Fri | Jan 19, 2018

Tony Deyal | A quantum of chickens

Published:Saturday | March 25, 2017 | 12:26 AMTony Deyal

After the departure of Quasimodo for Disneyworld to star in the hit movie 'The Hunchback of Notre Dame', the bells of the famous cathedral in France were silent and the bishop in charge was very depressed. The silence was deafening and the townsfolk, so accustomed to using the bells as their timekeeper, were complaining.

Then, one day, out of the blue, a young man appeared before the bishop and said he was the brother of Quasimodo and wanted the job of bell-ringer. The bishop, not wishing to show his eagerness, asked the young man to give him a demonstration. The young man walked to one side of the narrow parapet of the bell tower and ran straight at the huge bell, hitting it head-on. The bell rang loudly.

A little dazed, the young man walked to the edge of the platform and again ran straight at the bell.  It rang again but left the young man even more dazed. Undeterred, he ran at the bell again, and this time was so disoriented that he overshot the tower and fell far into the street below.

Serious scientists

By the time, the bishop reached the pavement, a crowd had gathered and an officious gendarme asked the bishop, “Do you know this young man?” “No,” replied the bishop. “But his face rings a bell.”

Following the passing of the unfortunate young man, lo and behold, another, almost identical in appearance, arrived claiming to be the brother of both Quasimodo and the other young man. He demanded an audition. He, too, sprinted at the bell and hit it head on. He, too, became dazed after hitting the bell. And he, too, fell splat into the street beneath.

By the time the Bishop arrived, a crowd had gathered and the same officious gendarme, notebook in hand, fiercely questioned the bishop. “Do you know this young man?” asked the gendarme. “No,” replied the bishop, “But he is a dead ringer for his brother.”
If, as I did, you found the joke funny, a lot of people, serious scientists included, want to know why people find this and other jokes funny and because they do not see it as a simple question, are using some heavy artillery to try to unlock the answer and explanation.

Science Daily states, “Why was 6 afraid of 7? Because 789. Whether this pun makes you giggle or groan in pain, your reaction is a consequence of the ambiguity of the joke. Thus far, models have not been able to fully account for the complexity of humour or exactly why we find puns and jokes funny, but a research article recently published in Frontiers in Physics suggests a novel approach: quantum theory.

Aiming to answer the question of what kind of formal theory is needed to model the cognitive representation of a joke, researchers suggest that a quantum theory approach might be a contender. In their paper, they outline a quantum-inspired model of humour, hoping that this new approach may succeed at a more nuanced modelling of the cognition of humour than previous attempts and lead to the development of a full-fledged, formal quantum theory model of humour.”
Quantum theory is the theoretical basis of modern physics that explains the nature and behaviour of matter and energy on the atomic and subatomic level. In other words, if you lack the energy to continue with this article, it doesn’t really matter if you fall asleep. After all, you need your quantum of solace.

However, according to Schrodinger, one of the greats of the quantum universe, if you lock yourself in a room with a bottle of sleeping tablets or a copy of this article, you are assumed to be both alive and dead until someone actually sees you.

Closed-circuit television doesn’t count because those of us who look at 'heist' movies know that you can break the circuit and fool all of us by putting in a video of yourself moving around while you might be lying there as dead as a dodo. The ambiguity inherent in Quantum Theory will supposedly help to explain why we laugh at jokes.
What matters, they say, is not the shift of meaning, but rather our ability to perceive both meanings simultaneously, that makes a pun funny.

Quantum approach

This is where a quantum approach might be able to account for the complexity of humour in a way that earlier models cannot. The quantum guys have their own jokes, too.

Why did the chicken cross the road? It didn’t. It was also on the other side, too. I have seen cricket umpires and football referees like that.

Here’s another. If you are trying to measure position and momentum at the same time, the more precisely you measure one, the less precisely the other is known. This is the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle and led to the joke, “Why was Heisenberg such a bad lover?”  Because when he had the time, he didn’t have the energy, and when he found the position, he lacked the momentum.

A recent COSMOS article agrees that analysing a joke may suck the fun out of it but doing so can give us an insight into the weirdness of the universe. “Whether you laugh or not is beside the point. The thing about quantum mechanics jokes is they can be incredibly funny and incredibly unfunny at the same time.” This is the classic example:

Schrodinger and Heisenberg were driving down the autobahn when a policeman pulled them over and asked Heisenberg, “Sir, do you know how fast you were driving?” Heisenberg replied, “No, but I know where I was.”

The policeman, thinking that the weird response necessitated further investigation, told them to open the boot of the car. He looked in and saw a dead cat. He asked, “Do you know there’s a dead cat in here?” Schrodinger replied, “I do now.”
- Tony Deyal was last seen saying that there is a huge difference between a quantum chicken and a comic one. Why did the comic chicken commit suicide? To get to the other side.