There's nothing quite as satisfying as a really good joke. Someone has made a clever new connection between two mundane things that we've all encountered—and suddenly we have a lovely "aha" moment. We find it funny.
That sense of revelation accompanying a good joke or comic is very similar to what many scientists experience when they finally figure out a great explanation for some kind of previously unknown phenomenon. But don't take it from us. Take it from the scientifically-trained author and illustrator Zach Weinersmith (née Weiner), creator of the popular webcomic Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal (SMBC), known for its science-themed humor.
"I suspect what's actually going on with people who are thought of as very creative is they're good at two skills, one of which is generating connections rapidly, and two, editing out the garbage quickly," explains Weinersmith on this week's episode.
In Weinersmith's case, some of funniest jokes are actually about just plain bad scientific thinking—and they teach a lesson about what science is, and what it isn't. The comic artist is now one of the main forces behind an event series, entitled the "Festival of Bad Ad Hoc Hypotheses," that specializes in "celebrations of well-argued and thoroughly-researched but completely incorrect evolutionary theory." The winner takes home a sculpture of Charles Darwin, "shrugging skeptically." The first festival took place at MIT in late 2013.
On the show this week we talked to Weinersmith about science, comics, and how to make a really great bad hypothesis.
This episode also features a short discussion with Cynthia Graber, author of the new PBS/NOVANext article "The Next Green Revolution May Rely on Microbes," and a discussion of the science of why human biting is so dangerous, and of how our hormones influence political choices.