trying to be funny; that’s a legit strategy! Even with all these ploys
implemented, keeping yourself from blinking doesn’t sound fun! I don’t recommend doing
something like that and soon I’ll explain exactly why. The record setter, Eyesore, came
out of this battle victorious. But he likened the feeling to getting a tattoo on his eyeballs.
Eeww! Sounds painful! But why is blinking so important for our eyes?
Mostly because they need to be moisturized all the time. Each movement of our eyelids
covers our eyes with three layers of tear liquid. The first is packed with protein to
nurture eyes and help other layers to spread evenly on top of it. The second layer is more
like water, but it’s full of minerals that also help the cornea of an eye to work properly.
And the last layer is oily in nature – it protects our eyes from drying out and from
dust and particles that might damage it. So basically we blink because our eyes need moisture
and protection from dust, right? Seems pretty simple! Well, here’s a giant curveball for
you. Little babies don’t blink as frequently
as an adult person. When you read books or watch TV, you also blink much less often,
even though your eyes experience extra stress. And finally, fighter jet pilots, while they’re
in training simulations, blink frequently in friendly territories and less frequently
in hostile situations. But it has nothing to do with eye moisture! And if all these
contradictions are not enough for you, then consider this: we blink right between sentences
when we read books, and between different scenes when we watch a movie or a TV show.
Also when we talk to each other, it’s like we finish every phrase with a blink before
we continue to speak. This information was studied by a group of neurophysiologists from
Osaka University in Japan under the leadership of professor Tamami Nakano. On the basis of
clinical observations and experimentations, they developed the theory that a brain needs
frequent reloading – just like clearing the cache of a browser to make it work faster.
This reloading happens in the blink of an eye… Literally! Every time you blink, your
brain finishes processing one portion of information, and gets ready to process the next one. This
is why pilots blink more often when they don’t need to concentrate as much. The same applies
to the reason why babies don’t blink as often – they’re constantly soaking in
tons of information about the world around them in their early years.
But why is blinking associated with resetting information in the brain? Japanese scientists
may have an answer to that question too. But first, let’s consider the following: an
average person blinks more than 21,000 times a day, that’s one blink every 2 to 3 seconds.
That means you spend around 36 minutes a day in a blackout just because of blinking. You’ll
miss at least 5 minutes of a movie, and in an hour-long drive you go for 3 minutes with
your eyes closed. Even if each blink takes only one-tenth of a second, you must’ve
noticed something, right? Don’t worry, your brain has already taken care of it! It fools
you every time you blink! This moment of darkness just cuts out form the stream of visual information
you receive. Your brain literally restricts itself from the ability to process any visual
information every time you blink. This not only allows you to see clearly no matter how
much you blink, but also gives your brain a much-needed rest. This moment of peace is
exactly what resets your brain’s ‘cache’ as I called it before.
Eye blinks only look like they have no particular order, but they happen only when they’re
needed to reload information or moisten the eyes. Even if you don’t want to blink – your
brain will make you do it sooner or later. Each one of our eyelids is controlled by a
muscle called the ‘orbicularis oculi’, and it’s the fastest muscle in your whole
body. Part of this muscle works completely at its own will. It moves without your command
no matter what. And that’s definitely for the better because your eyes might take a
lot of damage without blinking. So what will happen if you stop blinking?
First of all, people around you might think that you’re some kind of a weirdo. No, I’m
joking, that’s not what we’re discussing here. Let’s get a bit more serious: you
really don’t want to hold yourself from blinking. Period. The damage would start almost
immediately. As soon as your eyeballs start to dry out, tiny particles will settle down
on their surface and start to scratch it. The cornea of an eye is especially delicate
and will start to burn immediately, pushing the eyelids to close as soon as possible.
Then tears will flow; it will be literally a waterfall of tears, trying to wash away
any dust that already settled on your eyes. Eventually, your eyesight will lose all sharpness
because of the cornea’s drying out. The final result would be irreversible damage
that may cause you to lose your eyesight altogether. Fortunately, because of how blinking works,
your brain won’t let this happen. So even in a Mexican stand-off, someone will blink
uncontrollably. And then you shoot him, nah…
In what situations would you ever need to stop blinking anyways? Set your imagination
free and hare your ideas down in the comments! If you learned something new today, then give
this video a like and share it with a friend. But – hey! – don’t go anywhere just
yet! We have over 2,000 cool videos for you to check out. All you have to do is pick the
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