b>Last September the British Association for the Advancement of Science (BAAS) announced a plan to discover the world's funniest joke. This quest for the joke of all jokes, the wisest of cracks, the topper de tutti toppi, was to be conducted using a double-pronged approach in which visitors to a Web site could submit jokes and vote on those already available for judgment. According to the journal Nature, visitors to the site (www.laughlab.co.uk>) were asked to fill out a brief questionnaire "about their age, gender and nationality, as well as a brief cognition quiz." The associations between jokes and survey responses would theoretically make possible "the largest-ever look at the psychology of humor."
As the writer of what passes for a humor column (which at Scientific American is like making the best sloppy joes at the culinary institute), I naturally took an interest. My initial reaction was summed up by taking advantage of certain principles of fluid dynamics to produce what is known as a Bronx cheer, or, in England, a raspberry. I felt this way because jokes tend to be on the low end of the funnymeter. (The accent is on the second, not first, syllable.) Confirming my prejudice, last December the BAAS sheepishly announced the Laugh Lab's winning entry, the funniest joke in the world, according to science:
This article was originally published with the title Divining Comedy.