Laughter is the best medicine, they say. And, like love, it cannot be quantified, have been our heartfelt sentiments always. Alas, but not anymore. Yoji Kimura of Kansai University in Osaka, Japan has invented a machine to chart out laughter and a new unit of ‘aH’ to calculate it. According to Kimura, laughter is produced in four successive emotional stages: letting loose, then deviating from the norm, followed by freely laughing and then having the laughter overflow. To measure laughter, he attaches sensors on a subject’s stomach, particularly the diaphragm, and detects muscle movements. He says that humour detected in the brain gets discharged through the movement of the diaphragm. By checking the movement of the diaphragm and other parts of the body, he adds, it will be possible to see if a person is only pretending to laugh while also distinguishing different types of laughter like derision and cynicism.
But Mr Kimura is not the only one to complicate a simple thing like laughter; Arthur Koestler did so in The Act of Creation. But what scares us most that the professor in true Japanese style is planning to develop and commercialise a nano laughter detector. aH!
So what’s next? Like the ubiquitous cell phone, now, armed with a laughter detector, we will surreptitiously record a smile or laughter, decode it and act accordingly? The professor believes laughter is a weapon that in healthy doses can end the world’s wars. Would it? Well, we suggest that it’s best not to try such decoding tricks in certain quarters of the world… a smile can actually reveal more than we need to know.