Archive for the ‘science and comedy’ Category

Only connect

July 26, 2007

Here’s a wonderful video from this years TED conference.

Rives, the secrets of 4 am.

The slam poet/tech artist/paper sculptor Rives does eight minutes of lyrical origami, folding history into a series of coincidences surrounding that most surreal of hours: 4 o’clock in the morning.

This is the best example I’ve ever seen of the power of connections. He’s not making any jokes, but people are laughing. Why? Connections.

The Song of Roland

July 19, 2007

In my defense.  Today is my last day of school.

Meet Roland the Farter. A minstrel in the court of Henry II of England, Roland had an annual Christmas Day engagement with the king and his fellow revelers. Roland’s act consisted of a dance that culminated with his trademark forte: a synchronized jump, whistle, and fart. Though accounts are sketchy, they indicate that Roland’s remarkable trifecta was performed simultaneously (and not surprisingly, only once). Roland was so valued as an entertainer that the king rewarded his impressive feat of dexterity with a plot of land.

The story of Roland the Farter is told by Valerie Allen in On Farting: Laughter and Language in the Middle Ages, published by Palgrave Macmillan. Allen uses flatulence as a prism through which to explore the entertainment mores of medieval society. Roland’s popularity calls to mind our own longstanding (if sometimes sheepish) embrace of bathroom humor.

Read the rest  (found via Language Log).

I generally don’t find fart humour very amusing.  Or at least I didn’t until I read this sentence.

Furthermore, farts are an occasion for self-examination, for questioning the extent of our freedom and the nature of self-mastery.

The Science of Laughter

July 17, 2007

 Discover magazine has a nice article on the connection between humour and laughter (I spotted this on Mindhacks)

Previous studies of laughter had assumed that laughing and humor were inextricably linked, but Provine’s early research suggested that the connection was only an occasional one. As his research progressed, Provine began to suspect that laughter was in fact about something else—not humor or gags or incongruity but our social interactions. He found support for this assumption in a study that had already been conducted, one analyzing people’s laughing patterns in social and solitary contexts. “You’re 30 times more likely to laugh when you’re with other people than you are when you’re alone—if you don’t count simulated social environments like laugh tracks on television,” Provine says. Think how rarely you’ll laugh out loud at a funny passage in a book but how quick you’ll be to give a friendly laugh when greeting an old acquaintance. Laughing is not an instinctive physical response to humor, the way a flinch is a response to pain or a shiver to cold. Humor is crafted to exploit a form of instinctive social bonding.

Read the whole thing.