Wednesday, January 11, 2012
E.C. Zeeman (1976), an English mathematician, discovered some ingenious catastrophe models. One concerned aggressive behavior in animals (dogs), which depends largely on two factors: fear and rage. These models can be superimposed onto jokes, in particular, the energie that comes from the intent of the joke. While the catastrophe theory is highly complex, when plotted out on a three-dimensional scale, it is actually quite easy to see the joke path. These concepts are not new.
John Allen Paulos stated that "most simple jokes fit reasonably well into the model." (Mathematics and Humor, 1980).
In my original post on the Catastrophe Theory of Humor, I stated that "essentially, the rise and fall of a joke could easily be measured topologically."
Plotting a joke on the three-dimensional scale, where small changes in intent cause energie to appear or disappear, you can visualize the energie of a joke by its shape.
Take the classic pun:
"One day at the bar there was a blackout. Good thing I had a light beer."
You can see how the pun rises softly into a neutral energie zone, then softly falls into the punchline. The height of the energie of the joke is in the middle.
With respect to a self-deprecating or self-effacing joke:
"Nostalgia isn't what it used to be" or
87.5% of all statistics are made up."
The height of the energie is toward the beginning of the joke.
In an offensive joke:
"Think of how stupid the average person is, and then realize half of them are stupider than that." (George Carlin)
The energie peaks toward the end of the joke. That's where the so-called "zinger" kicks in.
Finally, with respect to a passive-aggressive joke, the energie starts out essentially self-deprecating and then softens a bit before coming back for the zinger, as in Pete Lee's Passive-Aggressive Mascot joke where he is happy-go-lucky mascot on the outside, but a person who "hates people" on the inside.
Like everything else in the material universe, jokes exist in a 3-D space. They jump, switch, and reverse themselves. This means, jokes can be visually plotted out on three-dimensional scale making them transparent, instantly revealing to which category they belong. When the vagueness of language translation obscures these lines, mathematics brings them back into focus.
Humor analysis: Just another way to spend eternity...