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Science!

If you're a scientist, you could help me out

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This would be awesome

How awesome would it be if I could go into a lab, put some people into brain scanners or something, and prove with empirical evidence my hypothesis about how humour works in the brain? Not only would it help me market my book, not only would it advance science, it would, most importantly, fulfil my ego driven need to be right about everything. Besides, isn't part of how people should give an idea credibility based on whether or not they've had some kind of peer review before they go out and try and publish books?

From the early stages of when I started working on my book, I looked into how I might get some kind of help finding evidence for my hypothesis. Pushing my personal network as far as it could go, I talked to many scientists in many fields relating to the brain, from psychologists to neuroscientists. I figured that I would have to brace myself for the possibility that I would just be completely wrong, that my pet theory would be demonstrated as being unfounded nonsense in the cold hard light of objective scientific analysis. Turns out, though, facing my fears of being proven wrong was the least of my obstacles.

First, there were many purely pragmatic concerns. You can't just get a scientist with access to research equipment to just let you come in on an afternoon when they're not busy and start playing around. Most scientific equipment, especially brain scanning equipment, is expensive and in demand and is pretty much never just sitting there. The more cool the equipment, the more demand for its time. Within that time, scientists are busy doing their own thing, researching how to stop cancer spreading in the brain or how to prevent Alzheimer’s, and things that make studying why people chuckle seem a little frivolous.

But, then, even if you could convince a researcher to work with you and maybe devote a little lab time, you can't just grab people off the street and throw them into a brain scanner and start telling them jokes. Any university or research facility of any worth has protocols and procedures to protect people from potentially psychologically or physically harmful experiments. There are ethics committees and legal requirements and mountains of paperwork.

And then, cost. One guy at a research institute told me that between the cost of time in the lab and use of equipment, labour costs of all the people involved, procedural fees, and everything, you could get up to a million dollars. Still seems a little crazy to me, but it sounded pretty convincing when he said it. Thus you'd need grants or backing, and at least a year at least to get through it all.

Then, after all that, I'm not even sure if the fundamental process that I'm proposing is discoverable with today's technology. As was explained to me by several people who know about this stuff, the kind of neuron to neuron transmission that I think might underlie humour is way more delicate and small than any brain scanner can detect. The best brain scanners have resolutions down to millimetres, but one cubic millimetre can contain tens of thousands of neurons. I thought maybe electrical impulses could reveal something in more general terms, but, as I've been told, the amount of electrical impulse I'm talking about is on a scale way below even the best EEG scanners.

If, like me, you like to read articles online about brain research, then you may have seen pictures of individual brain cells, or seen reports of seeing individual neurons in action. Yeah, that happens, but if you look into it, you'll find that they were able to isolate these brain cells with invasive surgery, and often at the expense of the life of whatever poor creature came into the lab with the brain cells that got looked at. These kinds of experiments are all done on fish and rats and nematodes and other creatures because they are way, way too extreme for people. No one is going to slice open a person's skull and insert a probe deep into their brain just to see if that person will giggle at the predicted time.

All that said, maybe there's still a way. Maybe something about the process can be inferred from some associated observations. It's very likely there are approaches I've never heard or conceived of.

It's my dream to do some kind of test, something not only concrete but credible, to see if there's any reason to believe the physical process behind my idea is right. My gut feel is that I'm close, but the brain, being as complicated as it is, has nuances that, if seen, would lead to yet more interesting ideas. I'd really love to be a part of that discovery process.

If you're a person reading this who has either read my book or is interested in researching the mechanics of humour from an angle that I believe has not yet been explored, then please, contact me . I have some ideas about what kinds of tests need to be done, but I don't have the resources to make this happen on my own, nor do I really have the expertise to determine the best way to go about it. But I believe there are physical properties to humour than could potentially be observed, and I'd love to see them. Maybe you would too...?