Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Sex Please, We're Boffins

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Sex Please, We're Boffins

Article excerpt


As scientists search for the funniest gag, Richard Longhurst finds other online researchers have baser matters on their minds

HERE'S a joke for you. Why did the scientist conduct his research on the internet? Because he needed the publicity. OK, so it's not the biggest contribution to world humour since Bob Monkhouse lost his joke book, but what is? The Laugh Lab (at www., the new internet research site backed by the British Association for the Advancement of Science that made the headlines last week, aims to find out. Net-users submit their favourite jokes and rate gags sent in by other people using a "laughometer" devised by psychologist Dr Richard Wiseman, from the University of Hertfordshire. Come next September, the sender of the funniest joke will be crowned the King or Queen of Comedy - and Dr Wiseman will be applying for another grant.

The hunt for the funniest joke is just one of hundreds of research projects being conducted online. Ever since boffins invented the web so that they could keep tabs on a pot of coffee at the end of a Cambridge University corridor, they've found that it doubles as a nifty online laboratory. Not only does it give beards easy access to a diverse range of people, web research saves money because there are no questionnaires to print or send, and the survey subjects input their own data.

The focus of online research projects varies from the prurient (sexual boredom, marital affairs) to the blindingly obvious (the difference between night and day) and back to the prurient again (the relationship between booze and sex). What they all have in common is that the researchers need your help to get their PhDs. So if you've been so drunk that you couldn't tell whether it was night or day while you were having sex with someone else's husband, the men in white coats would like to hear from you.

The researchers behind Face Prints, for example ( vic/ faceprints), hope to find the physical features that contribute to facial beauty - two eyes, a nose and a mouth seems to be a good start. …

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