In the realm of psychology, there are three general theories that explain how humor works. According to the most common explanation for humor—the tension release theory—we experience, for a brief period after hearing a joke or looking at a cartoon, a tension that counterbalances what we assume about the situation being described or illustrated against what the comedian or cartoonist intends to convey. The tension is released only when the joke or cartoon is understood.

The second most popular theory of humor, the incongruity resolution model, involves the solving of a paradox or incongruity in a playful context. This theory is based on the deep relationship that exists in the human brain between the laughable and the illogical. As a species, we place great value on logic. Even so, we will playfully accept a situation that is highly unlikely or even impossible … as long as the scenario depicted in the cartoon is coherent and logically consistent with its theme. Incongruity resolution usually takes a little longer than tension release and occurs in two stages. First, expectations about the meaning of a joke or cartoon are jarringly undermined by the punch line of the joke or the caption of the cartoon. This leads to a form of problem solving aimed at reconciling the discrepancy. When we solve the problem, the pieces fall into place and we experience the joy that accompanies insight. Failure to get the point of a joke or cartoon causes the same discomfort we feel when we cannot solve a problem.

Finally, the superiority theory emphasizes how mirth and laughter so often involve a focus on someone else’s mistakes, misfortune, or stupidity. … The superiority theory lends itself especially to an explanation of cruel and hostile humor: the situation depicted in the joke or cartoon could never happen to us, hence our amusement. In a word, we feel superior to the person suffering misfortune.

In practice, most humor incorporates aspects of all three of those theories.

Theories of how humor works.

Myth #2: “Sear your meat over high heat to lock in juices.”

The Theory: Searing the surface of a cut piece of meat will precipitate the formation of an impenetrable barrier, allowing your meat to retain more juices as it cooks.

The Reality: Searing produces no such barrier-liquid can still pass freely in and out of the surface of a seared steak. To prove this, I cooked two steaks to the exact same internal temperature (130^0F). One steak I seared first over hot coals and finished over the cooler side of the grill. The second steak I started on the cooler side, let it come to about ten degrees below its final target temperature, then finished it by giving it a sear over the hot side of a grill. If there is any truth to the searing story, then the steak that was seared first should retain more moisture. What I found is actually the exact opposite: the steak that is cooked gently first and finished with a sear will not only develop a deeper, darker crust (due to slightly drier outer layers-see Myth #1), but it also cooks more evenly from center to edge, thus limiting the amount of overcooked meat and producing a finished product that is juicier and more flavorful.

And 6 other myths about cooking steak. 

How to compose a successful critical commentary

How to compose a successful critical commentary

How to compose a successful critical commentary


1. Attempt to re-express your target’s position so clearly, vividly and fairly that your target says: “Thanks, I wish I’d thought of putting it that way.”

2. List any points of agreement (especially if they are not matters of general or widespread agreement).

3. Mention anything you have learned from your target.

4. Only then are you permitted to say so much as a word of rebuttal or criticism.

Taken from Intuition Pumps and Other Tools for Thinking by Daniel Dennett. 

The break of the curveball


This optical illusion will blow your mind. (Sorry for not embedding it, it’s flash). 

Following a Star, Kerry Applies Personal Touch

Following a Star, Kerry Applies Personal Touch

Following a Star, Kerry Applies Personal Touch



A solid piece by Michael R. Gordon about how John Kerry is settling into his role as Secretary of State. One tech-related standout details Kerry’s attempt to defuse an issue with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan:

To make the point that Zionism was a valid nationalist movement and avoid turning the dispute into a test of wills, Mr. Kerry, who has known Mr. Erdogan since he was the mayor of Istanbul in the 1990s, took out an iPad and ran a Web search on the term.

Sort of interesting that Gordon would specifically note the iPad but not name the search engine. You’d think he’d say “tablet” and/or “Googled” (assuming, of course, it was Google).

An interesting article. About the fact that Gordon said iPad and not Google, it makes you wonder what the strongest brand is, and what this implies.