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Posts tagged as science

NASA's Response to a Child Prodigy, by Ian Abramson

Dear Sammy,

Let me be the first to say how impressed we here at NASA were to receive such an ambitious spaceship design from a six-year-old. The details in your blueprints would have been impressive for a 12-year-old prodigy, let alone a six-year-old prodigy.

While we were deeply impressed with your innovative use of solar panels, we did have a few notes that we thought would strengthen your overall design. Please understand we aren't just writing to criticize. In fact, take this as a sure sign that we want to put your rocket in space as quickly as we can. We expect to get it in [...]

Science Confirms That Comedians Are Psychotic

In one of the most obvious findings ever, a study in the British Journal of Psychiatry has confirmed that comedians possess more psychotic characteristics compared to their non-comedian peers. The researchers asked 523 comedians from Australia, Britain, and the U.S. to complete an online questionnaire designed to measure levels of four psychotic traits — "unusual experiences," "cognitive disorganization," "introvertive anhedonia," and "impulsive non-conformity." Unsurprisingly, the comedians ranked high in their levels of all four psychotic behavior indicators. From the study:

"The creative elements needed to produce humor are strikingly similar to those characterizing the cognitive style of people with psychosis – both schizophrenia and bipolar disorder," said Gordon [...]

Laughing Leads to a Pain-Free Superhuman Existence

Oh, phew, more reasons to re-watch every episode of Louie instead of doing something terrible involving a StairMaster. A new study shows that laughing with friends releases endorphins, which in turn increase our threshold for pain, presumably until we are an elite breed of superhumans impervious to discomfort, our guffaws ringing gaily throughout the land.

A slightly more surprising finding was that "when subjects watched something that does not naturally elicit laughter, pain thresholds do not change (and are often lower)." In other words, saying that something is so un-funny that it physically hurts might actually have some truth to it, instead of just being a douchily hyperbolic [...]

Jon Stewart Talks Science with Neil deGrasse Tyson on StarTalk Radio

Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson is a frequent guest of The Daily Show, where his infection enthusiasm for space and science make for pretty great conversations. If you want to hear more of Tyson breaking down the big scientific questions mixed with jokes from Jon Stewart, you can hear Stewart appear as a guest on Tyson's StarTalk Radio. You'll get to hear discussions about science that include jokes like, "As a registered hypochondriac with the Hypochondriacs' Institute of Hypochondriacs, we have no meetings because everyone's afraid to shake hands at the beginning of it." Can't really go wrong.

On The Science Of Humor

In Wired's Humor Issue, Professor Peter McGraw postulates that all comedy operates as a kind of benign violation, which I am reserving as an improv team name now.

'The Humor Code' and the Science of How Comedy Works

Writing about comedy has become a cottage industry in recent years as the swelling popularity of live and online humor has birthed a new audience for comedy journalism, whether it's Jason Zinoman's New York Times pieces or Splitsider's own blow-by-blow reporting on the industry.

But outside of the standup, sketch, and podcast worlds, there's also been a larger, centuries-long search to understand the fundamental nature of humor. It's the sort of quest that electrifies certain comedy nerds while making others wince at the idea of slicing open something as mysterious and subjective as laughter. It also begat E.B. White's famous 1941 quote: "Humor can be dissected, as a frog [...]

Lutz from '30 Rock' Is Now a Lab Experiment

30 Rock actor and former SNL writer John Lutz is selling his body to science for an upcoming book, as reported by The New York Times. Lutz is collaborating with Jamil Zaki, an assistant professor in psychology at Stanford on a book called The Lutz Experiment, which will run Lutz through a ton of scientific experiments. The book is being published by a division of Simon & Schuster, and Lutz worked with Zaki previously on a piece for Men’s Health and one for Wired magazine to get ready for the book. With any luck, one of the experiments will involve Lutz running into a wall [...]

Do You or Someone You Love Have Comedian Personality Disorder?

Self-diagnose away: "Comedians are all afflicted with a personality disorder that drives our pursuit of impracticality. Personality disorders can be broadly defined as fixed fantasies, where a person functions with core beliefs that result in behaviors different from the norm. Unlike chemical imbalances which cycle in severity, the symptoms of a comedian remain constant. Attention seeking behavior, difficulty in relationships, and the inability to self regulate can all afflict comics, while falling under existing diagnoses like narcissist and histrionic personality disorder. But the engrained goals of a comedian combined with a stimulating environment creates additional symptoms that can be defined as Comedian Personality Disorder (CPD). Like most personality disordered [...]

The "That's What She Said" Joke-Making Computer Program Could Replace Michael Scott

Screw all these other posers, science has gone and solved the issue of who should replace Michael Scott on The Office: a computer program designed to make double entendres. The program is called Double Entendre via Noun Transfer, or DEviaNT, and was created by two computer scientists at the University of Washington, Chloé Kiddon and Yuriy Brun. The program is based on an analysis of two bodies of text: 1.5 million erotic sentences, and another with 57,000 from standard literature. They then evaluated nouns, adjectives and verbs with a "sexiness" function to determine whether a sentence is a potential TWSS [That's What She Said]. Examples of nouns with [...]

Pitchfork: Louis CK Is Better Than The Black Keys, Worse Than Zola Jesus, as Good as Lady Gaga

Pitchfork, the indie music review juggernaut, occasionally reviews comedy albums for some inexplicable reason. Today, they took on Louis CK's Hilarious. The review is fine and straightforward, but who actually reads Pitchfork's reviews? Nobody! You just look at the number. And Hilarious got a 7.8! That's pretty much smack dab in the middle of Pitchfork's curve, as nearly all of their reviews fall in the 7 or 8 range. Let's take a look at how his comedy album compared to some notable music albums released in 2010, shall we?

The Marshmallow Diaries, by Howard Mittelmark

Day one: Brought to the Stanford campus with other four-year-olds for “tests” starting tomorrow. All very mysterious. Something about marshmallows. Nobody will say what, exactly. Maybe new kind of marshmallow? Even yummier? I resisted the urge to cry when parents left, but some of the other children did not.

Day two: Wild speculation in dorm last night; all of it wrong. Some predicted there would be ponies made of marshmallows, others thought we would live in a marshmallow house. Then one boy, Brad, began laughing and shouting, “Pee marshmallows! Poo marshmallows!” until the discussion fell apart.

This morning, teacher ladies explained. If we do not eat one marshmallow for [...]

The Complete Guide to Everything: The Future of Technology (iPhone 5, MakerBot and Google Glasses)

This week the guys decide to take a look at three products defining the future of technology: The iPhone 5, MakerBot and Google Glasses. Before anything of substance is discussed though some housekeeping takes place in the form of Tim being admonished for last week's episode and Steven Tyler leaving the show. Later Tim is compared to a low-rent Watson who can't wait an extra day for his iPhone 5 to arrive, followed by discussion of texting via morse code and the time Tim was stuck up in the crow's nest of a cruise ship.

Moving onto MakerBot, Tim and Tom pitch the idea making robots with feelings so [...]

Recent Advancements and Revelations in the Academic Study of Comedy

Researchers worldwide have been conducting many critical studies on the science of comedy this past year, giving hope to all that a cure for cancer will never, ever be found. Here are some of the more extraordinary findings that will forever impact what it means to laugh.

- A study called “The Cultural Currency of a ‘Good’ Sense of Humour” in the British Journal of Sociology found that comedy solidifies the levels of social hierarchy. People with money feel that their highbrow jokes about rich people things make them better than lower-class people, whose humor about everyday things like beer and rocks and arm hair are ”ignorant” and “thick.” Said [...]

The Science Behind Cringing

I can barely sit through an episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm without feeling humiliated for Larry David; now I can blame science when I have to leave the room eight times. In a study on cringing published this week, scientists discovered that "vicarious embarrassment" is linked to the brain's "pain matrix," which registers physical as well as mental discomfort; it also tends to fluctuate depending on the viewer's level of empathy. I guess what they're trying to say is: if you can sit through an episode of the British Office and not want to cover your eyes, you must be some kind of monster.