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Tue, Jul 29, 2014 10:55 AM
Issue of July 23, 2014

A hope note
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A hope note
Dr. Wayne Willis reflects on life and hope.

Laughter's lifeline

May 07, 2014 | 12:46 PM

In September 2001, Richard Wiseman and The British Association for the Advancement of Science embarked on an unusual piece of research. Their aim was to find the world's funniest jokes and, through that process, understand better how humor works.

That could be important, because we know that people who laugh more and do not take themselves too seriously are healthier. Laughter increases our heart rate, helps us breathe more deeply and stretches muscles in our face, chest and abdomen. A good laugh is like a quick visit to the gym. One researcher claims that a good laugh is the aerobic equivalent of 15 minutes on an exercise bike.

Of the 40,000 jokes studied, this one came in second:

Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson went camping. They pitched their tent under the stars and went to sleep. Sometime in the middle of the night Holmes woke Watson up and said: "Watson, look up at the stars and tell me what you see."

Watson replied: "I see millions and millions of stars."

Holmes said: "And what do you deduce from that?"

Watson replied: "Well, if there are millions of stars, and, if even a few of those have planets, it's quite likely there are some planets like Earth out there. And if there are a few planets like Earth out there, there might also be life."

Sherlock Holmes said: "Watson, you idiot, it means that somebody stole our tent."

Did you laugh? If not, that proves nothing. We all find different things laughable. That being said, our laughs usually do involve someone doing something stupid or violent.

Why did I choose not to share the joke that came in first? It has a violent punchline, and Americans nowadays are overdosed with tragic events.

Perhaps the British are not.

Dr. Wayne Willis


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