Tuesday, March 17, 2009


A former boss of mine (now deceased)* collected jokes. He wrote them down and filed them and, on having enjoyed a few drinks, could recite joke after joke until the bar shut down.  I envied him intensely as although I love good jokes - particularly vulgar ones - I can never remember them.  I laugh like mad when they are first told but the next day I cannot recall them. Now I know why.  Its the unpredictability of their outcomes that does it:
"Really great jokes....punch the lights out of do re mi. They work not by conforming to pattern recognition routines but by subverting them. “Jokes work because they deal with the unexpected, starting in one direction and then veering off into another,” said Robert Provine, a professor of psychology at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, and the author of “Laughter: A Scientific Investigation.” “What makes a joke successful are the same properties that can make it difficult to remember.” ''
This is neurology and memory research hard at work.

* Many years after I saw him last Bob B. published several books including two outstanding efforts in recreational, applied mathematics Towing Icebergs, Falling Dominoes, and Other Adventures in Applied Mathematics and Slicing Pizzas, Racing Turtles, and Further Adventures in Applied Mathematics.

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