Sitting at a stoplight, in the middle of a horrible day, I learned the power of laughter. I was angry and rushed when I noticed a toddler in the car next to me throwing an epic temper tantrum. The scene shouldn’t have been funny, but as she writhed and twisted in her booster seat and kicked at her dad’s back, I inexplicably began to laugh. Then she started heaving stuff at her dad’s head–the typical junk found in parent-mobiles: toys, shoes, sippy cups, broken dreams, and lost libidos–and my laughter turned hysterical. Just like that, my day went from bad to good, at the expense of a child’s tears and some poor sap who probably hadn’t had a good night’s sleep in three years.
The human capacity for laughter has been a matter of scientific study and debate since Aristotle, who claimed the ability to laugh is what makes us human. New York Public Radio’s Radiolab recently aired a can’t miss episode examining laughter’s origins and its place in our lives. Besides offering a host of interesting facts and conversation-starters concerning laughter, the episode itself offers plenty of laughs. Jokes are cracked and rats are tickled, all in the name of science.