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June 08, 2008

Mankind's Greatest Invention

In an article about the benefits of blugging, Scientific American makes this important point:

As social creatures, humans have a range of pain-related behaviors, such as complaining...

My belief has long been that humans developed jokes as a way to complain while still getting others to pay attention. This was a smart move on our part—there's really no other way to make both things happen at the same time.

(via via)

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at June 8, 2008 04:06 PM

I'm going to go with: Everyone likes a good echo chamber to hear their opinions uselessly amplified.

And thankfully, there are enough blogs out there to appeal to just about any disgruntled hack that lives primarily in their own head.

Posted by: Labiche at June 8, 2008 05:47 PM

I thought going to war was the way to complain and get attention at the same time.

I thought joking was the way to spite death and get other mortals to share in the insanity.

Do comedy writers ever write about humor? I am actually curious. I am not asking about how-to books on writing comedy, but about what makes people laugh.

I've read clever stuff by Steve Martin but it doesn't go to the heart of the question. Why do people laugh?

There's a great essay by Bergson about it
(though, in my view, outdated, which itself might say something about the cultural relativism of humor.)

Posted by: Bernard Chazelle at June 8, 2008 08:19 PM

Or when the law of gravity applies only when you are aware of it. (Which could be a summary of the Bush administration.)

Posted by: Bernard Chazelle at June 9, 2008 12:14 AM

Bernard, Carla Bruni speaks good french? Does she look French when talking?

Your comment about Carla Bruni being the Cecile's upgraded version is funny, for example.

Posted by: Leighton at June 9, 2008 01:27 AM

Where does the time go? Where does it come from, then we'll talk . . .

Posted by: Monkay at June 9, 2008 01:50 AM

Time originated with the so-called big bang. Time and space are integral so as the universe expands time grows with it. This is called time’s arrow or entropy because time always grows with the expansion of space. So time came from a finite point and goes forever outward or at least as long as the universe expands. Most evidence points to either a flat universe or an open universe as there is not enough mass to close the universe and cause it to shrink back to a singularity. Of course the Planet Earth will be only able to support life for another 2 billion years as the sun gets hotter and expands into a red giant. Earth will then resemble the planet Venus after going through a runaway greenhouse effect. One could say that time will have run out for humanity. Moral of the story, enjoy life while you can.

Posted by: Rob Payne at June 9, 2008 02:48 AM


I thought going to war was the way to complain and get attention at the same time.

That is the greatest comment ever on this site, out of 21,573. Seriously: that's truly profound, at least for for someone like me who's never thought about it like that before. That's absolutely right. So there are two ways of complaining while still getting other people to pay attention to you.

If I only I could start a really funny war, everyone would know my name! And all the terrible injustices I have suffered!!!

Posted by: Jonathan Schwarz at June 9, 2008 05:06 AM


Thanks for the interesting link, fascinating stuff to think about. You might be interested in these books

The Origin of the Universe by John D. Barrow


The Five Ages of the Universe: Inside the Physics of Eternity by Fred Adams and Greg Laughlin

These are both fairly recent books and a good read -- they discuss inflation, the cosmic background radiation, and the possibility of multiple universes and how one universe can give birth to another universe also how inflation can give rise to multiple universes.

Posted by: Rob Payne at June 9, 2008 11:15 AM