British behavioral psychologist Richard Wiseman set out to track humor on an international scale and discover the funniest joke in the world. After analyzing 1.5 million Internet ratings of 40,000 jokes, Wiseman’s Laugh Lab discovered that Germans were easiest to please, ranking first among nations in finding all sorts of jokes hilarious. Americans squeaked in at number eight with their love of put-downs, right behind the Belgians, with their penchant for the surreal.
Why do we play, an activity that is, by its definition, without an immediate objective? Does play serve an important purpose in humans and in other animals? The science of play draws from the work of neuroscientists, evolutionary biologists, ethologists, and psychiatrists, among others, and many researchers are studying the appearance of play behaviors in other animals in an attempt to understand what role it may play in brain development.
Fluorescent microscopy can illuminate neurons genetically engineered to express fluorescent proteins. "Two-photon" microscopy is special because it lights up the fluorescent neurons only at the focal point allowing scientists to piece together multiple sections in order to obtain a 3D image.
So how does this "two-photon" technology produce fluorescence only at the focal point if the fluorescent laser beam is penetrating all of the surrounding tissue? The theory is that the chances of two low-energy photons hitting the fluorophore at the same time with enough energy to produce a fluorescent event are extremely slim.
Though it’s practically a truism by now that anthropologists’ reports often say more about the writers’ assumptions than about the cultures in question, the valiant attempt by Mahadev L. Apte to compile an anthropology of laughter is laudable, if often hard to believe.
Over the course of human history, the methods used to determine if someone is telling the truth have ranged from horrific to downright silly. The legend of La Bocca della Verita holds that if someone fibs with their hand in the mouth, it gets bitten off.
Many of you probably remember last year's release of satellite images documenting human rights violations in Myanmar (Burma). Scientists have teamed together at the American Academy for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) to use sophisticated technology to alert us of the atrocities against civilians in Darfur, North Korea, and Burma. How else can we apply the tools of science to enhance human rights work?
Hello Jad here. First off, thanks to everyone who sent me Starbucks cards for my birthday (what a nice surprise!)
And while we're on the subject of ME, let me say a few words about about narcissism. Actually, no. What I'd really like to do is to play you a song I've had on repeat for the last month, a song about a boy who falls in love with another boy who lives in a river.
This just in: Robert Krulwich was selected as an Official Honoree of the 12th Annual Webby Awards, for the animated component to his NPR stories about carbon. Krulwich and his video team (animator Odd Todd, Aneal Mundra, and BPP Video Producer Win Rosenfeld) were honored in the Online Film and Video - Best Use of Animation/Motion Graphics category for their cartoon feature, "It's All About Carbon", which was a part of NPR's Climate Connections series. The videos have an unexpected level of quirk and insight. Check them out here.
In our research on the show Laughter, we came across Dr. Helen Pilcher's formula for writing hit British comedy.
x = (fl + no ) / p
where funniness (f) of the punchline times length of build-up (l) is added to the amount someone falls down (n) times the physical pain or social embarrassment (o for 'ouch'). All this is divided by the pun (p), which reduces laughter and produces more of a groan.
Earlier this week, an article in the New York Times reported some good news about the genetic diversity of captive tigers. Apparently, a new study found that up to 20% of captive tigers are purebred, with genetic variations that no longer exist in the wild.
As Radiolab explores some of the tangents from our show on Deception, we've interviewed neuroscientists attempting to detect lies using changes in brain activity. But how do we see brain activity and get such colorful pictures of it? You might think it's based on neural electric activity. This is true for EEG but not for fMRI, which is used in the majority of these brain function studies. As Wired.com's Steve Silberman explains, it all starts with hemoglobin. Yes, the tiny protein responsible for carrying oxygen to the brain or any other organ for that matter, is the basis for studying brain activity.
We interviewed Dan Langleben while researching for our show on Deception. He says he can see differences in brain activity when a lie is told about a playing card in your pocket. He identified a few regions in the brain that changed in metabolism during a lie. That is, it seemed as though it took more energy for the brain to lie.