Thursday, August 4, 2011

Laugh Out Loud

Ah, I'm listening to Radiolab again for the first time in a long time. It's really just the best thing to listen to. Today I'm listening to a show about Laughter, which as you can probably imagine, is a lot of fun to listen to. There's babies laughing, people laughing, and rats laughing. Yes, rats.

There's a segment in the episode where they talk to a scientist named Dr. Jaak Panksepp who was watching a bunch of rats playing soundlessly together, and he wondered how they could be making absolutely no sounds at all while they were obviously playing so hard. So he put a microphone into their little rat box, and he found that on a level too low for us to hear on our own, they were making sounds. These cute, rapid little chirping noises. Dr. Panksepp and his grad student couldn't figure out why they were making these noises, and then one day they decided that they were going to try and tickle some rats to see what happened. And as they ticked these rats, with the microphones there, they were making the same sounds. Really, it sounds very adorable. And Dr. Panksepp realized "My god, what if that's laughter?"

People have, for a long time, thought that laughter is an expression reserved only for humans. Aristotle believed that babies laughed for the first time on the 40th day of their lives, and that was a sign that they now had a soul. In reality, most babies don't laugh exactly on their 40th day of existing, but I understand what was meant by this. It was like a sign that you were a person if you could express mirth. I don't agree that laughter is for people only, though.

A lot of people were critical of the idea that rats could laugh. But why? You don't think that animals find things funny? My dog, Macey, can't physically laugh, but it's very obvious when you play with her that she's having fun. It's a shame that she isn't capable of laughing because that would be hilarious. But to anyone who has had a pet, you must all know what I'm talking about. They have fun, just the same as we do, and the only thing limiting them from laughing like we do is that they're just made differently. Indeed, monkeys can laugh. It's been recorded, and I dare you to listen to the part of it in the episode and not hear that as laughter.

Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not one of those people who claims that animals have souls. I don't even think that we have souls. I just think that if we can laugh, why can't animals? We are, after all, animals as well.

Ugh, I don't think I can type anymore. I haven't eaten anything yet, and the bright screen combined with hunger nausea is making me feel really sick. Until next time.


  1. I keep forgetting radiolab exists!

  2. They haven't really updated anything good, hour long episodes in awhile, but it's fun to go back and listen to some of the old ones.