Consider the bizarre events of the 1962 outbreak of contagious laughter in Tanganyika. What began as an isolated fit of laughter (and sometimes crying) in a group of 12- to 18-year-old schoolgirls rapidly rose to epidemic proportions. Contagious laughter propagated from one individual to the next, eventually infecting adjacent communities. The epidemic was so severe that it required the closing of schools. It lasted for six months.

What would the visitor make of the large bipedal animals emitting paroxysms of sound from a toothy vent in their faces?

If the sounds between laugh notes are edited out of a tape recording--leaving the notes separated by intervals of silence--a laugh still sounds normal. The internote time interval carries information, but the internote expiratory sounds do not. If the notes are removed from a recording and the gaps between intervals are closed, all that remains of laughter is a long, breathy sigh.
Robert R. Provine

  • In Alabama it's illegal to spit on the pavement after 4pm.
  • In Indiana it's illegal to ride on public transport for at least 30 min.s after eating garlic.
  • In Vermont it's illegal for women to wear false teeth without the permission of their husbands.
  • In Kentucky it's illegal to carry ice cream in your back pocket or to marry your wife's grandmother.
  • In Texas it's illegal to have sex with a fish.
  • In Florida it's illegal to get a fish drunk and in North Carolina it's illegal to have sex with a drunk fish.
  • In Michigan it's illegal to chain an alligator to a fire hydrant.
  • And nowhere in the US is it legal to send a building through the post. In 1926 someone tried to mail his house, brick by brick, across the country.
  • 'It has recently come to my attention,' said Plucky Purcell, 'that Charles IV(Charles the Bland) once said that life is a pickle factory. I cannot accept that, as I find it impossible to determine whether life is sweet or sour.'
    'Perhaps,' said Amanda, purring as Purcell nibbled her tattoos, 'you would prefer the words of Ba Ba of Bow Wow who claims that life is a fortune cookie in which someone forgot to put the fortune.'

    Tom Robbins

    "Her hair was totally Indian Woolworth perfume clerk. You know - sweet but dumb - she'll marry her way out of the trailer park some day soon. But the dress was early '60s aeroflot stewardess - you know - that really sad blue the Russians used before they all started wanting to buy Sonys and having Guy Laroche design their Politburo caps. And such make-up! Perfect '70s Mary Quant, with these little PVC floral applique earrings that looked like antiskid bathtub stickers from a gay Hollywood tub circa 1956. She really caught the sadness - she was the hippest person there. Totally."
    Douglas Coupland

    Insect swarming inspires jazz software

    Jazz musicians who enjoy freeform improvisation may soon be using computer software to accompany themselves. A team at University College London has written a program that mimics insect swarming to "fly around" the sequence of notes the musician is playing and improvise a related tune of its own.
    The Swarm Music program is the creation of computer scientists Tim Blackwell and Peter Bentley, who study how natural processes can be modelled in software. The pair believe that improvised music is self-organising in the way swarms of insects and flocks of birds are.
    Their software works by treating music as a type of 3D space, in which the dimensions are pitch, loudness and note duration. As the musician plays, a swarm of digital "particles" immediately starts to buzz around the notes being played in this space - in the same way that bees behave when they are seeking out pollen.
    New Scientist

    Ode to Saint Urho

    by Gene McCavic and Richard Mattson

    Ooksi kooksi coolama vee
    Santia Urho is ta poy for me!
    He sase out ta hoppers as pig as pirds.
    Neffer peefor haff I hurd tose words!

    He reely tolt tose pugs of kreen
    Braffest Finn I effer seen
    Some celebrate for St. Pat unt hiss nakes
    Putt Urho poyka kot what it takes.

    He kot tall and trong from feelia sour
    Unt ate kala moyakka effery hour.
    Tat's why tat kuy could sase toes peetles
    What krew as thick as chack bine neetles.

    So let's give a cheer in hower pest vay
    On Sixteenth of March, St. Urho's Tay.

    Humpty Dumpty had a bad summer,
    Humpty Dumpty's spring was a bummer,
    Humpty's winter was no good at all,
    but Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.

    ...on the island of Yap, in the Pacific, money had long been in the form of giant stone wheels, and most property had been land or fishing rights. Neither the land nor the fish moved, and the money was too heavy to move in normal circumstances; only the information moved. By 2028, the rest of the world has caught up with Yap.

    John Barnes

    ........innocence is like a dumb leper who has lost his bell, wandering the world, meaning no harm.

    Graham Greene
    There is a theory which states that if ever anyone discovers exactly what the Universe is for and why it is here, it will instantly disappear and be replaced by something even more bizarre and inexplicable. There is another theory which states that this has already happened.

    Douglas Adams
    - man is a creature who spends his entire life in an attempt to convince himself that his existence is not absurd.

    Albert Camus
    Quantum mechanics is essentially a theory of what we do not know and cannot predict.

    Stephen Hawking

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