Our eyes blink all the time, and we don’t even think about it. The blinking keeps our eyeballs wet and clean, and even gives our brains mini-naps. So our fan Sydney B. asked us, how long was the world’s longest staring contest? How long can people hold their eyes open? A couple of years ago, “Stare Master” Stagg and “Eyesore” Fleming stared at each other to see who could last longer without blinking. Stare Master won, holding his eyes open for an unbelievable 40 minutes 59 seconds. But it got ugly. By 15 minutes their eyes turned red and started shedding tears. By 35 minutes, Eyesore felt like he was “getting a tattoo on his eyeball.” So don’t try this at home!
Wee ones: If you blink 5 blinks, what numbers do you say to count them?
Little kids: 4 judges watched the 2 starers to make sure their eyes weren’t blinking. How many judges and starers does that make altogether? Bonus: We blink about 15 times a minute. If you’ve blinked all but 1 of those blinks, how many times have you blinked?
Big kids: Before Stare Master and Eyesore, the world staring record was 17 minutes. By how much did Stare Master’s 41 minutes beat the record? Bonus: Which is faster, 15 blinks a minute or 1,000 blinks an hour?
The sky’s the limit: If one starer lasts 24 minutes longer than the other, and that shorter one lasts only 2/5 as long as the longer one, how long does each one stare?
Wee ones: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.
Little kids: 6 people. Bonus: 14 times.
Big kids: By 24 minutes. Bonus: 1,000 blinks an hour! 15 per minute comes to 900 in an hour.
The sky’s the limit: 16 and 40 minutes. If the shorter starer lasts just 2/5 of the other, then the gap between them (24 minutes) is 3/5 of the longer one’s time. If 24 is 3/5 of something, then a third of 24 is just 1/5 of it. 1/3 of 24 is 8, and 8 x 5 = 40. Sure enough, 2/5 of 40 is 16, and that’s 24 minutes less.
Laura Bilodeau Overdeck is founder and president of Bedtime Math Foundation. Her goal is to make math as playful for kids as it was for her when she was a child. Her mom had Laura baking before she could walk, and her dad had her using power tools at a very unsafe age, measuring lengths, widths and angles in the process. Armed with this early love of numbers, Laura went on to get a BA in astrophysics from Princeton University, and an MBA from the Wharton School of Business; she continues to star-gaze today. Laura’s other interests include her three lively children, chocolate, extreme vehicles, and Lego Mindstorms.