Astronomer Mark Thompson is attempting to break a Guinness World Record for the longest lecture, starting next Saturday. Here he explains why he’s doing it and why he doesn’t expect anyone to sit through the WHOLE 140 hours!
Last year was a challenging time both personally and professionally. With closure of theatres my Spectacular Science Show was unable to tour which left quite a gap in my income. Home schooling, too, brought challenges, while trying to keep the children educated but also ensuring their wellbeing didn’t suffer from the protracted lack of social engagement with other children.
We took the Spectacular Science Show online. However, I don’t think a live theatre show translates well to an online platform. We did reach a few people through this medium, but if a theatre show is pre-recorded it becomes a TV show. Instead, I was able to spend time developing other ideas like my virtual stargazing experiences. I started #FamilyStargazeWithMark based on the Twitter social media platform where I guided people around the night sky with a series of timed Tweets. These proved very popular – and I had people around the country joining in. That led to me developing the Pocket Astronomer podcast which had a great response during its first season.
During lockdown I think it has been hugely important for people to look to the sky. I certainly found a degree of comfort to see that, whilst we were experiencing a lot of change and uncertainty, up in the sky things were still the same as they were before the Covid pandemic had reared its ugly head. I do plan to run more of the #FamilyStargazeWithMark evenings from Twitter (@astronomer_mark) and all people need is a coat and the willingness to go outside and look up.
Something else I have had time to work on has been my Guinness World Record Attempt. On 11 Sept I’m starting an attempt to break the Guinness World Record for the longest marathon lecture. It requires me to talk for 140 hours! I will be attempting this at the University of East Anglia in Norfolk and if successful, will complete on Friday 17th at 8am-ish. I’m doing this to raise money for Barnardo’s but also to help engage school kids on the importance of sleep. I have also teamed up with three science teams from Oxford, Cambridge and Upsula University (in Sweden) to study the impact of sleep deprivation – this has never been done before.
For the record attempt to be valid I do need to have audience members at ALL times throughout the 140 hours but don’t expect anyone to sit through the whole thing.
Featured image picture credit: JMA Photography