Jun 19 at 4:04pm by Aileen
Way back in 2005 researchers at Texas A&M determined that humor – an appreciation of the absurd hilarity of life – can significantly increase Hope, and that hopefulness helps people cope with stresses in daily life and during illnesses as well.
In January of this year a communications professor at Canisius College in Buffalo, New York, demonstrated that in a medical setting, laughter is the best medicine. Humor helps both the doctors and the patients cope. The finding was extended to the workplace and to educational situations as well, eventually reaching the conclusion that regardless of the content, humor seems to be beneficial and productive. It helps to get the point across in almost any situation.
Then on June 12, 2008 Alastaire Clarke published his Pattern Recognition Theory of Humor, which purportedly explains the reason that humor is common to all human societies. In Humor Shown to be Fundamental to Our Success as a Species, Clarke claims that humor is fundamantal to the evolution of human beings, and continues to be important in the cognitive development of infants and children.
Alas, Clarke’s Pattern Recognition Theory can’t tell us what’s funny or why, so it probably won’t be used by comedy writers or clowns to formulate their skits any time soon. And while humor can progress from basic slapstick to childish jokes to ridicule to satire, he does not attempt to explain why slapstick still makes us laugh even if we’ve progressed all the way to dry British satire. A clown would have a handy explanation for that, but I don’t think Clarke asked one. Oh, well.
The articles do make a strong case for the survival value of humor to human beings, and that may be all we really need to know about it.
Apr 16 at 4:04pm by Aileen
A research scientist at UMich School of Public Health has established through interviews with 475 undergraduates that humans exchange resources (or merely clout) for sex, just like penguins, hummingbirds and other species of beings on this planet. His paper, “Young Adults Attempt Exchanges in Reproductively Relevant Currencies,” is published in this month’s Journal of Evolutionary Psychology.
Not that the idea of trading sex for resources is something unheard of in human society. Or even that in cultures where marriages are arranged among parents and grandparents before the young are old enough to walk, the arrangements are all about relative wealth and social standing – things considered valuable in the societies.
It is interesting that biologists (yes, the evo-psych folks too) have just recently figured out that their traditional reliance on exclusivity in sexual selection as a primary mechanism of directional evolution is not nearly as cut and dried as they long assumed it was. Given that cheating on spouses and general promiscuity have turned out to be fairly rampant in birds and beasts – the beauty of that peacock’s tail or the size of that ape’s manly parts doesn’t prevent lesser males from getting their genes into the pool after all…
There’s a reason we call it “The Oldest Profession.” Turns out, it’s even older than humans!
Mar 29 at 2:02am by Aileen
The Nonprophets radio show comment on what happened.
The science blogosphere erupted this week after biology professor Paul Myers [a.k.a. PZ Myers] was summarily expelled from a pre-release screening of the Ben Stein movie Expelled, even while his wife, daughter and guest Richard Dawkins were allowed in to see the film.
Myers blogged about the incident in several posts to his #1 rated science blog for Seed Media Group, Pharyngula. Other science bloggers for the same outlet also blogged about it – Greg Laden bestowed sainthood on PZ and compiles the buzz from Dawkins, other bloggers, national and international media… it’s an exhaustive (but dated) list.
Dec 25 at 8:08pm by Aileen
Sam Shuster, Described as a “Professor” (but with no indication of what he’s a ‘professor’ of) got a paper published in the British Medical Journal this week claiming that he’s figured out that the human capacity for humor develops from aggression caused by male hormones.
Professor Shuster figured this out by riding a unicycle around the streets of Newcastle upon Tyne and noticing the reactions he got from people of various ages. Those responses were predictable droll jokes, which indicated to Shuster that such jokes must have a biological cause. And because the most aggressive reactions came from young men, he’s convinced it has something to do with androgens in teenage boys. Most adult women responded with praise or encouragement instead of jokes, so apparently women – at least in one town in England – don’t have a sense of humor.
Nov 1 at 5:05pm by Aileen
And Things Nature Does to Rattle Our Perceptions
Lots of interesting science reports lately about all things neurological, in brains and in our remote sensor neurons. First up is a surprising (or maybe not so surprising) finding by a researcher at the University of Hertfordshire – the harder we try to mentally suppress our thoughts and desires, the more we will indulge in the activity we’re trying to suppress.
This research project dealt with something quite simple, chocolate. Which some say is addictive, but that’s a whole different area of research. Dr. Erskine of Hertfordshire divided 134 young (avg. age 22) people into two groups to investigate how our thinking affects our behaviors.
The participants were asked to try two brands of chocolate and answer questions about which they preferred and why. Then they were given two periods of thought verbalization where they were to talk about their thoughts while alone. On top of this they were told they must think about – or not think about – certain things. Including chocolate.
Oct 26 at 7:07pm by Aileen
A pre-Halloween poll conducted by the Associated Press and Ipsos informs us that a whopping 33% of Americans believe in ghosts. Nearly one in four people say they’ve actually seen or felt a ghost!
About 1 in 5 people believes in the efficacy of magic spells, and half of America believes in ESP. Interestingly, more than half of college graduates [51%] think ESP is real, while only 37% of those with high school or less education think there’s anything to it. A Newsweek poll in 1996 reported 66% believing in ESP, so looks like the numbers are going down.
Check out the linked poll, it’s full of interesting information. Superstitions, ghost stories and even Closet Monsters just in time for Halloween!
Sep 21 at 8:08pm by Aileen
…should we be feeling safer yet?
The science news this week had some really odd articles that looked a lot like heavy-handed preferential placements by some junior government official trying to scare home-grown dissidents and tech-savvy terrorists writing bomb-making instructions for the internet from a cave in Afghanistan (or maybe Pakistan). My guess is that we’ll have this from time to time in the modern world, as our reliance on science and technology increases and can be used by anyone to promote whatever someone deems it pertinent to promote.
The trick is to figure out what’s real science news, what’s purposely planted disinformation, and what the ‘trial balloons’ being floated are. Then we could try to figure out what in the world the desired effect of such things might be. From the looks of our first story, the wisdom of having hundreds of millions of people “on-call” 24-7 via cell phones isn’t looking quite so desirable all of a sudden…