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Scientists have come up with answers to the age-old question of why eyelashes are the length they are. Researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology conducted a variety of tests on the lashes of 22 different mammals. One was to create a special wind tunnel and an artificial eye to provide mathematical models of how the wind blew over lashes. The conclusion of head researcher David Hu is that the function of eyelashes is to help protect the eyes from drying out and that the optimal eyelash length for this to happen is one-third as long as the eye is wide. Professor Hu found that across a wide variety of mammals, the ratio of eyelash length and eye width was consistently one-third.
Dr Hu started his investigation after the birth of his newborn daughter. He wondered why his baby kept on batting her eyelids. He told the International Business Times that: "Eyelashes that rim the eyes in mammals have been a mystery for a long time as to what their function was. There were a lot of hypotheses, from dust catchers to triggering the blink reflex….What we did was the first aerodynamic study of eyelashes. We showed using three independent means that eyelashes reduce evaporation of the eye by 70 per cent, and they reduce [the deposits] of small airborne particles." A colleague said Hu had a talent for, "looking at what everybody has looked at, and seeing what nobody has seen."
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