This September, TV Astronomer and author Mark Thompson, will attempt to break a Guinness World Record and the public are being invited to witness the attempt…
Mark, best known for his work on BBC’s Stargazing Live, is hoping to break the current record for the Longest Marathon Lecture, which currently sits at 139 hours 42 minutes and 56 seconds.
The attempt, is being hosted by the Thomas Paine Building at the University of East Anglia and will take place from 12 Noon on 11th September and is due to finish soon after 07:43am on Friday on Friday 17th September (GMT).
The rules allow him to take short breaks so during the entire attempt he will have the opportunity to get 4.5 hours sleep instead of the recommended 40 hours sleep over that period. Most healthy people can survive without food for up to twenty days (although this is not recommended) but the scientific reality is that if you get no sleep there is a good chance you won’t survive long enough to starve yourself. Even Guinness World Records have recognised the dangers of sleep deprivation and have stopped certifying attempts to break the World Record for staying awake (this currently stands at 11 days); this from an organisation that is happy to record a daredevil skydiver from USA jump out of a plane from 25,000 feet without a parachute or wing suit, plummet to Earth at 193 km/hr and try to land in a safety net!
Throughout the attempt, there will be a team on-site to record the event, as well as witnesses, who are required to make the attempt valid for Guinness World Records. There will also be a medical team who will monitor Mark’s progress and vital stats. In addition, the public are being invited to be a part of this monumental event and can book four-hour slots, which are available free online at https://www.markthompsonastronomy.com/gwr/. For those not able to make the event in person, Mark’s progress can also be watched via LiveStream at https://bit.ly/3iiwXrq.
The event has been made possible by generous sponsorship from local company Atik Cameras.
Amy Barton, Marketing Manager of Atik Cameras, said:
“As a company founded by avid astronomers, we’re thrilled to sponsor Mark in his attempt to deliver a record-breaking 140 hour lecture! Mark’s extensive knowledge continues to engage astronomers of all ages and we wish him the very best of luck with the challenge, along with raising money for an amazing cause.”
In addition, Mark’s attempt is being supported by the Norwich Science Festival, which aims to celebrate the ground-breaking scientific research associated with Norwich by offering inspirational exhibitions, sensational shows and an abundance of hands-on science activities for all ages and all levels of knowledge. After a break last year, the festival will return in October with a full-scale event at The Forum and in venues across Norfolk, and will be an opportunity for the public to catch up with Mark, who is a Patron of Norwich Science Festival, a month on from his Guinness World Record attempt, to hear how he dealt with the physical and mental challenge. Tickets to the World Record attempt will be available free of charge nearer the time and the lectures will also be live-streamed.
Natalie Bailey, Event Producer – Norwich Science Festival, said:
“We are so excited that Norwich Science Festival will be returning in 2021 and we are delighted to support Mark’s World Record attempt. We will be cheering him on and supporting him throughout his challenge and we really look forward to welcoming to the festival in October to talk about his experiences.”
Mark has teamed up with research teams from Cambridge University in UK and the University of Uppsala in Sweden, to gather data to research extreme sleep deprivation and the impact on our physiology and psychology.
Prof. Tristan Bekinschtein, Consciousness and Cognition Lab, University of Cambridge, says:
“As Mark progresses through his attempt we will observe a number of changes in his ability to deliver an efficient and coherent series of lectures. We expect to map the changes in his demeaner, his speech and his appearance. Throughout this record attempt we will be collecting information from him, both physiological and psychological, to understand the effects that this extreme sleep deprivation will have on him. This will be a real test of his endurance as he pushes his mind and body to its limits”
“I’ve been wanting to attempt to break the Guinness World Record for the longest marathon lecture ever since I gave a 24 hour talk for charity in 2015. It will be a real test of my endurance, pushing me to my limits but I’m particularly excited that we can do some real science with it to see how sleep deprivation impacts many aspects of our physical and mental wellbeing. As if the sleep deprivation wasn’t enough, I will need to try and keep my voice in tip top condition and functioning throughout the entire event.”
The lecture entitled “The Ultimate Space Lecture” will cover everything you can imagine from the Moon to galaxies and the search for aliens to space exploration. In addition, Mark will also be creating an educational package so school children can get involved – they will be able to download various aspects of Mark’s bio data including heart rate, brainwaves and body temperature and can explore how the body responds to lack of sleep. There will be sessions for everyone from KS1 and above.
Mark Searcey, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Science at UEA, says:
“We’re very excited to be hosting Mark’s lecture, it’s not often as a University that we’re able to say we’re the venue for a world record attempt, particularly one with an academic theme.
Everyone at UEA is wishing Mark the very best of luck for his attempt and, safety regulations permitting, I hope that our students and staff, and members of the local community, will be able to go along to get behind him and learn a few astronomical facts at the same time.”
As a proud ambassador for Barnardo’s, Mark is using the attempt to also profile the charity and raise much-needed funds by asking for sponsorship for his epic challenge. He explains:
“The pandemic has seen many charities fundraising really suffer over the last year and Barnardo’s is no different. It would be wonderful, therefore, if in addition to helping develop our understanding of sleep deprivation, my lack of sleep for this period could also help raise much-needed funds for this incredible charity!”.
Barnardo’s Chief Executive Javed Khan says:
“Mark is making a fantastic contribution to science and to Barnardo’s with this completely unique fundraising challenge.
Even before COVID, screen time and anxiety were interfering with children and young people’s sleep, which can have serious consequences for their health and development. Throughout the pandemic children’s sleep has been further disrupted as they’ve dealt with the uncertainty of lockdown, being out of school and isolated from their friends and extended families.
We’re extremely grateful to our brilliant Ambassador Mark for everything he is doing to raise awareness of these vital issues, and his generous support for our charity. The money raised from his challenge will enable us to reach even more children and young people struggling during the pandemic and beyond. If you are in a position to donate, then please consider supporting our Children in Crisis Appeal through Mark’s website.”