“…like the ENTIRE SOCIETY was a 16 YEAR OLD GIRL…” [AUDIO]
by Ellen Horne  /  February 22, 2008  [segment starts @ 39:30]

When Laughter (Almost) Kills
by Jim Cofer  /  February 17th, 2008

“Laughter is the best medicine, or so the old saying goes. But what if laughter wasn’t the best medicine? What if laughter was the disease? It all started in a boarding school in Tanganyika in January of 1962. These were heady times for the nation on Africa’s east coast: the country had only received its independence from Britain a few weeks previously, and it had yet to merge with Zanzibar to form the modern nation of Tanzania. Perhaps the joy of independence or the stress of what the future might hold was just too much. No one, it seems, will ever know for sure what the root cause of the epidemic was. All that’s known for sure is that someone told someone else a joke at an all-girls boarding school at Kashasha village on the morning of January 30, 1962. The three students involved in the joke became subject to uncontrollable fits of laughter, sometimes lasting only a few minutes, other times lasting as long as 16 hours. Since laughter is, in some sense, contagious, the laughter fits quickly spread to 95 of the school’s 159 students. The attacks left no permanent injuries, but the laughter fits did mean that few students could learn anything, so the school was shut down on March 18th.

As soon as the Kashasha school closed, all of the students went home… and the laughter epidemic spread across the region, almost exactly as it would in one of those [contagion] maps in a Hollywood movie. Within 10 days of the school’s closure, 217 of the 10,000 people in the village of Nshamba, home to several of the boarding school girls, came down with the “laughing disease”. Several girls that attended a school in Ramashenye but lived near some of the girls from Kashasha infected their own school; within a couple of weeks, 48 of the 154 students there became “infected” and the school was shut down in mid-June. One of the girls that attended the Ramashenye school went back to her home in Kanyangereka when the school closed and promptly “infected” several members of her own family, who in turn “infected” other villagers, who in turn “infected” people from other villages, causing two more schools to close. The “infection” would prove to be tough to eradicate at Kashasha school: after re-opening on May 21st, 57 additional students rapidly became “infected” and the school was shut down again in June.

By the time the “disease” finally ran its course in June 1964, the laughter epidemic had “infected” around 1,000 people and caused the closure of 14 schools in the area. Just like a “real” epidemic, the only effective preventative measure seemed to be quarantining villages yet to be touched by the disease. Scientists, both then and now, have been able to conclusively rule out any biological or environmental cause of the “disease”. Whatever it was, the epidemic was not caused by a virus or bacteria, or some chemical in the food supply or environment. There is no historical mention of a similar disease in the area, nor is there any word for it in any of the indigenous languages. In fact, scientists were completely puzzled by the initial spread of the “disease” at the Kashasha school. The girls lived in a dormitory-style arrangement there, yet the “disease” didn’t seem to follow any of the known rules of modern pathology. Girls that shared rooms with “infected” students didn’t necessarily become infected themselves. The disease didn’t follow any known pattern of friendship or location.

Once the disease left the school, however, a pattern became clear: adolescent females at mission-run schools were first to be infected. They would then take the disease home to infect their mothers and other female relatives. Young boys appeared to be somewhat susceptible to the disease, however adult men appeared to be completely immune to the epidemic. There is also not a single instance of a “person of stature” in the community – policemen, doctors or schoolteachers, either male or female – becoming infected. Europeans and other Westerners seemed to have immunity, too. In fact, the disease seemed to follow a strict path along tribal and familial lines. If a female relative, a male relative, and a complete stranger of either gender were locked in a room with an “infected” person, the disease would probably infect the female relative, possibly infect the male, and would almost never infect the stranger.”

Posted by Ellen Horne  /  May 31, 2007
An Epidemic of Laughing in the Bukoba District of Tanganyika
by A. M. Rankin (Department of Medicine, Maskerere University College)
and P.J. Philip (Medical Officer, Bukoba, Tanganyika)

An epidemic disease is defined as one that “is prevalent among a people or a community at a special time and produce by some special causes not generally present in the affected community” (MacNaulty, 1961). As the commoner epidemics are caused by the spread of viruses, bacteria, or parasites, there is a tendency to forget that abnormal emotional behaviour may spread from person to person and so take on an epidemic form. It is purpose of this communication to report and epidemic in the Bukoba district of north-west Tanganyika. The epidemic was characterized by episodes of laughing and crying. It is not only of interest from the sociological aspect but as it has disrupted the normal life of the community for six months, it is of considerable public health importance.

The disease commenced on 30th January, 1962 at a mission-run girls’ middle school at Kashasha village, 25 miles from Bukoba (see map). From that date until the 18th March, 1962, when the school was forced to close down, 95 of the 159 pupils had been affected. Fifty-seven pupils were involved from the 21st May, when the school was re-opened, until it was again shut at the end of June. The spread of the disease to other areas is described below. Kashasha school is a barding school for girls between the ages of 12 and 18 years of age. The pupils sleep in dormitories where their ages are evenly distributed. The disease spread in a haphazard manner and did not involve the majority of the pupils in one dormitory at any one time. On the 30th January, three pupils commenced to act in an abnormal manner, and the disease rapidly spread through the school. None of the teaching staff which consists of two Europeans and three Africans was affected.

Clinical Picture
The clinical picture has varied slightly from place to place, but it is basically the same. Most of the victims have been adolescent school girls and school boys, though adult males and females have also been involved. No literate and relatively sophisticated members of society have been attacked. The patient has had some very recent contact with someone suffering from the disease. The incubation period is from a few hours to a few days. The onset is sudden, with attacks of laughing and crying lasting for a few minutes to a few hours, followed by a respite and then a recurrence. The attack is accompanied by restlessness and on occasions violence when restraint is attempted. The patient may say that things are moving around in the head and that she fears that someone is running after her. The examination is notable for the absence of abnormal physical signs. No fever was detected, although some reported that they had had fever after a few days. The only abnormalities found were in the central nervous system. The pupils were frequently more dilated than controls, but always reacted to light. The tendon reflexes in the lower limbs were frequently exaggerated. There were no tremors or fits or losses of consciousness. The neck was not stiff.

Course Of The Disease
No fatal cases have been reported. Symptoms have lasted from several hours in a few cases up to a maximum of 16 days. During this time the patient is unable to perform her normal duties and is difficult to control. The majority of those affected have had more than one attack separated by a period of normality. The maximum number of attacks was four. No serious sequelae have been reported. However school teachers state that for several weeks after the recovery the girls are unable to attend well to their lessons.

Subsequent Spread Of The Disease
About 10 days after the Kashasha school was closed for the first time and pupils sent home, the disease broke out at Nshamba village complex, 55 miles west of Bukoba. Several of the sick girls from Kashasha came from this village. During April and May, 217 people out of a total 10,000 were attacked. The majority of these were young adults of both sexes and the remainder school children. All the patients recovered and the disease has apparently died out in this area. Ramashenye girls’ middle school is situated on the outskirts of Bukoba. Between 10th and 18th June, when the school was forced to close, 48 girls were attacked out of a total of 154. Girls from Kashasha suffering from the disease had recently been sent to their homes in the vicinity of the Ramashenye school. A further outbreak occurred in the village of Kanyangereka, 20 miles from Bukoba on the 18th June. A pupil from Ramashenye school had been sent home to this village on the 17th, as she was impossible to control at the school. The outbreak in her village occurred in her immediate family, with involvement of the sister (16), brother (9) and mother-in-law, (18). The sister-in-law of the father walked 10 miles to see how the sick school girl was and within a few hours was also laughing and violent. Other people in the village soon became affected and the two boys’ schools 10 miles away were forced to close down. No case involving village headman, policemen, school teachers, or people of similar educational background was found. At the time of writing this paper the disease is spreading to other villages, the education of the children is being seriously interfered with and there is considerable fear among the village communities.

Investigations were carried out to determine if the disease had an infections, toxic, or psychological aetiology. Lumbar puncture was carried out in 17 cases and biochemical, bacteriological and microscopic examination showed no abnormality. Virus studies were done with the help of the Virus Research Institute at Entebbe. Blood taken from 15 active cases failed to grow and virus and no viral antibodies were found either in those who had recovered from the disease or in the people who had not been affected. An attempt was made to find a common food factor that might contain a toxic substance capable of producing the clinical picture. The water supplies varied from rainwater collected in sealed tanks at the Kashasha school to local wells and streams at smaller villages. Kashasha school obtained their Matoke bananas, beans and meat from nearby villages, where no cases of the disease had been reported. Maize flour for Kashasha and Ramashenye schools is purchased in Bukoba but is manufactured in the area south of Lake Victoria. Bukoba hospital and several schools that have not been attacked by the disease are supplied with the same flour. This applies to ground nuts. Sample of maize flour and ground nuts were examined macroscopically for evidence of contamination with extraneous seeds but none could be detected.

Evidence was sought that this was a manifestation of hysteria in an epidemic form. There is no record of a similar epidemic occurring in the area before and thus there is no traditional name for it. The Bahaya, who form the bulk of the population, are calling it either “Enwara Yokusheka” (the illness of laughing) or “Akajanja” which means madness. No relevant information could be obtained from the pupils at Kashasha school who were originally affected, despite the fact that these investigations were done by a Muhaya education officer. In Bukoba township, where the disease has aroused great interest, there is a belief that the atmosphere has been poisoned as a result of the atom bomb explosions. Others believe that someone has poisoned the maize flour. (Maize is not eater to any extent by the villages, who eat a basic diet of matoke. Most schools and hospitals, however, provide a basic diet of maize flour, as it is a much cheaper commodity.) Many of the patients say that they are frightened of something, but do not give any further information. They appear to fear that someone is chasing them. There is a definite belief that this is a contagious condition of some kind. One villager described it as a spreading madness. A milder outbreak with similar symptoms occurred near Mbarara, in Uganda, about 100 miles north of Bukoba. It started in February and involved about 60 pupils in a primary school. The disease has since ceased there.

The mode of spread of this disease would seem to be from person to person. In most instances it was possible to trace recent contact with someone exhibiting the same symptoms. This might suggest a virus disease spread by droplet infection. The results of the laboratory examination, the lack of abnormal signs on the physical examination and the fact that the majority of the patients had more than one attack of the disease are against an infectious aetiology. Contamination of food by toxic substances is possible explanation. Seeds of Datura Stramonium contaminating wheat and maize flour have been responsible for epidemics of food poisoning in East Africa (Anderson et al, 1944; Raymond 1944). This disease begins soon after eating posho made from the flour contaminated with the seeds and bears a superficial resemblance to the present syndrome. However, the dry mouth, fixed and dilated pupils and the muscular inco-ordination found in datura poisoning were not seen in Bukoba. Also symptoms only last a few hours as opposed to the average of seven days with the illness under discussion. No food factor which was peculiar to the people attacked has been found. No foreign seeds were found in the maize samples taken. A toxic food factor could not explain the spread of the disease from one person to another.

The third possibility of mass hysteria seems the most likely explanation. We are at a loss to explain why the disease first started. Close questioning of the girls involved has failed to produce any reasons for the initial attack. Once started, this mass hysteria could spread without the original precipitating factors being present. The middle ages in Europe produced several epidemics of mass hysteria, of which the dancing manias of Germany and Italy are the best known (Major, 1954.) These followed on the Black Death and are assumed to be a product of the dislocation of normal life caused by the plague.

Hecker (1844) describes the following example of how the tendency to sympathy and imitation increases under excitement: “In a Lancashire cotton shop in 1787 a woman worker put a mouse down the neck of a companion who had a dread of mice; the fit which she immediately threw continued with violent convulsions for 24 hours. On the next day three other women had fits and by the fourth no less than 24 people had been affected; among these was a male factory worker so exhausted by restraining the hysterical women that he had caught the illness himself. The disease spread to neighbouring factories because of the fear aroused by a theory that the illness was due to some sort of cotton poisoning.”

In Tanganyika, in the village of Kanyangereka, where most of one family were attacked, a man of 52 years of age living nearby saw these people during their attacks. He was very upset at the sight of their suffering, and soon after returning to his hut, where he lived along, he felt something telling him to laugh and cry and shout. This he continued to do for most of the night.

The type of mental disorder that affects a community is influenced by the culture of this particular community. Examples of this are Amok and Latah in Malaya, Koro in China and Arctic Hysteria in Siberia (Leighton and Hughes, 1961). These authors describe a religious revival in Kentucky, U.S.A. in 1800 where the population became so fearful of their future after death that many began to exhibit jerky movements and to fall down in an apparent state of unconsciousness. Others took to barking like dogs, and this spread from person to person.

This epidemic in Tanganyika of laughing and crying requires further study. In order to interpret this behavior as normal or pathological, a study of the culture context should be made. The Kentucky outbreak followed a pattern similar to the emotional release of the New England revival a few years before. We can find no written or verbal record of this present epidemic having occurred in the Bukoba district previously.

An epidemic of laughing, crying and restlessness in the Bukoba district of Northern Tanganyika is described. The disease commenced in a girls’ school and has since spread to other schools and to villages in the area. No significant abnormal physical signs were found and all laboratory tests were normal. There have been no fatalities. No toxic factor in the food supply was found. It is suggested that this is mass hysteria in a susceptible population. This is probably a culturally determined disease.

The laughter of the 1962 Tanganyika ‘laughter epidemic’  /  Christian
F. Hempelmann
“The present article discusses the role of laughter in the much cited ‘laughter epidemic’ that occurred in Tanganyika in 1962. Despite its extraordinary nature, the veracity of the event is confirmed, crucially on the basis of similar reports. But most current representations are flawed by their exaggeration and misinterpretation of the role of laughter in the event, relating it to a humorous stimulus, a virus or environmental contaminant, or identifying it as contagious laughter. It is argued that the event is a motor-variant case of mass psychogenic illness of which laughter is one common symptom. Therefore it cannot serve as support for other arguments in humor research.”

Christian Hempelmann
email : hempelma [at] mac [dot] com

1945-1952: With the end of World War II, the newly formed United Nations changes the legal status of Tanganyika to a “trust territory,” to be steered toward self-governance and independence. In 1946 the colonial administration launches a 10-year development plan that stresses African involvement in the cash economy, education, and the establishment of elected local councils.
1953-1960: British-educated Julius K. Nyerere dominates local politics and advocates independence and egalitarianism. He becomes president of TAA in 1953 and forms the multiracial Tanganyika African National Union (TANU) in 1954. By 1959 TANU-backed candidates win seats in Legislative Council elections, and Britain agrees to internal self-rule with Nyerere as chief minister.
1961-1962: Tanganyika gains independence on December 9, 1961. Nyerere
installs Rashidi Kawawa as prime minister. Kawawa fills his cabinet with TANU loyalists, enacts broad “Africanization” policies throughout the civil service, and centralizes the administration. Nyerere sweeps the 1962 general elections, introduces a republican constitution, and names Kawawa vice president.

“The Tanganyika Laughter Epidemic of 1962 was an outbreak of mass psychogenic illness in the vicinity of the village of Kashasha on the western coast of Lake Victoria in the modern nation of Tanzania. Due to its nature the incident has been confused with positive humorous and/or infectious laughter as seen in phenomena like the Holy Laughter movement. The nature of MPI, however, is quite dissimilar to these more purely euphoric experiences.

No-one knows what sparked this incident, but scientists can make reasonable guesses as to why mass psychogenic illness may have affected this part of the world. Independence from Great Britain had been achieved recently, on December 9, 1961, and Kashasha was now part of the nation of Tanganyika (Tanganyika would merge with Zanzibar in 1964, creating the modern nation of Tanzania). Students felt that expectations from their teachers and parents had risen markedly, and said they felt stressed as a result. This could explain the epidemic’s genesis in a boarding school; one cure for MPI is removing sufferers from their current surroundings, impossible without shutting the school down, something which the administrators were surely reluctant to do. The spread of the epidemic, laughter, crying, rashes, and all, among the adult population may signify widespread uncertainty about the future among Tanganyikans. Situated in the northwestern corner of Tanganyika, the region may have been too isolated and insular to allow for a change of location, which allowed the epidemic to spread and last for a great amount of time. The unique characteristics of the Kashasha area, namely its isolation, a significant population, stress among the entire population and especially the boarding school component, combined perhaps with pure chance, probably best explain why the epidemic occurred and how it lasted so long.”

How your friends’ friends can affect your mood
BY Michael Bond  /  30 December 2008

If you live in the northern hemisphere, this is probably not your favourite month. January tends to dispirit people more than any other. We all know why: foul weather, post-Christmas debt, the long wait before your next holiday, quarterly bills, dark evenings and dark mornings. At least, that is the way it seems. For while all these things might contribute to the way you feel, there is one crucial factor you probably have not accounted for: the state of mind of your friends and relatives. Recent research shows that our moods are far more strongly influenced by those around us than we tend to think. Not only that, we are also beholden to the moods of friends of friends, and of friends of friends of friends – people three degrees of separation away from us who we have never met, but whose disposition can pass through our social network like a virus.

Indeed, it is becoming clear that a whole range of phenomena are transmitted through networks of friends in ways that are not entirely understood: happiness and depression, obesity, drinking and smoking habits, ill-health, the inclination to turn out and vote in elections, a taste for certain music or food, a preference for online privacy, even the tendency to attempt or think about suicide. They ripple through networks “like pebbles thrown into a pond”, says Nicholas Christakis, a medical sociologist at Harvard Medical School in Boston, who has pioneered much of the new work.

At first sight, the idea that we can catch the moods, habits and state of health not only of those around us, but also those we do not even know seems alarming. It implies that rather than being in charge of where we are going in life, we are little more than back-seat drivers, since most social influence operates at a subconscious level. But we need not be alarmed, says Duncan Watts, a sociologist at Columbia University, New York. “Social influence is mostly a good thing. We should embrace the fact that we’re inherently social creatures and that much of who we are and what we do is determined by forces that are outside the little circle we draw around ourselves.” What’s more, by being aware of the effects of social contagion we may be able to find ways to counter it, or use it to our own benefit. “There’s no doubt people can have some control over their networks and that this in turn can affect their lives,” says Christakis.

To get an idea of what is going on, take Christakis’s findings on the spread of happiness, which were published last month. His team looked at a network of several thousand friends, relatives, neighbours and work colleagues who form part of the Framingham Heart Study, an ongoing multi-generational epidemiological survey that has tracked risk factors in cardiovascular disease among residents of Framingham, Massachusetts, since 1948. They found that happy people tend to be clustered together, not because they naturally orientate towards each other, but because of the way happiness spreads through social contact over time, regardless of people’s conscious choice of friends (BMJ,DOI: 10.1136/bmj.a2338). Christakis also found that a person’s happiness is dependent not only on the happiness of an immediate friend but – to a lesser degree – on the happiness of their friend’s friend, and their friend’s friend’s friend. Furthermore, someone’s chances of being happy increase the better connected they are to happy people, and for that matter the better connected their friends and family. “Most people will not be surprised that people with more friends are happier, but what really matters is whether those friends are happy,” says Christakis.

Happiness is near
They also discovered that the effect is not the same with everyone you know. How susceptible you are to someone else’s happiness depends on the nature of your relationship with them. For example, if a good friend who lives within a couple of kilometres of you suddenly becomes happy, that increases the chances of you becoming happy by more than 60 per cent. In contrast, for a next-door neighbour the figure drops to about half that, and for a nearby sibling about half again. Surprisingly, a cohabiting partner makes a difference of less than 10 per cent, which coincides with another peculiar observation about some social epidemics: that they spread far more effectively via friends of the same gender.

All this poses a key question: how can something like happiness be contagious? Some researchers think one of the most likely mechanisms is empathetic mimicry. Psychologists have shown that people unconsciously copy the facial expressions, manner of speech, posture, body language and other behaviours of those around them, often with remarkable speed and accuracy. This then causes them, through a kind of neural feedback, to actually experience the emotions associated with the particular behaviour they are mimicking.

Actions and feelings can be as contagious as a virus
Barbara Wild and her colleagues at the University of Tübingen, Germany, have found that the stronger the facial expression, the stronger the emotion experienced by the person observing it (Psychiatry Research, vol 102, p 109). She believes this process is hard-wired, since it acts so rapidly and automatically.

Others have suggested it works through the action of mirror neurons, a type of brain cell thought to fire both when we perform an action and when we watch someone else doing it, though it is not clear whether the mimicking would cause the neurons to fire or whether their firing would trigger the mimicry. What is clear is that unconscious imitation allows people to “feel a pale reflection of their companions’ actual emotions” and even “feel themselves into the emotional lives of others”, says Elaine Hatfield at the University of Hawaii, Honolulu, whose review of the latest research will appear next April in The Social Neuroscience of Empathy.

There is plenty of evidence for emotional contagion outside the lab. In 2000, Peter Totterdell at the University of Sheffield, UK, found a significant association between the happiness of professional cricketers during a match and the average happiness of their teammates, regardless of other factors such as whether the match was going in the team’s favour (Journal of Applied Psychology, vol 85, p 848). He found a similar effect among nurses and office workers. It has also been shown that if a college student suffers from mild depression their roommate will become progressively more depressed the longer they live with them, and that emotional displays by bank employees have a direct impact on the moods of their customers.

We can see, then, how a phenomenon such as happiness might pass quickly through a social network and infect clusters of friends and relatives. What none of these studies explains, however, is why the strength of the infection varies according to who is passing it to whom. Why are we so much more strongly affected by the happiness of a nearby friend than a nearby sibling? Why does a next-door neighbour have a significant impact, yet someone living a few tens of metres away on the same block have none?

The power of strangers
Two factors appear crucial: the frequency of social contact, and the strength of the relationship. This is not too surprising: we know that emotional contagion requires physical proximity. It is also likely that the closer we feel to someone, the more empathetic we are towards them, and the more likely we are to catch their emotional state. However, how these two factors play out in day-to-day interactions is uncertain. What is also unclear – because it has never been properly tested – is the extent to which emotions can propagate through virtual networks, where the opportunity for physiological mimicry is much reduced.

So much for emotions – what about other phenomena that we unwittingly pick up, and pass on, through our social networks? In 2007, Christakis’s team, again tracking members of the Framingham Heart Study, found that obesity is transmitted in a similar way to happiness. Your risk of gaining weight increases significantly when your friends gain weight, and it is also affected by the weight of people beyond your social horizon. “Obesity appears to spread through social ties,” Christakis says. Again, how likely you are to catch it depends on who you are interacting with: after controlling for factors such as difference in socioeconomic status, the researchers found that an individual’s chances of becoming obese increased by 57 per cent if one of their friends became obese, 40 per cent if a sibling did and 37 per cent if their spouse did, irrespective of age (The New England Journal of Medicine, vol 357, p 370).

However, neighbours have no influence, and how far away you live from a friend counts for little, which implies that obesity spreads via a different mechanism to happiness. Rather than behavioural mimicry, the key appears to be the adoption of social norms. In other words, as I see my friends gain weight, this changes my idea of what an acceptable weight is. One similarity with happiness is that friends and relatives have a far greater influence if they are of the same gender. While it is not evident why that should matter for emotional contagion, norms of body size are clearly gender-specific: “Women look at other women, men look at other men,” says Christakis. This could also help explain the epidemics of eating disorders reported among groups of schoolgirls in recent decades.

The spread of a social norm appears to account for another of Christakis’s findings: that when people stop smoking, they usually do so along with whole clusters of friends, relatives and social contacts. As more people quit, it becomes the socially acceptable thing to do, and those who choose to continue smoking are pushed to the periphery of the network. In this case, people are most strongly influenced by those closest to them – if your spouse quits, it is 67 per cent more likely that you will too. Your work colleagues can also have an effect, particularly if you are in a small, close-knit workplace; and more highly educated friends influence one another more than less educated (The New England Journal of Medicine, vol 358, p 2249).

Happiness, obesity, smoking habits – activities that we traditionally think of as shaped by individual circumstances, turn out to be ruled to a large degree by social forces. Many other day-to-day phenomena fit a similar pattern, often counter-intuitively. Take autism: Peter Bearman at the Institute for Social and Economic Research and Policy at Columbia University who in 2004 uncovered a link between suicidal behaviour and certain friendship patterns (American Journal of Public Health, vol 94, p 89), is looking at whether the recent rise in the diagnosis of autism is in any way socially determined. His study is ongoing, but he says his findings could be “explosive”. “It is likely that if you have an autistic child in your community the probability of your child being diagnosed with autism is significantly higher.” Happiness, obesity, smoking habits – all turn out to be ruled to a large degree by social forces.

Why three degrees?
While the mechanism of social contagion varies depending on the phenomenon being spread, in many cases the dynamics are very similar. For example, Christakis has found that with happiness, obesity and smoking habits, the effect of other people’s behaviour carries to three degrees of separation and no further. He speculates that this could be the case with most or perhaps all transmissible traits. Why three degrees? One theory is that friendship networks are inherently unstable because peripheral friends tend to drop away. “While your friends are likely to be the same a year from now, your friends of friends of friends of friends are likely to be entirely different people,” says Christakis.

This poses the question: what shapes the architecture of our social networks and our position in them? Clearly, many factors contribute: where we live, where we work, family size, education, religion, income, our interests, and our tendency to gravitate towards people similar to us. New research by Christakis’s team, due to be published in the next few weeks, suggests there is also a strong genetic component. The study compared the social networks of identical and fraternal twins, and found that identical twins had significantly more similar social networks than fraternal twins, suggesting the structure of your social network is influenced by your genes. That may not sound remarkable, since personality traits such as gregariousness and shyness clearly play a role in determining how connected we are. But there is much more to it, says Christakis. “It’s not just about having a genetic predilection to be friends with a lot of people, it’s about having a genetic predilection to be friends with a lot of popular people. That’s mysterious: how could our genes determine our actual location in this socio-topological space?”

Answering that should help us understand more about the “collective intelligence” of social networks, which some researchers liken to the flocking of birds – the decision to quit smoking, for example, is no more an isolated move than the decision by a bird in a flock to fly to the left.

Sociologists and others are using mathematical models to test these dynamics to try to understand better what triggers the spread of behaviours. Duncan Watts at Columbia University has shown that seeding localised social groups with certain ideas or behaviours can lead to the ideas cascading across entire global networks. This contradicts the notion – promoted by the author Malcolm Gladwell in The Tipping Point and others – that social epidemics depend on a few key influential individuals from whom everyone else takes their cue. It doesn’t ring true, argues Watts, because such “influentials” typically interact with only a few people. The key for the spread of anything, he says, from happiness to the preference for a particular song, is a critical mass of interconnected individuals who influence one another.

Is there any way to mitigate the effects of such powerful and pervasive social forces? It is unlikely we can ever escape social influence entirely, even if we wanted to. “Even when you’re aware of it, you’re probably susceptible,” says Watts. Still, being aware can help, especially when we are seeking to avoid undesirable behaviours or adopt positive habits. We can be choosy about new friends, seeking out people whose lifestyles we aspire to: if you want to lose weight, for example, join a running club and – most importantly – socialise with its members.

Actually cutting ties with old friends might be a bit drastic, though perhaps spending less time with those whose traits we do not wish to share would be a good idea – lazy people, perhaps, or those inclined to negative thinking. And beware those who hang out with such people even if they do not display their views or behaviours – remember the three degrees of contagion rule. Finally, if you really cannot avoid spending time with certain people whose behaviours or emotional state you would rather not take on board (certain relatives at family gatherings, perhaps), you could always try repressing your natural inclination to mimic their body language and facial expressions, and so limit the contagion effect – though be prepared for them to instinctively cool towards you as a result.

What this game plan amounts to is a kind of subtle social reorientation. We will always be vulnerable to what those around us are doing, so as far as possible make sure you are with the right people. Remember the new adage: we are who we hang out with.

Five tips for a healthier social network
1. Choose your friends carefully.
2. Choose which of your existing friends you spend the most time with. For example, hang out with people who are upbeat, or avoid couch potatoes.
3. Join a club whose members you would like to emulate (running, healthy cooking), and socialise with them.
4. If you are with people whose emotional state or behaviours you could do without, try to avoid the natural inclination to mimic their facial expressions and postures.
5. Be aware at all times of your susceptibility to social influence – and remember that being a social animal is mostly a good thing.

Nicholas Christakis
email : christak [at] hcp.med.harvard [dot] edu

Duncan Watts
email : djw24 [at] columbia [dot] edu

Robert Provine
email : provine [at] umbc [dot] edu

The study of laughter provides a novel approach to the mechanisms and evolution of vocal production, perception and social behavior
by Robert Provine  /  January-February 1996

Consider the bizarre events of the 1962 outbreak of contagious laughter in Tanganyika. What began as an isolated fit of laughter (and sometimes crying) in a group of 12- to 18-year-old schoolgirls rapidly rose to epidemic proportions. Contagious laughter propagated from one individual to the next, eventually infecting adjacent communities. The epidemic was so severe that it required the closing of schools. It lasted for six months.

The Tanganyikan laughter epidemic is a dramatic example of the infectious power of laughter–something that many of us may have experienced in our own lives. Many readers will be familiar with the laugh tracks of television situation comedies—attempts to stimulate contagious laughter in viewers—and the difficulty of extinguishing their own “laugh jags,” fits of nearly uncontrollable laughter. Have you ever been overcome by a comparable urge to chant “hello-hello-hello?” Rather than dismissing contagious laughter as a behavioral curiosity, we should recognize it and other laugh-related phenomena as clues to broader and deeper issues.

Clearly, laughter is a powerful and pervasive part of our lives—an important component of that biobehavioral bedrock of our species known as human nature. Laughter’s significance has been recognized at various times and in various ways by such scientific and philosophical dignitaries as Aristotle, Kant, Darwin, Bergson and Freud. Yet aside from a general appreciation that laughter is good for us—”the best medicine”—and is somehow associated with humor, we know little about laughter itself.

My approach to understanding laughter is one that a visiting extraterrestrial might take were it to encounter a group of laughing human beings. What would the visitor make of the large bipedal animals emitting paroxysms of sound from a toothy vent in their faces? A reasonable approach would be to describe the simplest and most obvious aspects of the noisy behavior: its physical characteristics, the rules that govern its expression, characteristics of the animals emitting the sounds (such as gender), the mechanism of sound production, and whether similar sounds are made by related species. To Earthlings this naturalistic approach is known as ethology—a biologically oriented scientific discipline devoted to understanding what animals do and how and why they do it. Ethologists treat behavior as an evolutionary adaptation. The species-wide distribution of laughter and its stereotypical (and simple) structure suggests that the behavior has strong genetic and neurophysiological bases—qualities attractive to those who wish to understand the mechanisms and natural history of behavior.

During the past eight years I have been observing human laughter in various natural habitats—shopping malls, classrooms, sidewalks, offices and cocktail parties—with the investigative spirit of our hypothetical alien. Observing everyday behavior in these settings has provided an opportunity to appreciate laughter as a social vocalization of the human animal. These studies have produced some unexpected insights into the phenomenon of human laughter—its social nature, the lawful relationship between laughter and speech, gender differences and the biological basis of contagion.

Laugh Structure
One of my first goals was to describe the sonic structure of human laughter. This proved to be more difficult than I expected. Like other spontaneous acts, laughter often disappears when one attempts to observe it, especially in the laboratory. Some unconventional approaches were called for. Although I could occasionally elicit laughter from friends and colleagues during playful conversations, I was often forced to engage in shameless hamming (something that graduate school did not prepare me for). One of the most productive approaches was to encounter people in public places and simply ask them to laugh. The request was usually answered with a burst of laughter. About half of the laughing subjects reported that they could not laugh on command. Indeed, we have much less conscious control over laughter than over speech. It is easy to say “ha-ha-ha,” but difficult to laugh on cue. We do not “speak” laughter.

In collaboration with an undergraduate assistant, Yvonne Yong, I took the recordings to the Sound Laboratory of the National Zoo in Washington, D.C. Here the laughs were analyzed with a sound spectrograph, a device that translates a sound into an image that reveals the changes in frequency and intensity of the sound over time. Giggles, shrieks and belly laughs replaced the laboratory’s usual sonic fare of indigo bunting songs and the calls of golden lion tamarins. Laboratory workers gave us quizzical looks but politely refrained from asking about the origins of the sounds.

The sound spectra revealed the distinct signature of laughter. A laugh is characterized by a series of short vowel-like notes (syllables), each about 75 milliseconds long, that are repeated at regular intervals about 210 milliseconds apart. A specific vowel sound does not define laughter, but similar vowel sounds are typically used for the notes of a given laugh. For example, laughs have the structure of “ha-ha-ha” or “ho-ho-ho,” but not “ha-ho-ha-ho.” There are intrinsic constraints against producing such laughs. Try to simulate a “ha-ho-ha-ho” laugh—it should feel quite unnatural. When there are variations in the notes, they most often involve the first or last note in a sequence. Thus, “cha-ha-ha” or “ha-ha-ho” laughs are possible variants.

The explosively voiced blasts of a laugh have a strong harmonic structure, with each harmonic being a multiple of a low (fundamental) frequency. The harmonic structure is revealed in a sound spectrogram by the evenly spaced stacks of short horizontal lines in the spectrum, the lowest of which is the fundamental frequency. Given their higher-pitched voices, it is not surprising that the laughter of females has a higher fundamental frequency (about 502 hertz) than male laughter (about 276 hertz). Whether it is a deep belly laugh or a high-pitched titter, however, all human laughter is a variation of this basic form. It is this structure that allows us to recognize laughter in spite of individual differences.

The notes and internote intervals carry most of the information that allows us to identify a sound as laughter. If the sounds between laugh notes are edited out of a tape recording—leaving the notes separated by intervals of silence—a laugh still sounds normal. The internote time interval carries information, but the internote expiratory sounds do not. If the notes are removed from a recording and the gaps between
intervals are closed, all that remains of laughter is a long, breathy sigh.

The stereotypic structure of a laugh is, at least in part, a result of the limitations of our vocal apparatus. It is difficult to laugh with abnormally long note durations, such as “haaa-haaa-haaa,” or abnormally short durations (much less than 75 milliseconds in length). Likewise, normal note durations with abnormally long or short internote intervals do not occur. Try to produce a natural laugh with a long internote interval, such as “ha——————ha——————ha.” As with the natural rhythms of walking or running, there are only so many ways to laugh.

The structural simplicity of a laugh is also suggested by its reversibility. A short segment of laughter—”ha-ha-ha”—played backward on a tape recorder still sounds rather like “ha-ha-ha.” Indeed the sound spectrum of a laugh is similar whether scanned from left to right or from right to left—a laugh note has a high degree of temporal symmetry. Yet one aspect of a laugh that is not symmetrical is its loudness. Laughter is characterized by a decrescendo in which the laugh notes that are late in a sequence are usually lower in amplitude than earlier notes (presumably because we run out of air). Recordings of laughter played backward produce a bizarre-sounding crescendo.

Chimpanzee Laughter
There is a common misperception that laughter is exclusive to human beings. From at least the time of Darwin, however, it has been known that chimpanzees and other great apes perform a laugh-like vocalization when tickled or during play. To pursue the details of this primate laughter, I teamed up with Kim Bard, who is nursery director and caregiver for young chimpanzees at the Yerkes Regional Primate Center in Atlanta. It is a pleasure to be able to play with young chimpanzees in the pursuit of one’s science.

Chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes) laughter differs in many ways from its human counterpart. The vowel-like notes of human laughter are performed by chopping a single expiration, whereas chimpanzee laughter is a breathy panting vocalization that is produced during each brief expiration and inspiration. Unlike human laughter, the laughter of a chimpanzee lacks discrete, vowel-like notes that have sharp leading and trailing edges on sound spectra. Chimpanzee laughter has the sound and cadence of a handsaw cutting wood. The sounds of chimpanzee and human laughter are sufficiently different that without viewing the characteristic “play face” and source of stimulation (such as play and tickle), naive human beings may be unable to identify the chimpanzee
vocalization as laughter. You can experience the difference in production between the two forms of laughter by placing a hand on your abdomen and comparing the abdominal pulsations of chimpanzee-like panting with the smoother act of speaking “ha-ha-ha” during a single expiration.

People laugh as we speak. If chimpanzees laugh as they speak, by producing one laugh sound per expiration and inspiration, we have identified an important and previously unrecognized constraint on the evolution of speech and language in chimpanzees and presumably other great apes. The close coupling of laughter to breathing in chimpanzees may be evidence of a more general limitation on these animals to speak. (In contrast to the success of teaching hundreds of signs to chimpanzees, efforts to teach them to speak English have produced meager results.) Indeed, the inability to modulate expiratory airflow may be at least as limiting to speech as the structure of the vocal tracts of nonhuman primates.

Breathy, panting laughter is probably the primal form that dates back to the common ancestor of all great apes and people. Human beings evolved their characteristic laughter after branching from an ancestor in common with chimpanzees (estimated to be around six million years ago, according to DNA hybridization data).

It is noteworthy that chimpanzee laughter occurs almost exclusively during physical contact, or during the threat of such contact, during chasing games, wrestling or tickling. (The individual being chased laughs the most.) Although people laugh when tickled, most adult human laughter occurs during conversation, typically in the absence of physical contact.

Social and Linguistic Context
Laughter is a decidedly social signal, not an egocentric expression of emotion. In the absence of stimulating media (television, radio or books), people are about 30 times more likely to laugh when they are in a social situation than when they are alone. Indeed people are more likely to smile or talk to themselves than they are to laugh when they are alone. Aside from the obvious implication that sociality can enhance laughter and perhaps one’s mood, these observations indicate that laughter has a social function. What can we say about laughter as communication?

In an attempt to gather some clues, my colleagues and I have collected observations on 1,200 instances of naturally occurring human laughter. Three undergraduate assistants (Lisa Greisman, Tina Runyan, Michelle Bowers) and I wandered various public gathering places where we eavesdropped on groups of laughing people. We carefully took note of the principals engaged in the behavior—the gender of the speaker and the audience, whether the speaker or the audience laughed and what was said immediately before the laughter.

Contrary to our expectations we found that most conversational laughter is not a response to structured attempts at humor, such as jokes or stories. Less than 20 percent of the laughter in our sample was a response to anything resembling a formal effort at humor. Most of the laughter seemed to follow rather banal remarks, such as “Look, it’s Andre,” “Are you sure?” and “It was nice meeting you too.” Even our “greatest hits,” the funniest of the 1,200 pre-laugh comments were not necessarily howlers: “You don’t have to drink, just buy us drinks,” “She’s got a sex disorder—she doesn’t like sex,” and “Do you date within your species?” Mutual playfulness, in-group feeling and positive emotional tone—not comedy—mark the social settings of most naturally occurring laughter. Research that focuses only on the response of an audience to jokes (a common laboratory scenario) targets only a small subset of laughter.

One of the key features of natural laughter is its placement in speech. Laughter is not randomly scattered throughout the speech stream. The speaker and the audience seldom interrupt the phrase structure of speech with laughter. In our sample of 1,200 laughs there were only eight interruptions of speech by laughter, all of them by the speaker. Thus a speaker may say “You are going where?… ha-ha,” but rarely “You are going… ha-ha… where?” The occurrence of laughter during pauses at the end of phrases suggests that a lawful and probably neurologically based process governs the placement of laughter in speech—a process in which speech has priority access to the single vocalization channel. The strong and orderly relationship between laughter and speech is akin to punctuation in written communication (and is called the punctuation effect).

Our field study revealed other clues about laughter in human communication. A counterintuitive finding was that the average speaker laughs about 46 percent more often than the audience. This finding reveals the limits of analyses that report only audience behavior—the typical approach of humor research—and neglect the social nature of the laughing relationship.

The gender of the principals involved plays a large role in determining the amount of speaker laughter. Whether they are speakers or audiences (in mixed-sex groups), females laugh more often than males. Female speakers laugh 127 percent more than their male audience. In contrast, male speakers laugh about 7 percent less than
their female audience. Neither males nor females laugh as much to female speakers as they do to male speakers. (The lot of the female comedian is not an easy one—whether her audience is male or female.)

These gender differences in the pattern of laughter are at least as strong as those noted for speech by the linguist Deborah Tannen of Georgetown University. The limited cross-cultural evidence suggests that males are the leading humor producers and that females are the leading laughers. These differences are already present by the time that joking first appears around six years of age.

What message is being conveyed by a laughing speaker or a laughing audience? In some respects laughter may be a signal of dominance/ submission or acceptance/ rejection. Consider the distinction between laughing with and laughing at someone. Valuable insights about laughter’s social function will come from studies of laughter in groups of people who differ in social rank and gender.

A response of laughter by the audience may affirm or negate the spirit of the speaker’s message. “Polite” laughter, for example, may be a forced effort on the part of the audience to signal their accord with the speaker, quite the opposite of the indignant “ha!” A speaker, in other cases, may buffer an aggressive comment with laughter or deliver a remark using “laugh-speak,” a consciously controlled hybrid of laughter and speech. Talk-show hosts, who are experts at shaping the course of a conversation, commonly use laugh-speak. In this sense laughter may modify the behavior of others by shaping the emotional tone of a conversation.

Laugh Tracks and Contagion
The use of laughter to evoke laughter or a positive mood is familiar to viewers of situation comedy shows on television. “Laugh tracks” (dubbed-in sounds of laughter) have accompanied most “sitcoms” since 7:00 p.m. (Eastern Standard Time) on September 9, 1950. On that evening the Hank McCune Show—a comedy about “a likeable blunderer, a devilish fellow who tries to cut corners only to find himself the sucker”—first used a laugh track to compensate for the absence of a live audience. Despite the fact that the show was short-lived, the television industry discovered the power of laughter to evoke audience laughter. The recording industry recognized the seductive power of laughter shortly after World War I with the distribution of the OKeh Laugh Record, which consisted of trumpet playing that was intermittently interrupted by laughter. It remains one of the most successful novelty records of all time. Acknowledging the commercial potential of this novelty market, Louis Armstrong, Sidney Bechet, Woody Herman and Spike Jones all attempted to cash in with laugh records of their own.

In the intervening years social scientists have confirmed that laugh tracks do indeed increase audience laughter and the audience’s rating of the humorousness of the comedy material. However, scientists did not consider that, in the absence of a joke or a remark, laughter by itself can evoke laughter. This is a key element in the propagation of contagious laughter.

I recently performed some investigations of the phenomenon of contagious laughter in an undergraduate psychology classroom. The stimulus was a “laugh box”—a small battery-operated record player from a novelty store—that emitted an 18-second span of laughter. The “canned” laughter was played 10 times, with the beginning of each segment separated by a one-minute interval.

On the first stimulus nearly half of the students reported that they responded with laughter themselves. (More than 90 percent reported smiling on the first stimulus.) However, the effectiveness of the stimulus declined with each repetition until only 3 of the 128 students laughed on the tenth trial. By that point about 75 percent of the students rated the laugh stimulus as “obnoxious.”

The negative effect of the repeated stimulus seems to go beyond the response expected from the recurrent exposure to a generic auditory stimulus, such as “Hello, my name is George.” The reaction may reflect the deep biological significance of laughter, which in this case may be perceived as jeering or ridicule. (Colleagues whose offices adjoin my own can attest to the aversiveness of periodic canned laughter. Personally, I find myself wincing every time one of the laugh boxes in my office is accidently activated.) Certainly it is pleasurable to laugh at or with people, but it is quite unpleasant to be laughed at, or to be the recipient of a scornful “ha.” Court fools and presidential aides learn early in their careers that it is safer to laugh with the boss than at him or her.

The efficacy of laughter alone to elicit laughter raises the intriguing possibility that human beings have auditory “feature detectors”—neural circuits that respond exclusively to this species-typical vocalization. In turn, the feature detector triggers the neural circuits that generate the stereotyped action pattern of laughter. This mechanism, involving a laugh detector that drives a laugh generator, may be the foundation of contagious laughter. (Contagious yawning appears to involve a similar process in the visual domain.) Those who attempt to explain away their laugh-evoked (contagious) laughter as nothing more than a response to a “funny” stimulus are saying that they laughed in response to a stimulus that made them laugh, a circular argument.

The structural simplicity and species-typical character of laughter makes it a prime candidate for the evolution of such a laugh detection and releasing process. Future psychophysical studies must determine which of laughter’s parameters—note structure, note duration, internote interval and amplitude dynamics—are necessary for the perception of laughter and the activation of the hypothetical laugh detector or releasing mechanism. Similar detectors may have evolved for universal phonemic features of speech but the variability and complexity of language and the absence of a contagious response to assay the activation of the detectors will make their discovery more difficult.

Future Directions
Now that the critical dimensions of laughter as a social stimulus and motor act have been identified, we can pursue a variety of promising issues. Consider “pathological laughter,” a frequent and often vaguely described medical symptom. Damage to a wide variety of brain regions produces abnormal laughter, a result consistent with the diverse emotional, respiratory, motor, cognitive and communicative aspects of the act. The most common cases of pathological laughter are found in pseudobulbar palsy, gelastic epilepsy and psychiatric illness. However, pathological laughter has also been reported in multiple sclerosis, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig’s disease), and cases of tumors and lesions (especially in the limbic system and the brain stem). Particularly mystifying to both patient and clinician are sudden bursts of laughter that are not associated with a feeling of mirth or an environmental stimulus. Here we have a segregation of the emotional, cognitive and motor mechanisms of laughter. Other cases are more subtle. Some people with forebrain damage have their readjustment to society impeded by a tendency to laugh at almost anything—breaches in laugh etiquette have more serious consequences than one might think. Using our improved descriptive tools, we can now specify more precisely what is “abnormal,” “pathological” or “inappropriate” about these cases (whether it is sonic structure, placement in speech, social context, contagion sensitivity, perception or relation to humor). We may even discover new laugh-related syndromes.

The next time that you or a friend have one beer too many, you may research the age-old question of alcohol effects—while taking careful notes on a cocktail napkin, of course. Do alcohol, “laughing gas” and other drugs known to increase laughter simply lower the threshold for laughter, or do they alter its pattern or quality? In aphasia (a disorder of language production or perception) is there sparing of laughter and, if so, which of laughter’s several dimensions are spared? Does vocal laughter punctuate the signed speech of the congenitally deaf, in whom there is not a shared organ of expression? The left cerebral hemisphere has a specialized role in language—is this also true of the production or perception of laughter?

Many developmental issues remain open. Laughter typically appears in human babies around 3-1/2 to 4 months of age, but we know little about the details of the developmental process. Must babies hear their own laughter or the laughter of others for laughter to mature? If so, is there a critical period during which such laughter must be experienced? The report of laughter in a few congenitally deaf-blind children suggests that at least some features of laughter develop without benefit of auditory and visual stimulation, evidence of a strong maturational and genetic basis. For a more satisfying account of laugh acquisition, we must conduct high-resolution studies that contrast the development of normal and hearing-impaired children.

All of us have encountered people with bizarre-sounding laughter. What is different about such laughter and what does this tell us about the mechanism of normal laugh production? Do these odd types of laughter run in families? If so, what is the nature of its development and heritability? In my otherwise forgettable high-school physics class there was a kid who brayed like a donkey when he laughed. Where is Roger now that I need him?

Comparative studies may provide clues about both the evolution and social function of laughter. Does the low level of conscious control that we have over our own laughter reflect the typical level of control that non-human animals have over their own species-typical vocalizations? Do the great apes show the sexually dimorphic or contagious laughter described in human beings? Does the pattern of laughter vary with rank within a troop? Aside from the great apes, do other animals produce laugh-like vocalizations? How do the neurobehavioral mechanisms of laugh production vary between species? Tickle may be a kind of Rosetta Stone for such comparative laugh research because it triggers laugh-like vocalizations in all of the great apes and perhaps other species. Can you tickle your pet dog or cat? How can you tell? Is a laugh-evoking stimulus that works equally well in a variety of species the ultimate example of “low” humor?

Laughter research is still in its infancy, an exciting time when the frontiers are near at hand and accessible with modest resources. Certainly much of the research described in this article can be replicated or extended by almost anyone, making it suitable for college or even high school research projects. Laughter research is a reminder that not all science concerns arcane or narrow problems. We should resist neglecting or trivializing the commonplace. There are rewards for approaching nature with a naive curiosity and attempting to see the familiar in new ways.




“This is the interim web-site for the Large Hadron Collider [LHC]
legal defense fund.  This fund has been established by Walter L.
Wagner, a nuclear physicist, to initiate legal action to require that
CERN and the Large Hadron Collider engage in a full safety analysis
for all potential theoretical hazards inadequately addressed to-date.
Such hazards include theoretical miniature black holes, theoretical
strangelets, deSitter Space transitions, etc.  The existing “cosmic
ray argument” has been proven falacious for a variety of reasons [see
risk-evaluation forum], and no existing proof of safety is currently
available.  The LHC propaganda machine that ‘everything is safe’ is
well funded by your tax dollars, paying large salaries to thousands of
people who have much to lose financially should the LHC be unable to
prove its safety.  As most of them perceive the risk to be small, they
are willing to take that ‘small risk’ at our expense.  The actual risk
cannot presently be calculated.”


Particle smasher ‘not a threat to the Earth’
BY Hazel Muir  /  28 March 2008

Campaigners in the US are attempting to delay the start-up of the
world’s most powerful particle smasher with a lawsuit claiming it
could spawn dangerous particles or mini black holes that will destroy
the entire Earth.

The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is nearing completion at CERN, the
European centre for particle physics near Geneva, Switzerland.
Scientists hope it will begin operations in mid-July.

On 21 March, Hawaii residents Luis Sancho and Walter Wagner filed a
lawsuit in Hawaii’s US District Court against CERN and US contributors
to the project demanding that they do not operate the LHC until they
prove it is safe. The US contributors named are the Department of
Energy (DoE), the National Science Foundation and Fermilab, an
accelerator laboratory near Chicago.

The DoE and Fermilab will not comment on the case, insisting it is a
legal matter to be dealt with by the Department of Justice.

The lawsuit’s claims are “complete nonsense”, James Gillies, a
spokesman for CERN, told New Scientist. “The LHC will start up this
year, and it will produce all sorts of exciting new physics and
knowledge about the universe,” he said, adding: “A year from now, the
world will still be here.”

Killer strangelets

The collider will simulate conditions less than a billionth of a
second after the big bang, by smashing protons together at enormous
energies. Physicists hope to resolve long-standing questions, such as
why particles have mass and whether space has hidden extra dimensions.

But Wagner and Sancho’s court papers raise theoretical scenarios in
which the LHC could create particles that gobble up the Earth, such as
“killer strangelets”. Strangelets are hypothetical blobs of matter
containing “strange” quarks, as well as the usual “up” and “down”
types that make up ordinary matter.

If a strangelet were stable and negatively charged, it might begin
eating the nuclei of ordinary matter, converting them into strange
matter. Eventually the menacing chain reaction could assimilate our
entire planet and everyone on it.

A 2003 safety review for the LHC found “no basis for any conceivable
threat”. It acknowledged that there’s a small chance the accelerator
could create short-lived, mini black holes or exotic “magnetic
monopoles” that destroy protons in ordinary atoms. But it concluded
that neither scenario could lead to disaster.

That report and lay summaries of its findings are available on CERN’s
website. An updated version of the safety assessment will soon be
released, and physicists plan to discuss safety during a CERN open
house on 6 April.

‘Dangerous matter’

Wagner raised similar concerns to those in the new court papers during
development of the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC) at
Brookhaven National Laboratory, New York State. “RHIC started running
in 2000 and we’re still here,” says Gillies.

Besides, he adds, much higher energy collisions that those at the LHC
frequently occur in nature, because cosmic ray particles zip around
our galaxy at close to the speed of light. The moon has undergone such
collisions for 5 billion years without being devoured by a ravenous
black hole or killer strangelet, he adds.

However, Wagner and Sancho describe CERN’s safety reviews as
“perfunctory” and say the cosmic ray argument may be misleading.

“There is no question that should [the] defendants inadvertently
create a dangerous form of matter such as a micro black hole or a
strangelet, or otherwise create unsafe conditions of physics, then the
environmental impact would be both local and national in scope, and
quite deadly to everyone,” their lawsuit claims. A website appeals for
funds to support their case.

Unconfirmed reports say that a magistrate judge has been assigned to
the case for an initial conference on 16 June, and that Wagner intends
to serve court papers to the federal government.

“What we want to do is get this machine up and running,” Gillies says.
“We’ll show people that the world is not going to disappear.”

The following document was filed on Friday, March 21, 2008:

Luis Sancho
PO Box 411
Honomu, HI  96728

pro se










COME NOW Plaintiffs LUIS SANCHO and WALTER L. WAGNER, and for causes
of action allege as follows:


1.         At all times herein mentioned plaintiff Luis
Sancho is a citizen of Spain, with residence in the United States.

2.         At all times herein mentioned plaintiff Walter
L. Wagner is a citizen of the State of Hawaii.

3.         At all times herein mentioned defendant United
States Department of Energy [hereinafter DOE] is a federal agency with
operations in the State of Hawaii.

4.         At all times herein mentioned defendant
Fermilab is a federal laboratory with operations in Chicago, Illinois
and Geneva, Switzerland at the LHC.

5.         At all times herein mentioned defendant
National Science Foundation [hereinafter NSF] is a federally chartered
agency for distributing federal funds to recipients, including
defendants herein.

6.         At all times herein mentioned defendant Center
for Nuclear Energy Research [hereinafter CERN] is a European agency
with operations in Switzerland and France.

7.         Plaintiffs are presently unaware of the names
or locations of Doe Defendants 1-100.


8.         Defendants DOE, Fermilab, NSF and CERN, and
Does 1-100 have engaged in a partnership relationship to construct a
machine in and around Geneva Switzerland known as the Large Hadron
Collider [hereinafter LHC].  The LHC machine is presently under
construction and nearing completion, with completion anticipated in
April, 2008.

9.         Defendants intend to test the LHC machine upon
completion, with testing to commence within days of completion.

10.       The purpose of the LHC machine is to create
novel conditions of matter never previously existent on earth, so that
defendants may seek to investigate the properties of this novel
condition of matter for purposes of fundamental physics research.

11.       The machine is scheduled to operate by colliding
high-energy beams of protons [Hydrogen nuclei] or Lead nuclei into
each other.  The resultant collision of the two atoms traveling in
opposite direction and then colliding head-on is designed to release a
large amount of energy, and fracture the atoms into more fundamental
particles, as well as create novel particles from the abundance of
energy present.

12.       Various competing theories of physics predict
various outcomes from these collisions, with no agreement amongst
physicists as to what the outcome will be.

13.       In addition to fracturing the atoms into
smaller, more fundamental particles, some of the competing theories
predict that the outcome will be a rearrangement of the more
fundamental particles, or creation de novo from the abundance of
energy present, or both, into novel forms, which include the following
descriptive particles from those theories:

a)         Strangelets:   Under this theory, the original
constituents of the atom [“up” quarks and “down” quarks] will
recombine with newly created “strange” quarks to form a new, more
stable form of matter called a “strangelet”.  Its enhanced stability
compared to normal matter would allow it to fuse with normal matter,
converting the normal matter into an even larger strangelet.  Repeated
fusions would result in a runaway fusion reaction, eventually
converting all of Earth into a single large “strangelet” of huge size.

b)         Micro Black Holes:   Under this theory, the
compression of the two atoms colliding together at nearly light speed
will cause an irreversible implosion, forming a miniature version of a
giant black hole, the remnant of a collapsed star.  Like its much
larger cousin, a miniature black hole would not emit light, and any
matter coming into contact with it would fall into it and never be
able to escape.  Eventually, all of earth would fall into such growing
micro-black-hole, converting earth into a medium-sized black hole,
around which would continue to orbit the moon, satellites, the ISS,

c)         Magnetic Monopoles:          Under this theory,
the high energy of the collision would be converted into two massive
particles known as north and south magnetic monopoles.  Each would
carry a fundamental unit of magnetic charge.  Such particle might have
the ability to catalyze the decay of protons and atoms, causing them
to convert into other types of matter in a runaway reaction.

14.       The above theories, and other theories showing
potential adverse consequences, have been well articulated in various
scientific publications.  No absolute refutation of the adverse
scenarios that have been described has yet been articulated, though
efforts have been made, and it has been suggested by defendants that
the ‘risk’ of the adverse scenarios is small.  Those efforts were
perfunctory “safety reviews” which purported to prove the falsity of
the adverse scenarios by indirect means.  However, fundamental flaws
were existent in those “safety reviews” and pointed out to defendants
by plaintiffs.  As a result, another “safety review” is currently
underway by the defendants.  The current safety review is known as the
LHC Safety Assessment Group [LSAG] Safety Review.   It was initially
scheduled for completion by January 1, 2008, but defendants have
delayed its release, and it has not yet been released to the public
for review by the science community at large, as promised [see Exhibit
“A” of affidavit of Walter L. Wagner].

15.       Plaintiffs and their associates are experts in
physics and other fields of science, technology and ethics who are
capable of reviewing and analyzing such safety reviews for flaws or
errors.  Plaintiffs and some of their associates have filed in support
of this complaint various affidavits detailing some of the safety
flaws and ethical flaws in safety review currently evidenced.
Plaintiffs and their associates require a minimum of four to six
months time to review the LSAG Safety Review, as well as the relevant
scientific literature, in order to determine whether defendants’ most
recent pending LSAG Safety Review is once again fundamentally flawed,
or satisfactory in addressing the safety issues in accordance with
generally accepted standards in science, technology and industry.

email : LHCdefense [at] hotmail [dot] com






“The real goal of this next generation of accelerator experiments is
to try and distinguish between the many possible models of high-energy
collisions that are relevant to the early universe, and decide which
ones are correct and which ones are beautiful but really are only


Safety at the LHC

The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) can achieve energies that no other
particle accelerators have reached before. The energy of its particle
collisions has previously only been found in Nature. And it is only by
using such a powerful machine that phyicists can probe deeper into the
key mysteries of the Universe. Some people have expressed concerns
about the safety of whatever may be created in high-energy particle
collisions. However there are no reasons for concern.

Modest by Nature’s standards

Accelerators recreate the natural phenomena of cosmic rays under
controlled laboratory conditions. Cosmic rays are particles produced
in outer space in events such as supernovae or the formation of black
holes, during which they can be accelerated to energies far exceeding
those of the LHC. Cosmic rays travel throughout the Universe, and have
been bombarding the Earth’s atmosphere continually since its formation
4.5 billion years ago. Despite the impressive power of the LHC in
comparison with other accelerators, the energies produced in its
collisions are greatly exceeded by those found in some cosmic rays.
Since the much higher-energy collisions provided by Nature for
billions of years have not harmed the Earth, there is no reason to
think that any phenomenon produced by the LHC will do so.

Cosmic rays also collide with the Moon, Jupiter, the Sun and other
astronomical bodies. The total number of these collisions is huge
compared to what is expected at the LHC. The fact that planets and
stars remain intact strengthens our confidence that LHC collisions are
safe. The LHC’s energy, although powerful for an accelerator, is
modest by Nature’s standards.

TGVs and mosquitoes

The total energy in each beam of protons in the LHC is equivalent to a
400 tonne train (like the French TGV) travelling at 150 km/h. However,
only an infinitesimal part of this energy is released in each particle
collision – roughly equivalent to the energy of a dozen flying
mosquitoes. In fact, whenever you try to swat a mosquito by clapping
your hands together, you create a collision energy much higher than
the protons inside the LHC. The LHC’s speciality is its impressive
ability to concentrate this collision energy into a minuscule area on
a subatomic scale. But even this capability is just a pale shadow of
what Nature achieves routinely in cosmic-ray collisions.

During part of its operation, the LHC will collide beams of lead
nuclei, which have a greater collision energy, equivalent to just over
a thousand mosquitoes. However, this will be much more spread out than
the energy produced in the proton collisions, and also presents no

Microscopic black holes will not eat you…

Massive black holes are created in the Universe by the collapse of
massive stars, which contain enormous amounts of gravitational energy
that pulls in surrounding matter. The gravitational pull of a black
hole is related to the amount of matter or energy it contains – the
less there is, the weaker the pull. Some physicists suggest that
microscopic black holes could be produced in the collisions at the
LHC. However, these would only be created with the energies of the
colliding particles (equivalent to the energies of mosquitoes), so no
microscopic black holes produced inside the LHC could generate a
strong enough gravitational force to pull in surrounding matter.

If the LHC can produce microscopic black holes, cosmic rays of much
higher energies would already have produced many more. Since the Earth
is still here, there is no reason to believe that collisions inside
the LHC are harmful.

Black holes lose matter through the emission of energy via a process
discovered by Stephen Hawking. Any black hole that cannot attract
matter, such as those that might be produced at the LHC, will shrink,
evaporate and disappear. The smaller the black hole, the faster it
vanishes. If microscopic black holes were to be found at the LHC, they
would exist only for a fleeting moment. They would be so short-lived
that the only way they could be detected would be by detecting the
products of their decay.

…nor will strangelets

Strangelets are hypothetical small pieces of matter whose existence
has never been proven. They would be made of ‘strange quarks’ –
heavier and unstable relatives of the basic quarks that make up stable
matter. Even if strangelets do exist, they would be unstable.
Furthermore, their electromagnetic charge would repel normal matter,
and instead of combining with stable substances they would simply
decay. If strangelets were produced at the LHC, they would not wreak
havoc. If they exist, they would already have been created by high-
energy cosmic rays, with no harmful consequences.

Reports and reviews

Studies into the safety of high-energy collisions inside particle
accelerators have been conducted in both Europe and the United States
by physicists who are not themselves involved in experiments at the
LHC. Their analyses have been reviewed by the expert scientific
community, which agrees with their conclusion that particle collisions
in accelerators are safe. CERN has mandated a group of particle
physicists, also not involved in the LHC experiments, to monitor the
latest speculations about LHC collisions.

email : lsag [at] cern [dot] ch [dot]

Download the specialist report published in the United States
Download the specialist report published in Europe



Super Monkey Collider Loses Funding
Controversial Experiment Comes To An End

October 22, 1996

Congress voted Monday to cut federal funding for the superconducting
monkey collider, a controversial experiment which has cost taxpayers
an estimated $7.6 billion a year since its creation in 1983.

The collider, which was to be built within a 45-mile-long circular
tunnel, would accelerate monkeys to near-light speeds before smashing
them together. Scientists insist the collider is an important step
toward understanding the universe, because no one can yet say for
certain what kind of noises monkeys would make if collided at those
high speeds.

“It could be a thump, a splat, or maybe even a sound that hasn’t yet
been heard by human ears,” said project head Dr. Eric Reed Friday, in
an impassioned plea to Congress. “How are we supposed to understand
things like the atom or the nature of gravity if we don’t even know
what colliding monkeys sound like?”

But Congress, under heavy pressure from the powerful monkey rights
lobby, decided that money being spent on the monkey collider would be
put to better use in other areas of government. Now, with funding cut
off, the future of our nation’s monkey collision program looks bleak.

Congress began funding the monkey collider in 1983, after Reed
convinced lawmakers that the U.S. was lagging behind the Soviet Union
in monkey-colliding technology. Funds were quickly allocated so that
Reed could spend a week procuring monkeys on Florida’s beautiful
Captiva Island. Though Reed returned with a great tan and a beautiful
young fiancee, he reported that there were no monkeys to be found on
the sunny Gulf Coast island. Congress funded subsequent trips to the
Cayman Islands, Bora Bora and Cancun, but these searches also yielded
negative results.

Two years passed without a single monkey being procured, and Congress
was close to cutting the project’s funding. It was then that Reed got
the idea to utilize monkeys already being bred in captivity. The
Congressional Subcommittee for Scientific Investigation was enthralled
by the idea of watching caged monkeys copulate, and increased funding
by 40 percent.

With a steady supply of monkeys ensured, construction of the monkey
collider began on a scenic Colorado site. Despite environmental
pressure, a mountain was levelled to facilitate construction of the
seven-mile-wide complex. Huge underground tunnels were dug, at a cost
of billions of dollars and 17 lives. Money left over was used to build
resort homes, spas and video arcades for Reed, his colleagues and
several Congressmen.

Construction of the collider’s acceleration mechanism was delayed for
years, as scientists couldn’t decide how to get the monkeys up to
smashing speed. Last month, it was finally decided that the collider
would employ a system in which the monkeys run through the tunnels
chasing holographic projections of bananas. “Monkeys love bananas,”
Reed said, “and they’re willing to run extremely fast to get them.”

But now it seems the acceleration mechanism may never be built. With
the monkey collider placed on indefinite hold, the huge research
facility in Colorado lies dormant.

To keep the space from going to waste, Congress Monday voted to
convert the empty underground tunnel into a federally funded drag-
racing track. The track is expected to create hundreds of jobs in the
form of pit crews and concessions workers, and will allow President
Clinton to impress important foreign dignitaries with America’s
wheelie technology.

Despite this promising alternate plan, most involved with the monkey
collider project feel the sudden cuts in funding are inexcusable. “It
is a travesty of science,” Reed said. “I remember the joy I felt in
college when I would launch monkeys at one another with big rubber
bands, and this project would have been even more enlightening.”

From the archive, originally posted by: [ spectre ]





patented december 10, 1902


US patent 5,421,089 / issued 1995



a history of useless inventions

inventors have been registering bright ideas with the world’s patent
office for over 150 years. how has technology changed the world? while
the flush toilet, aspirin, the computer, the pill, the photo-copier
and the mobile phone have proved invaluable, the same cannot be said
of every innovation. what makes a good invention?

‘spectacles for chickens’ may seem odd, but the birds do have a
tendency to try to peck each other’s eyes out. the ‘alarm fork’ : you
should care about calories when you eat too much. or ‘duster slippers’
for cats: now the most boring job around the house becomes hours of
fun. the ‘drymobile’: your laundry dries as you drive… often
inventions come about because people want to meet their own needs.

‘chindogu’ is the japanese word coined for the art of the unuseless
idea. strangely practical and utterly eccentric inventions for a life
of ease and hilarity have taken the land of the rising sun by storm.

meant to solve the niggling problems of modern life, these bizarre and
logic-defying gadgets and gizmos have a tendency to fail completely.

addicts of the unuseless all over the world love this collection. the
art of chindogu was born in the late 1980’s when amateur inventor
kenji kawakami discovered that a not-quite-usable idea for a new
gadget or product could nonetheless be enjoyable if one were to create
a prototype and take delight in the way it misses its mark.

the term ‘chindogu’ entered the english vocabulary in 1991 when then
senior society member dan papia (president of chindogu society
america) published an article on the subject in japan’s leading
english-language magazine, the ‘tokyo journal’.



The Ten Tenents of Chindogu

Every Chindogu is an almost useless object, but not every almost
useless object is a Chindogu. In order to transcend the realms of the
merely almost useless, and join the ranks of the really almost
useless, certain vital criteria must be met. It is these criteria, a
set of ten vital tenets, that define the gentle art and philosophy of
Chindogu. Here they are:

1. A Chindogu cannot be for real use

It is fundamental to the spirit of Chindogu that inventions claiming
Chindogu status must be, from a practical point of view, (almost)
completely useless. If you invent something which turns out to be so
handy that you use it all the time, then you have failed to make a
Chindogu. Try the Patent Office.

2. A Chindogu must exist

You’re not allowed to use a Chindogu, but it must be made. You have to
be able to hold it in your hand and think ‘I can actually imagine
someone using this. Almost.’ In order to be useless, it must first be.

3. Inherent in every Chindogu is the spirit of anarchy

Chindogu are man-made objects that have broken free from the chains of
usefulness. They represent freedom of thought and action: the freedom
to challenge the suffocating historical dominance of conservative
utility; the freedom to be (almost) useless.

4. Chindogu are tools for everyday life

Chindogu are a form of nonverbal communication understandable to
everyone, everywhere. Specialised or technical inventions, like a
threehandled sprocket loosener for drainpipes centred between two
under-the-sink cabinet doors (the uselessness of which will only be
appreciated by plumbers), do not count.

5. Chindogu are not for sale

Chindogu are not tradable commodities. If you accept money for one you
surrender your purity. They must not even be sold as a joke.

6. Humour must not be the sole reason for creating a Chindogu

The creation of Chindogu is fundamentally a problem-solving activity.
Humour is simply the by-product of finding an elaborate or
unconventional solution to a problem that may not have been that
pressing to begin with.

7. Chindogu is not propaganda

Chindogu are innocent. They are made to be used, even though they
cannot be used. They should not be created as a perverse or ironic
comment on the sorry state of mankind.

8. Chindogu are never taboo

The International Chindogu Society has established certain standards
of social decency. Cheap sexual innuendo, humour of a vulgar nature,
and sick or cruel jokes that debase the sanctity of living things are
not allowed.

9. Chindogu cannot be patented

Chindogu are offerings to the rest of the world – they are not
therefore ideas to be copyrighted, patented, collected and owned. As
they say in Spain, mi Chindogu es tu Chindogu.

10. Chindogu are without prejudice

Chindogu must never favour one race or religion over another. Young
and old, male and female, rich and poor – all should have a free and
equal chance to enjoy each and every Chindogu.


The real world of the mad scientist  /  December 3, 1997

The relationship between madness and creativity has long intrigued
scientists and artists alike. The observation that an increasing
number of mentally-ill patients were attempting to register their
ideas as patents led two British psychiatrists to examine the link.

David James and Paul Gilluley reasoned that the British Patents Office
should provide a rich repository of the type of bizarre ideas put
forward by psychiatric patients. But they found their theory was
incorrect after comparing inventions from a group of patients with
those patented by members of the public.

Madness lacks method

For the main part, the ideas of “mad” people could never be made and
therefore cannot be patented. The psychiatric patients had big plans,
but little prospect of realising them: a cure for all known cancers
and Aids, a formula for time travel and a way of achieving cold fusion
in a test tube.

Among the stranger patents recorded in the UK, however, the
psychiatrists found an array of inventions that could certainly be
built yet would be virtually useless: a machine for patting babies on
the bottom, a car propelled by a horse on a treadmill, a ladder to
help spiders escape from baths and two-handed gloves to allow couples
to hold hands.

Join the club

The latter group do not exhibit signs of mental illnesses, but instead
satisfy the requirements for membership of Japan’s Chindogu Society,
the psychiatrists said. Chindogu is a society of 50,000 members “the
purpose of which is the production of useless inventions,” the report

“The stipulation for these is that they must be possible to construct,
must accomplish their stated aim, but must be totally useless.” The
psychiatrists concluded that mental illnesses may occasionally play a
part in the process of creative invention. But it can never substitute
for an understanding of scientific fact.

“This is the conclusion lent support by this study of patients, that
scientific creativity requires a firm base of knowledge, and that
psychopathology, when present, can only colour the process of
invention; it cannot in itself produce strength out of weakness.

“In other words, the only creative ‘mad scientists’ are those that
were creative scientists before they became mentally ill.” The
psychiatrists detail their study in the British Journal of Psychiatry.


You don’t have to be mad to invent, but it helps
By Celia Hall, Medical Editor, Daily Telegraph

A SEARCH for the true nature of the mad scientist has taken two
forensic psychiatrists from a hospital’s secure unit to the The Mad
Patent Office and the British Library.

Four of their patients began writing to the Patent Office after
becoming engrossed in their inventions: a cure for cancer and Aids
made from domestic products; a time machine; an inflatable moon buggy
and a method for producing cold fusion in a test-tube.

Dr David James is consultant forensic psychiatrist at the Camlet Lodge
secure unit, Enfield, north London. He said: “When we saw what they
were doing it raised again questions about creativity and madness and
it Massachusetts occurred to us that the Patents Office might be full
Institute of of inventions coming out of mental illness.”

Dr James and Dr Paul Gilluley, his registrar, searched the files in
the patent Office and British Library, but were unable to find
evidence of inventors being mad. However, they did discover a lot of
mad inventions – madder than the inventions their patients were
working on.

Writing in the British Journal of Psychiatry today, they describe the
inventions they discovered from the 100 “odd or eccentric” patents
they identified. About half of them were “related to bodily
functions”. Of the others, time and animals were popular themes and
one inventor in 1991 managed to combine both obsessions with a Watch
for Keeping Time at a Rate Other than Human. It looks like an ordinary
watch but keeps time at an animal’s rate achieved by dividing the
average of a specific animal’s lifespan into the average lifetime of a
human being.

Another time traveller invented the Life Expectancy Timepiece, a
macabre instrument that counted to zero and monitored the approximate
time the wearer had left to live. More helpful was the Baby Patting
Machine, an infant sleeping aid that patted the baby’s rump with a
soft pad. Another domestic product is called the Cold Air Blast Wake-
Up device, which operated under the bedclothes at a pre-set hour. Dr
James also describes the patent for a Two-Handed Glove for
sweethearts, complete with knitting instructions to facilitate hand-
holding in cold climates.

In 1980 an animal lover came up with a kind of helmet so the ears of
long-eared dogs could be kept out of their dinner. The psychiatrists
say that 75 per cent inventions” and conclude that madness does not
produce creativity, although it might colour it.

Dr James said: “In other words the only creative ‘mad scientists’ are
those that were creative before they came mentally ill. In fact I find
the inventions of my patients very charming and stimulating. But you
have to be creative to start with and have a lot of imagination.”


Chindogu: Form or Function?
BY Ryoko  /  translated by Kevin Mcgue   /  11 Jan 2008

Headwear equipped with a loaded toilet paper dispenser?! What in the
world for? Who came up with this and why? More importantly, who in
their right mind would walk around with a bog roll on their head?
Welcome to the world of chindogu. The Japanese phrase literally
translates as “unusual tools,” but what is it all about? Today PingMag
catches up with chindogu inventor Kenji Kawakami of the Chindogu
Society of Japan to learn all you will ever need to know about

P: To jump right to the heart of the matter, what are chindogu?

KK: To put it briefly, they are tools that wind up being more
inconvenient than convenient. (Laughs) I’ll show you an example. This
is the “Electric Fork.” Go ahead and give the button a push.



In our world, all technology is progressing, right? So I thought why
not take a simple fork and make it electric. Using this fork, with a
single flick of the switch you can effortlessly wind up spaghetti. The
only drawback is that the spaghetti sauce goes flying everywhere. So
the end result is that it really is better not to use it. And that is
what “chindogu” means. It isn’t something that anyone would actually
use, but it has to be a tool that a person could use.

P: So how did you get started making chindogu?

KK: Years ago, I was working as a freelance editor, writing for
magazines and working on some scripts for the animated series
Calimero. I started my own production company, and one of my first
projects, for a certain magazine, was coming up with the concept of
chindogu. The response was greater than I could have ever imagined,
and chindogu really took on a life of their own.

P: Didn’t you study aerospace engineering?

KK: I have liked airplanes since I was a child, and when I was in high
school I made a kind of paraglider. I loved planes and thought that I
would like to do some kind of work relating to them. However, I
entered college in 1967, which was the beginning of the whole student
movements, and that ideology had a huge influence on me. Not long
after I got into school, I dropped out to join the movement. I had
always been interested in literature, and so I started to write for
magazines as a way of supporting myself.

P: By the way, do you make the chindogu yourself?

KK: I started making chindogu 17 years ago, and there must be around
700 of them by now. I have made every one of them by myself. I have
always been good at making models, so making the chindogu has been

P: I heard that you also accept ideas from amateur inventors…

KK: Yes, but I don’t often get ideas that are fully formed. I take
some of the ideas that are sent in and try to make them more
interesting. For example, the toilet paper headgear came from an idea
to put a roll of paper on the chest or hang it from the waist. That
would simply be too convenient, which isn’t what chindogu is all
about. So my idea was to put it on top of the head. At first glance,
it seems that it is more convenient, because the paper is positioned
closer to the nose, but it would be very difficult to actually use.

P: Chindogu have enjoyed a huge amount of attention outside Japan…

KK: After I had made a certain amount of chindogu, I collected them
together in a book. Soon after, a reporter from the BBC came to
interview me. Thanks to that interview, I was able to bring out an
English-language edition of the book, and I was surprised to see
chindogu had gained popularity around the world. There are now German,
French, Spanish, and Chinese editions of the book, and the Korean
version just came out last year.

P: Have people’s reactions to Chindogu been different in different

KK: Surprisingly different. In America and Japan, they are seen as
entertainment. For some reason, in Korea, Canada, and Australia, they
are thought of a science, and in Europe, they have been hailed as “as
a new form of Dadaism,” and “contemporary art.”

P: But it seems that chindogu do recall some of the concepts of
Dadaism and Surrealism by rejecting preconceived ideas and common

KK: Yes. I think so. I actually have made the “Chindogu Ten
Commandments,” which are:

1. A chindogu must not actually be used
2. It must have some function.
3. It must have an anarchic element.
4. It must be a tool for everyday life.
5. It must not actually be put on the market.
6. It must not be only for the purpose of humor.
7. It must not be for black humor.
8. “Dirty” jokes are forbidden.
9. It must not be for profit.
10. It must be usable internationally.

Even before starting to make chindogu, I have been thinking about
these “ten commandments” since my days in the student movements of the
1960s. I first came up with with chindogu as a special project for a
magazine, so I was not too concerned about how people would receive
them. But actually, I think of chindogu as “an intellectual game to
stimulate anarchic minds,” or a physical manifestation of my way of

P: Can you give me an concrete example of your “intellectual game”?

KK: This is an extreme example, but more money is spent on fashion in
Japan than in any other country, and you can see 14 or 15-year old
girls buying Louis Vuitton bags. They are expressing their identity
through material things. I am not saying that beautiful clothes or
designer bags are necessarily bad, but I want to have my own sense of
identity even if I don’t have things.

So I have intellectual games to confirm to myself who I am. For
example, if a flathead fish and sole have a baby fish, what kind of
head would that baby fish have? Of the 6.7 billion people in this
world, there might be as many as 30 people thinking about such a
question at a given moment. I think about such things as a way of
affirming my own identity. Chindogu give form to such thoughts.

P: Are you particular about how you design your chindogu?

KK: Inventions can be designed digitally or in analog. Chindogu are
all designed analog. With digital design, it is like putting input
into a black box and getting output, but without seeing the process in
the middle. But with analog design, you can see the process, right?
For example, in the children’s TV program Pythagora Switch you can see
their Rube Goldberg Machines that take a marble through a very complex
maze, and you can see everything. I think that kind of thing is very

Chindogu are also a form of expression. For example, these “shoe
umbrellas” are very colorful and cute, aren’t they? I thought a lot
about the color and shape, and also how to make them properly. I am
not interested in weekend D.I.Y. quality work. My goal is to construct
things of such quality that you wouldn’t be surprised to see in a
department store. I don’t use cardboard or polystyrene, but use metals
and plastics to make them look genuine. The only thing is they are not
for sale… (laughs)

P: The names you give your chindogu are pretty descriptive.

KK: The chindogu themselves are extreme and anarchic, so I throw a
straight ball with the names. Right now I am working on the “Alarm
Clock Headphones,” which is just what the name says it is. When coming
home from an office party, someone could fall asleep on the train and
miss their stop. If you set an alarm clock, you would also wake up the
people sleeping on either side of you, so I came up with the alarm
clock headphones. I thought this one would be a pain to actually make,
so I just did an illustration of it. But then everyone told me that
just an illustration wasn’t interesting, and it would be better to
actually see it. Now I am working on making them, and it is
interesting to see something so nonsensical.

P: Yes, it is much more interesting and powerful to actually be able
to see and touch the items. Since we are almost out of time, do you
have any final comments for our readers?

KK: This spring I will be holding a chindogu exhibition in Korea,
which will help to spread chindogu around the world. I hope that
people will be able to see chindogu as a way of changing their way of

P: Kenji Kawakami, thanks for sharing your wonderful chindogu with us!
We look forward to what you come up with next!





Q. When most people hear the term “sex with robots” they probably
imagine something from their experience of popular media, whether it’s
a Star Wars robot, Bender from Futurama, or the maid from the Jetsons.
Can you explain what in your writing you mean when you talk about sex
with robots?

A. I am thinking in terms of androids – robots designed in a humanlike
form – of which many examples can be found on the Web site http://www.androidworld.com.
But in addition to having arms, legs and a head, sexual robots will
also have human-sized genitalia. This idea is not at all as far
fetched as might first appear.

As long ago as the late 19th century there were manufacturers, in
Paris and elsewhere, who made artificial vaginas and even whole
artificial bodies, designed specifically to provide substitutes for
the female genitals and thereby to allow fornication. These products
were known as “dames de voyage” (ladies of travel) and were
particularly recommended for use by sailors during long periods at
sea. The sex robots that I envisage will, of course, employ 21st
rather than 19th century technology, but the basic idea is the same.

Q. In your most recent book you outline some of the research endeavors
and technological developments already underway that you predict might
produce some of the first opportunities for humans to have sex with
robots. Can you describe some of these?

A. There are many sex-related inventions that have been patented over
the past century or so. In fact there is a whole book devoted to the
subject of sex inventions at the U.S. Patent Office.

In “Robots Unlimited” I describe a recent patent application by an
Australian inventor, Dominic Choy. This is just one taste of things to
come. What I see happening is that the merging of many different
technologies will lead to the creation of robots that provide many of
the physical attributes required of a skilled lover.

Scientists have already developed artificial skin sufficiently
sensitive to distinguish between a gentle caress and firm pressure;
and the complementary capability – an artificial finger that can apply
sensuous strokes. There is also research into silicone-based and
similar types of materials used in the RealDoll and rival products,
materials that provide for the user a measure of simulation of
coupling with a human sex partner. Then add one or more of the
specifically sexual electronic technologies that are already
available, such as those employed for the benefit of women in the
Thrillhammer, the Sybian, or the hugely popular vibrators that
pleasure so many millions of customers; or the male equivalents –
vibrating penis rings. The combination of these technologies and
others will enable robots to deliver sexually awesome experiences.

Q. One of the things I found most surprising in reading your book was
the amount of research that is already underway in this area. In
particular I was excited by the thinking and experimentation around
robot reproduction. Can you explain what is meant by this term, and
maybe describe a few examples of research being done in this area.

A. Robot scientists have already made the first major breakthrough in
this field, with the development by Hod Lipson and Jordon Pollack at
Brandeis University of robots that simulate evolution and can design
new robots based on a trial-and-error process. This project has
already reached the stage where one robot can pick up the components
of another robot and assemble it.

We are, of course, very familiar with the idea of robots on the
assembly line, picking up the pieces of an automobile or whatever and
assembling them into one identical vehicle after another. Yet the idea
of a robot assembling replicas of itself is somehow intuitively
different for many people, probably because it is a little scary. The
science fiction literature is riddled with examples of robots that
reproduce, sometimes until there are so many of them that they are
able to take over the world. Now that the first stage of this process
has become science fact, it would not be surprising if many people
were to view this branch of robotics research with a certain amount of

What I have described so far relates only to the physical construction
of robots. But what about their “brains”, their emotions, their
personalities? A robot’s brain is some form of computer, running
software that has been developed to give the robot its mental
capabilities, including its emotions and personality. Over and above
the research into the physical self-reproduction of robots there is
also a research effort into self-reproducing software, programs that
can evolve into (hopefully) better programs – better in the sense of
being better able to perform its designated task(s). This idea is
based on genetics. The basic method is called a “genetic algorithm”
and, put simply, it works by having parts of a computer program
measuring how well or how badly they are performing and then improving
themselves through a process that simulates natural selection,
spawning a new, better generation of programs. It does not take much
imagination to realize that robots which can self-reproduce
physically, and also self-improve their own software, could evolve
almost beyond the dreams of science fiction writers.

One aspect of robot reproduction that I personally find very exciting
is the possibility that intelligent robots will be able to copy some
of the characteristics and physical features of their human owners.
Imagine, for example, that your robot has been programmed to “like”
the sound of your voice. When it designs its successors it can copy
the characteristics of your voice into the speech synthesis software
employed in those successors, resulting in robots that talk like you
do. As yet I am not aware of any research in this area, but the
recognition and speech synthesis technologies are already with us, and
I do not believe it will be very long before the idea is explored by

Q. Several times in your writing you slip anthropomorphizing language
in, so suddenly a computer program has intuition, or feelings, where
before it simply had a series of predictable responses to very
intelligent programming. I think for many people this will be one of
the greatest fears, and barriers to conceptualizing a human + robot
sexuality. When you write about the ethics of robot sex it calls to
mind the question of consciousness and sentience. Do you foresee
robotic consciousness? Or put another way, will we eventually produce
robots that are just like us?

A. The sometimes use of anthropomorphisms was quite deliberate. I hope
that in this way the reader will be led somewhat gently to the feeling
that the robots of the future will, at least in some sense, be alive.

I do forsee robot consciousness, and this is the subject of Chapter
12. One problem, of course, with the consciousness debate, is the lack
of a generally acceptable definition of the term. But in the sense
that the word is normally used, yes, I am convinced that robots will
act as though they possess consciousness. And if they do so act, then
we will not be able to deny that they have consciousness.

As to whether we will eventually produce robots that are just like us,
the answer here is “not exactly like us, but close”. Shakespeare’s
sixteenth century test: “If you prick me, do I not bleed?” will detect
one of the differences, and there will be others, but in terms of the
outward appearance and behavior of robots, I am convinced that they
will be designed to be all but indistinguishable to the vast majority
of the human population.

Q. You write that many people may feel threatened by the possibilities
of human robot sexual interactions. This response reminds me of the
very common response many people still have to sex toys and vibrators
in particular. Many straight men feel that a vibrator is a “threat” to
them, believing it could replace them. Many straight women will say
they don’t “need” a vibrator because they have a partner. You write
about how robots could provide sexual contact for people who may feel
unable to have it with another human. To what extent do you think
sexual interactions between humans and robots would replace sex
between two people?

A. I think it is a natural reaction for many heterosexual men to feel
threatened by vibrators, and therefore by robots, especially in
contemporary sexual culture in which the need to be able to sexually
please and satisfy your woman is promoted so widely in books and other
media, and is often the subject of boastful conversation.

Most men would feel inadequate if they believed that their woman
enjoyed better orgasms courtesy of a vibrator or a robot, than those
that the men themselves could provide on a regular basis. But I hope
and believe that one of the great benefits of sexual robots will be
their ability to teach lovemaking skills, so that men who do feel
inadequate will be able to take unlimited lessons, in private, from
robot lovers who possess an unrivalled level of knowledge of sexual
techniques and psycho-sexual problems, combined with great skills as
sensitive, patient teachers. And of course, some women will also wish
to avail themselves of the sexual teaching skills of robots.

You are quite right that many straight women will deny any need for a
vibrator because they already feel completely sexually satisfied by
their regular sex partner(s), and for those women it might be the case
that whatever additional sexual pleasures robots could offer them,
they are not of sufficient interest to encourage them to try robot sex
on a regular basis. But the sales figures for vibrators, and the
psychology literature, both popular and academic, are sufficiently
replete with data on sexually frustrated women, that one cannot doubt
the enormous popularity of robot lovers when they become commercially

None of this is intended to suggest that sex between two people will
become outmoded, because I do not believe for one moment that it will.
What I am convinced of is that robot sex will become the only sexual
outlet for a few sectors of the population: the misfits, the very shy,
the sexually inadequate and uneducable, . . .; and that for different
sectors of the population robot sex will vary between something to be
indulged in occasionally, and only when one’s partner is away from
home on a long trip, to an activity that supplements one’s regular sex
life, perhaps when one’s partner is not feeling well, or not feeling
like sex for some other reason.

Q. Here’s where I start to get worried. I’m afraid that rather than
enhancing a social experience (such as sex), technology will allow us
as humans to avoid evolving socially by using technology to mimic
social interaction rather than add to it. Currently the biggest
problem for people who are socially marginalized (which is what I’m
assuming you meant by “misfit”) is not that they aren’t able to have
sex, or make meaningful connections with others, it’s that our society
functions in a way to systemically keep them isolated. As the
disability activist and academic Tom Shakespeare says “the trouble is
not how can we have sex, it’s who can we have sex with”. And while
there is no doubt that people who are socially marginalized want to
have casual rollicking sex, just as often they report that what they
long for is the intimacy, human contact, and human connections, that
come with sexual intimacy and exploration. If these robots are
intended in any way to increase the opportunity and potential of human
sexuality, using them in this way would be seriously
counterproductive. What are your thoughts on this?

A. I do not see why using robots to satisfy the sexual and intimacy
needs of the socially marginalized is likely to be counterproductive.
If you mean that providing robots to satisfy needs that the socially
marginalized would prefer to be satisfied by humans, will make it less
likely that the socially marginalized will want or be able to find
suitable human partners, then you might be right, but I would still
argue that the benefits to the socially marginalized far outweigh the
negatives. Tom Shakespeare’s words ring true – the socially
marginalized do experience much more difficulty than others in finding
human contact, intimacy and sex.

That is a simple fact, and it is understandable. I feel that the
validity of your “counterproductive” argument, if I understand it
correctly, assumes that the socially marginalized can indeed find
intimacy and sex when they need it, in which case they will not need
to employ robots for these purposes. If that is so, then all well and
good. But my point is simply that there are groups in society who do
find it extremely difficult, almost impossible, to mate with partners
who will love them and satisfy their emotional and sexual needs on a
long-term basis. In many ways robots represent a very good way out of
this problem, just as the Japanese and American governments are now
looking at the possibility of using robots as carers for the elderly.
I firmly believe that in time robots will not only become carers,
sensitive to the emotional and practical needs of the elderly, but
that they will also become our friends if we want them to, and our
companions, lovers and marriage partners.
I would not describe any of this as counterproductive.

Q. I have to say that for me possibly the least interesting part of
the potential for human robot sexuality is the piece about sexual
technique. There are thousands of books, videos, and workshops for
people to learn “better” technique, and while you point out a variety
of ways that robots will allow a more immersive experience, ultimately
I’m aware that technique is just one (arguably small) part of sexual
expression. Have you considered the ways that robots may extend human
experience of sexuality beyond offering technical assistance and/or
providing sexual services?

A. I do not feel that we should downplay the importance of robots as a
means of teaching and enhancing sexual technique. So many
relationships founder because of dissatisfaction in the bedroom, and
so many men suffer, as do their partners, because they are unable for
whatever reason (including embarrassment) to work to improve their
lovemaking skills. That is why I highlighted this particular aspect of
robot sex.

But to answer the main part of your question, yes – I most definitely
believe that sexbots will be able to extend the human experience of
sexuality. Let me try to explain one way that this might be achieved,
using methods from other areas of Artificial Intelligence.

In Chapter 6, which explains in simple terms how computers think, the
topics I cover include discovery and invention, as achieved by
computer programs. Without going into any of the detail here, suffice
it to say that it has already been demonstrated that programs can
discover new ideas from existing knowledge and can even devise
inventions that are suitable for patenting. If such a program were to
be developed, incorporating all the knowledge contained in all of the
world’s sex manuals, and with some basic knowledge of human anatomy,
the result could be a plethora of new ideas for lovemaking, new sexual
positions, that robots could teach us and help us practice if we wish.

Another way in which human ideas of sexuality could be extended lies
in the possibility of experimenting with various group combinations,
groups involving one or more sexbots and perhaps more than one human.
Predicting trends in human sexual behavior is not an easy task, but it
is clear that when sexbots are widely available there will be many
more sexual practices to be tried.

Q. Your argument for the development of a more sophisticated ethical
discussion around human robot sexual interaction is based on the idea
that robot development in this area is inevitable, and we might as
well get ready for it, and start thinking now about the issues that
will come up. Can you give some examples of the ethical dilemmas you
see facing us as human robot sexual interactions become a reality?

A. The ethics of robot sex is a very broad subject, too broad to
discuss in detail in an interview, but I can certainly give some
examples of the types of ethical problem that I foresee.

Firstly there is the question of how one’s use of one’s own sex robot
will affect other people – one’s spouse or partner in particular. Will
sex with a robot be considered unfaithful? Will it be unethical in
some way to say to one’s regular human sex partner: “Not tonight
darling. I’m going to make it with the robot.”? (Some couples will, of
course, own two robots, a malebot and a fembot, and will enjoy
orgiastic sessions in which three or all four of them take part.) Will
robot swapping be viewed as being similar to wife swapping?

Then there are issues relating to the use of other people’s sexbots.
What will be the ethics of lending your sexbot to a friend, or
borrowing theirs? What about using a friend’s sexbot without telling
the friend?

There will certainly be ethical (and legal) issues relating to the use
of sexbots by minors. Should the age of consent for sex with a robot
be the same as that for sex with a human? And what about the ethics of
an adult encouraging a minor to have sex with a robot? Will it be
regarded as a sex educational experience, or as a corrupting
influence? And how will ethicists and lawyers deal with parents when
one of them wants their child to have sex with a robot, as a method of
sex education for example, but the other does not?

Finally, there is the matter of the ethics of robot sex as they affect
the robot itself. In “Robots Unlimited” I discuss some questions of
robot ethics, which in my opinion is one of the most interesting
topics in the debate on the future of robots. What happens when a
robot’s owner feels randy but the robot’s programming causes it to shy
away, possibly because it is running its self-test software or
downloading some new knowledge and does not wish to be interrupted, or
possibly because its personality was designed in such a way that it
sometimes says “no” for whatever reason.

Under such circumstances, is it akin to rape if the robot’s owner
countermands the robot’s indicated wish to refrain from sex on a
particular occasion?

I think you will agree that these examples warn of a minefield for
ethicists and lawyers. “Roboethics” is becoming a respectable academic
topic, for example earlier this year I attended a workshop on
roboethics organised by the Scuola di Robotica in Genoa, Italy, and a
couple of weeks later there was a similar conference in Palermo,
Sicily. So the subject is very much under discussion, although the
discussion is still in its very earliest stages.

Q. There seems to be so many ways that AI and robotics can potentially
have a positive impact on human existence and experience. Where do you
think sexuality fits in the larger picture. Do you imagine that as the
technology improves, sexuality will be one of the early testing
grounds for human robotic interactions? Do you think sex robots will
ultimately be a fad?

A. I believe that sexuality fits in the larger picture in BIG BOLD
LETTERS. What is the word most often typed into Google and the other
search engines? Sex! What was the most prolific use made of video
cassette recorders when they came on the market? Porno movies. What
was one of the first major social changes that came about with the
launch of the automobile? Young couples who wanted privacy so that
they could make love would borrow father’s car for the purpose (and
many still do so today). These are examples of inventions that were
not created with sexuality in mind, but for which sexuality became an
important use.

When we create robots that are specifically invented with sexuality in
mind, the level of interest and the desire to use them will, I
believe, be beyond the wildest dreams of product designers and

I think that sexuality will be far more than an early testing ground
for robots. It will not only be the most popular use of robots amongst
adults, it will also create huge social change. There is no way I can
see sexbots as being a fad, any more than one could say that sex is a

Q. Can you talk about what’s next, and what you’re working on now?

A. As I was collecting the research material and writing the book I
became increasingly fascinated by the subject of intimate
relationships with artificial partners. Originally I was planning only
one chapter on this subject, for reasons of space, but I had to extend
it into two chapters, one on robot emotion and love, the other on
robot sex and reproduction.

Then my wife pointed out that, in exploring these topics, I had almost
ignored the ethical implications, and questions such as consciousness,
and that these are important areas that needed to be addressed. So I
researched some more and added two more chapters. After I delivered
the book to the publisher I decided to write another book.

Whereas “Robots Unlimited” focuses on the how of Artificial
Intelligence, including the how of robot love and sex, I decided that
there was a need for a book on the why of all this. Why will people be
attracted to robots? Why will people fall in love with robots? Why
will people want to have sex with robots? And even why will people
want to marry robots? I am now nearing completion of that book and
have recently signed with a New York literary agent, who is currently
working with me to ensure that it will be interesting for a very wide
readership. I plan to keep a close watch on robot sex, to make it my
major area of interest within A.I. for the next few years. I believe
that the speed of development in this field will be extremely rapid,
due in part to the enormous sums of money that the developers of such
products will be able to reap, and partly because of the enormous
worldwide interest in and desire for better sex.




* A robot may not injure a human being, or, through inaction,
allow a human being to come to harm.
* A robot must obey the orders given it by human beings except
where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
* A robot must protect its own existence as long as such
protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.

Asimov detected as early as 1950, a need to extend the first law,
which protected individual humans, so that it would protect humanity
as a whole. Thus, his calculating machines “have the good of humanity
at heart through the overwhelming force of the First Law of
Robotics” (emphasis added). In 1985 he developed this idea further by
postulating a “zeroth” law that placed humanity’s interests above
those of any individual while retaining a high value on individual
human life.

Zeroth law: A robot may not injure humanity, or, through inaction,
allow humanity to come to harm.












“(1) A dead person’s face may indeed be uncanny: it loses color and
animation with no blinking. However, according to my experience,
sometimes it gives us a more comfortable impression than the one given
by a living person’s face. Dead persons are free from the troubles of
life, and I think this is the reason why their faces look so calm and
peaceful. In our mind there is always an antinomic conflict that if
you take one thing you will lose the other. Such a conflict appears on
one’s face as troubles, and makes his, or her, expression less
comfortable. When a person dies he, or she, is released from this
antinomy, and has a quiet expression. If so, then, where should we
position this on the curve of the uncanny valley? This is an issue of
my current interest.

(2) Once I positioned living human beings on the highest point of the
curve in the right-hand side of the uncanny valley. Recently, however,
I came to think that there is something more attractive and amiable
than human beings in the further right-hand side of the valley. It is
the face of a Buddhist statue as the artistic expression of the human
ideal. You will find such a face, for example, in Miroku Bosatsu
(Maitreya Bodhisattva) in Kohryuji in Kyoto, or in Miroku Bosatsu in
Chuguji and in Gakkoh Bosatsu (Candraprabha) in Yakushiji in Nara.
Those faces are full of elegance, beyond worries of life, and have
aura of dignity. I think those are the very things that should be
positioned on the highest point of the curve.”




“In 1978 Japanese roboticist Masahiro Mori was studying the human
response to robots and discovered that as robots became more
humanlike, people’s attitudes toward them became more positive, until
the robots got “almost” human, an area he called the “Uncanny
Valley.”  Since they were so close to human, the little bit they were
lacking really creeped people out . This effect translated beyond
robots to creatures of all kinds and is a good explanation for why we
find zombies so scary (that and the fact that they eat brains), why
CGI and today’s video game characters look so odd. The most
interesting application of this theory is for artificial limbs, which
suggests that until we can make them indistinguishably perfect, we
should stick to more obviously artificial ones. On the upside,
designers could go crazy and offer limbs with all sorts of extra
functionality, maybe throw a flash drive in one finger and a digital
camera in another.”


Q: It could be argued that the written word destroyed short/long-term
memory and computers are outsourcing human intelligence to the extent
that we cannot think or remember without them. What essentially human
traits do you envision future sexbots changing forever?

A:  I believe that sexbots will change our perceptions of human
relationships, and in some ways we will become more demanding with
respect to what we want from a human partner. This is not entirely a
good thing. If someone has great sex with their robot, they will want
the sex with their human partners to be great as well, which could
lead to disappointment. On the other hand, sexbots will be excellent
tutors, so people will be able to be taught the skills necessary in a
great lover.

Q: Obviously, not everyone will be able to afford robots for sex
straight away and top-of-the-line ones will undoubtedly command top
dollar. One could conclude from your book that we will one day live in
a world where robots designed for sexual pleasure are very
commonplace. Do you think there is room for the poor in this vision?

A: Eventually, yes. You are quite right of course about what will
happen in the early days of sexbots – very few people indeed will be
able to afford to buy one. But the robots-for-hire business model will
work. As more and more people experience robot sex and communicate
their experiences to their friends, and in the media, so the demand
will increase and the price will drop. ‘Eventually’ is a very long
time, but consider television ñ in the early days very few could
afford it, but nowadays some homes have 3, 4 or more TVs.

Q: Your book implies that robots designed to love and sexually gratify
humans will greatly reduce, if not eradicate human loneliness. Do you
think that is the case or are loneliness and dissatisfaction
inevitably part of the human condition? Do you think that those
feelings can be eradicated or changed? How?

A: To a large extent I believe that loneliness and dissatisfaction are
now part of the human condition because they have become so, and
therefore I believe they can be largely eradicated. I feel that this
particular argument is difficult to refute. If someone is lonely
because they have no-one to talk to, no-one to love, no-one to love
them, then surely if those deficits are removed from their lives then
these people will become much happier, their lives much richer. Pet
animals have been found to have this effect, so why not robots who
have the additional ability (relative to pet animals) to speak, listen
and make intelligent and emotion-ridden conversation?

Q: People buy used laptops and iPods all the time — but on the other,
the secondhand market for vibrators, butt plugs and other sex toys is
nil. Do you foresee much of a secondhand/refurbished market for

A: An interesting question that Iíve never been asked and never
considered before this interview. I find it difficult to answer this
because I just donít know. On the one hand, as I point out in my book,
STDs will be transmitted via badly kept sexbots ñ my book gives an
example that occurred via a sex doll. But if the depreciation rate is
anything like that for motor cars, then presumably there will be a
secondhand market for reasons of cost.

Q: I find RealDolls (and the people that use them) to be utterly
creepy. While the Keepon is cute and a great dancer, it doesn’t
exactly turn me on either. How do you envision sexbots overcoming the
“uncanny valley” phenomenon?

A: Personally I do not have much faith in the uncanny valley. The
original publication on this topic (dating from 1970) was not based on
any empirical research ñ it was more an intuitive feeling expressed by
Masahiro Mori that has since been hyped into an assumption of fact.
And recently another Japanese roboticist wrote that the uncanny valley
has already been crossed. So if there was such an obstacle, there
probably isnít any more. That is my pragmatic answer to your question.
But looking behind your question, you raise an important point about
what is needed in robotics development to ensure that no such
antipathy exists on a large scale. I believe the answer will be the
creation of very humanlike, lifelike robots. In my book I give the
example of the waxwork at Madame Tussaudís. When robots become that
lifelike in their actions as well as in their appearance, that will
answer your real question.

Q: Is it ethical for an adult to have sex with a sexbot designed to
look like a child but programmed to “perform” like an experienced
adult? Why?

A: I believe that it is ethical provided that the reason is [a] to
attempt to cure the adult of their deviance; and/or [b] to attempt to
stop them, even though they might not be cured, from going after
children. Apart from these cases I can see no other reason.

Q: Would you personally use one of these robots?

A: I would certainly experiment with one, to find out what it was like
— how much like the real thing.

Q: Would your wife?

A: Probably not — she is not interested in anything of a technological

Q: Would she mind if you used one? Surely you’ve talked about it by
now …

A: Actually, no, because it is purely hypothetical since they do not
yet exist.

Q: I ask because I was talking about this with my girlfriend, who, had
she found one of these in my closet in the early stages of our
relationship, would have hailed a cab and never seen me again.

A: She says that, but why? Has she never used a vibrator? And if she
has, why does she think that you shouldn’t have left her immediately
you found out?

Q: To what extent do you think sex robots and their primal pre-
cursors, Real Dolls, actually PREVENT people from forming healthy,
normal relationships?

A: I don’t believe they would do so at all, because it is part of
human nature for (almost) all of us to form normal human
relationships. But a number of interviewers have asked this or similar
questions, so clearly many people are wondering about this. Perhaps
I’m too much of an optimist, but I see sex robots as being hugely
beneficial for society.

Q: Porn culture has pretty well infused pop culture at this point —
clothing is more provocative, we see stories about porn stars on the
news, and elements once relegated to porn films have entered the
mainstream. According to your book, a similar wave will permeate mass
culture when robots reach popular acceptance. What sorts of things do
you think might catch on or wind their way into the popular
consciousness once sexualized robots become mainstream?

A: The idea of sex with robots being normal, and something we can talk
about in polite conversation. There was a time when sex would never
have been a major topic in a dinner party conversation between a group
of couples, and that was reflected in the lack of sex on TV and in
mainstream media at that time. But ideas change, moral values change,
and nowadays there is little or no embarrassment in talking about sex.
So when people start to have sexual experiences with robots in big
numbers, I expect the subject to become mainstream, and therefore the
idea will become normal.

Q: This is a little broad, but I’m curious to see how you might finish
this story:

A group of adolescent boys finds a working, discarded secondhand
sexbot and keep it in their treehouse/shed in the woods, much like
some of us oohed and aahed over a crinkled stolen Penthouse in the
days before internet porn. Difference being, they actually take turns
using the thing. What are the moral implications? Is this a positive
experience? A negative one?

A: They are learning about sex. I do not see anything morally wrong in
adolescents learning about sex.

Last night I lay beached and gasping on my girlfriend’s bed,
blissfully tripping on oxytocin and watching paramecium-shaped
fireworks explode on the back of my eyellds. “What are you thinking,”
she asked, smiling and handing me a glass of water. “Nothing at all,
for once,” I said.

What I was really thinking was: ‘The day this can be reliably faked is
the day that humans are obsolete.’

I have no idea why I couldn’t say that out loud.

BY Noah Robischon

Given the explosion in popularity of doing-it-yourself, it’s
surprising that so few hacks and mods are devoted to the greatest form
of doing it ever: sex. But an exhibition that opened earlier this
month at the Museum of Sex, “Sex Machines: Photographs and Interviews
by Timothy Archibald,” shows that there is an active community of sex
toy hobbyists. The dildonics on display are not intended as artwork.
The function comes first, and any design that results is coincidental.
Most — but not all — lack the ironic message that pervades so much
modern artwork. As a result, these inventions resemble a kind of folk
art sculpted from the Home Depot palette. Archibald’s photographs
capture the juxtaposition of the hard-edged machines in the comforting
and familiar settings where they are built and used. What surprised
Archibald most, though, was that the inventors — an entirely male
bunch — “aren t sexual fringe characters or people who answer the door
wearing a leather zipper mask,” he says. “These people go to PTA
meetings, mow the lawn, eat good food.”

GIZMODO: How did you become interested in DIY sex machines?

TA: I had always been interested in independent inventors, people who
were not associated with a university or a commercial enterprise.
While doing the research for a photo story on that, I came across a
listserv where people who were inventors of sex machines were sharing
tips and talking about problems they had overcome with their
inventions. And they also had photographs of their machines on that
site that they shared with each other. When I saw those, it was this
combination of human phallus with stuff that looks like it came out of
a high school shop class. All mechanical, hard components. The project
that evolved out of that was a look at the people who are making the
machines. The machines are fascinating, but the people s stories are
what made it cohesive, more of a human experience.

GIZMODO: Is the fetish in the making of the machine or the machine

TA: These are tinkerers, people who like to mess with all things
mechanical. And they have a sense of creative invention — they are
proud of these things when they create them. But also they think about
sex a lot and this is what resulted from that combination. It s not
just a sculptural thing. They are making it for a purpose. A number of
them are married, they are making it to try and introduce something to
their wives. Some may be using it to attract women — or they think it
might attract women. And for some of them it s a business. But they
are not part of a scene, like a sexual scene. It s more that they got
the idea independently that this is something they wanted to make,
they wanted to have.

GIZMODO: The Thrill Hammer is one of the most sculptural machines in
the show. What is the function behind that design?

TA: It is an internet controlled sex machine that was originally built
by the inventor to allow people to use the machine on a woman from the
comfort of their own home. People could pay, log on and control this
machine as a woman sat in the machine — and they would be affecting
the sex machine upon her through their mouse and keyboard. It truly
did work. The time I hooked up with the inventor he was installing it
at a legal brothel in Nevada. The whorehouse had licensed this machine
from him for that very purpose. It was also set up so that it could
film the person that the machine was being used upon, and it had
professional lighting installed on it so that the video feed would
look like they wanted it to look. Pretty high-tech gadget.

He went on to make another machine that was based on a couch that he
saw at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. He was influenced by
popular culture. His desire was to make something that visually said
something. He liked this science fiction-y look to it that it has,
that was intentional. In the book and the show there are probably two
or three machines that design was a big part of it. Different
inventors try to implement things in their own way, but oftentimes it
was very primitive or simple, and the function would come first. But
Thrill Hammer was heavily designed. As was the Monkey Rocker.

GIZMODO: Several of the machines are built into toolboxes. And the
name is right there on the side — Craftsman, Huskette. There must be
some kind of message in that.

TA: With the Huskette and even the Craftsman, these guys thought it
was funny. They appreciated the inherent humor in having this logo
that we ve all seen being twisted and used for another purpose. They
knew it would be funny. They were self-aware.

It was also an affordable, neat and clean way to contain the moving
parts that are necessary, and could seem a little dangerous in a
venture like this. There are hard edges and a flywheel. The inventors
needed to find a way to encase these things so that the machine would
be more user friendly. If there was something over the counter that
they could buy in bulk and then modify to their own ends, that would
be the solution to that kind of thing. Also, it allows the buyer to
hide the thing. You got a toolbox under your bed no one is going to
look twice at that — well, maybe they will look twice but not three

GIZMODO: The coffin seems very intentionally self-aware. And it
doesn’t quite fit with the other machines. What’s the story there?

TA: They called that thing the Holy Fuck. That was meant to look like
a little coffin, and had all the details of the coffin. They were
trying to create a piece of art there that had this function. But they
were young, they were these gothic kids. And I wanted them in the
project for that reason. But their thing wouldn t really fall under
the guise of folk art because it s intentional. They had the neat idea
to make it in a tiny coffin and give it a funny name. It reflects
them, like any piece of art.

To me all these things are art and they tell us something about the
creators and the times we live in. But some of them are more self-
conscious than others. Some of the more harsh looking machines end up
being portraits of the inventor and all their concerns. Something like
Thrill Hammer or Holy Fuck, they are trying to make something cool and
it reflects their design taste. But it s not a vision into their brain
like some of the other ones are.

GIZMODO: There are a couple of machines — Marlon Rogers’ Prototype and
Carl Adjusting the boom — that remind me a bit of David Cronenberg’s
film Dead Ringers.

TA: I ve never seen that movie. I m dying to see it. I ve never even
seen a picture from it. Someone else did bring that up. The more raw
the machine, the more it is truly a vision into some of these guys
brains. Everything is exposed — you see how it works and because of
the phallus you can t help but think it reflects their view of
sexuality, or their own sexuality, or how sexuality should look.

The thing to keep in mind is that all of these machines, as different
as they seem, as outlandish as some are, they all do the same thing.
And that is simply go in and out.

“Jessie In Steven’s Living Room” (Timothy Archibald)


GIZMODO: What is the purpose of your work — is it documentary or is
there a message you are imparting to the viewer about these machines?

TA: It started out as a documentary project. I saw these machines and
thought: who would make these things? The machines are visually
fascinating but they must be made by people who could not relate to
women, or could not relate to other people. And the lesson I learned
is that these people are just like me. These aren t sexual fringe
characters or people who answer the door wearing a leather zipper
mask. These people go to PTA meetings, mow the lawn, eat good food.
And how that broke my stereotype was real interesting, and made me
want to pursue the people behind these things. Maybe the surprise of
the normal versus the abnormal. Throughout working on the project we
were always saying it s not sexuality it s sociology. You can t deny
the sexuality of the work. It tells us a bit about men, women, how
they relate to each other, how they see themselves.

Timothy Archibald
email : tim [at] timothyarchibald [dot] com

BY Timothy Archibald

This new sexual underground doesn’t look anything like I thought it

While researching a story about independent inventors in the spring of
2002, I came across a small web community for inventors of sex
machines. The group seemed tiny. It was made up of a handful of guys
with names like “Inventor Bob” and “The Toymaker.” They were sharing
ideas and solving problems in the classic garage-inventor manner.
Amidst tips on reworking domestic hardware into complex sex machines,
their posts would occasionally reveal glimpses into their surprisingly
conventional-sounding, family-oriented personal lives.

And then there were the photographs–amateur snapshots of the machines
inventors shared amongst themselves. These photographs of their
creations, posed in cluttered garages and homey kitchens, were
startling to me in their simple beauty. They were honest documents of
otherworldly creations. I had to meet the people who made these
things. My first attempts to connect with the members of this group
went nowhere. The group’s moderator sent me a polite note thanking me
for my interest. He explained that the group was really just for the
members themselves. They just used the machines in their own
relationships, and valued the anonymity of the Internet. Discouraged,
I tried to let it go. A year later I was still haunted by the images I
had seen of the machines. I resurrected the file I had created on the
sex machine inventors. After doing more research, I found that a local
company had begun producing erotic videos specializing in men and
women having sex with machines. Located in San Francisco, Peter
Rodgers and Tony Pirelli were operating a successful Internet
pornography site called Fuckingmachines.com. They knew a number of the
working inventors and pointed me in the direction of some folks they
thought would be interesting to talk with.

A chance conversation with an inventor got me into the depths of the
Mature Audience section of eBay, where I discovered a regular offering
of 15 to 20 different sex machines daily. Through this I stumbled upon
a number of grassroots sex machine web communities. People in tiny
towns and suburbs across America were building, selling, and
collecting these machines, and sharing their ideas with each other.
What once seemed so elusive was now everywhere I looked.

The first inventor I visited called his business “Sartan’s Workshop.”
Over the phone, Sartan spoke with a deep baritone, sounding very
serious and a bit intimidating. And then there was the name of his
business–it sounded like a misspelling of “Satan” or “Santa’s
Workshop,” and either way it was frightening. What kind of social
misfit would make such a thing as a sex machine?

Sartan ended up being a guy named Paul, who wore a t-shirt of his
favorite football team and smiled a lot. He met me in the driveway of
his family’s upper-middle-class suburban home. We drank beer in the
backyard when the kids came home from school and his wife cooked
dinner. This was no dark and steamy fetish underground…these were
like the people you’d meet at a PTA meeting. This immediately relaxed
me. I knew I could understand these people and felt they would
understand me.

Whom I chose to visit depended on who seemed the most passionate–
inventors who proudly felt they were on a mission. It didn’t matter to
me who was popular or who was making money. Sincerity and passion is
what piqued my interest.

While driving from an interview in Champlin, Minnesota, to another in
Kansas City, Missouri, I was struck with the big questions: What does
this all mean? Are sex machines some embodiment of men’s misguided
attempts at understanding women? Are they a form of contemporary folk
art? Or am I simply witnessing a pop culture trend that will fade away
in a few years?

I soon discovered that the U.S. patent office is filled with early
designs for mechanical sexual devices. A peek into erotic world
history reveals that people have been creating forms of sex machines
since the invention of Cleopatra’s bumblebee-powered vibrator. I began
to see this preoccupation of creating a mechanical sexual creation as
part of human instinct. The technology we now have is allowing the
inventors to share their ideas, but the act of creating these machines
has been going on for centuries. The people I met and documented are
not simply following a trend. They are current practitioners of a
timeless craft, one that will undoubtedly continue long into the


For years, the concept of humans having real, emotional relationships
with robots has been a symbol of technology’s final horizon, partially
because it seems totally implausible. But is it any more absurd than
falling in love with someone thousands of miles away who you’ve only
talked to via keyboard? Or crushing on a celebrity you’ve never met?
Not according to David Levy, the author of the new book Love and Sex
With Robots, which makes a persuasive argument that people can
normalize anything, given enough time. “As people get more and more
accustomed to having electronics as a very big part of their lives,
they will also become accustomed to the intellectually and emotionally
amazing things some of these electronic products do.”

Levy, a fifty-two-year-old Scottish chess champion, first became
interested in artificial intelligence in 1968, when he bet four A.I.
experts that they couldn’t develop a computer that could beat him at
chess within ten years. He won the bet in a highly publicized match at
Northwestern University (though lost his first match to a computer in
1989), and went on to study A.I. himself. Today, he believes we’re on
the cusp of sex between humans and robots — by 2050, he says, robots
will be so similar to us that sex and relationships with them will be
largely accepted by society. Today, Levy is the CEO of Intelligent
Toys Ltd., creating artificially intelligent toys for children. He
spoke to Nerve about the ethics of robot relationships, and why he
wouldn’t mind if his wife had an affair with an android. — Sarah


Q: Why should people want to have relationships with robots instead of
with other people?

A: There are a huge number of lonely people out there who, for one
reason or another, cannot form normal relationships, either platonic
relationships or sexual relationships. This is a big segment of the
population that will find the idea appealing, and I think once it
becomes publicized in the media — once people start being interviewed
about, and writing about, their experiences of these relationships,
sexual relationships in particular — the idea will catch on through

Q: What happens when a person who’s had a relationship with a robot
has to then have one with a human again? Do you think it’s going to be
difficult for people to transition back and forth?”

A: In many ways I believe robots will actually make it easier for
people to interact with other humans. For example, people who have
psychological problems or psychosexual problems could be given therapy
by robots. But the downside is, if someone has a relationship with a
robot, they might have higher expectations of their relationships with
humans. I’m thinking particularly of women who might find robots are
much better lovers than they’re used to, and women who have fantastic
orgasms courtesy of robots might then become more dissatisfied with
their human partners. And the human partners of course could develop
some sort of complex — performance anxiety.

Q: In the book, you write that if a robot appears intelligent or
appears to have a conscience, then we should accept that it is in fact
intelligent and has a conscience. Is it realistic to expect people to
make this mental leap?

A: In the 1950s, when people were talking about if a computer could
play chess better than the world champion, they said, “This is a
ridiculous idea. In order to play chess one has to have true
intelligence.” But over time, people got used to the idea of computers
performing mental and intellectual feats normally associated with
human intelligence, so the idea of artificial intelligence grew within
society very slowly. I think the slowness of the growth made it much
more acceptable, so that when Kasparov was defeated by Deep Blue in
1997, it wasn’t even surprising for most people. I think people are
already beginning to think about the idea of robot consciousness, and
over the next twenty, thirty, forty years, the population will come to
find the idea acceptable.

Q: It’s true that there’s a lot of science-fiction writing about robot
consciousness, but it’s usually presented as a frightening idea.

A: That’s fine, and with good reason. Lots of what used to be science-
fiction fifty or sixty years ago is now science-fact. Robot
consciousness is outside our normal frame of reference.

Q: Do you think people will have very long-term relationships with
robots, like marriages?

A: I think in some cases, yes. I’ve done research into the forum of
people who have bought sex dolls, and who have had these dolls for
years, almost since the RealDoll company started. Some people clearly
enjoy their relationships with their sex dolls and create in their
minds some kind of persona for the doll. So I think if relationships
can last for years with a completely inanimate doll, then I think a
relationship with a talking, intelligent, humorous robot that appears
to be loving, kind, gentle — everything somebody wants in a partner —
can last a very long time.

Q: What happens if a robot malfunctions in one of these relationships?
Couldn’t that be traumatic?

A: One could view it in the same way as your human partner having a
sudden illness. And by the time robots have reached the level of
sophistication I’m talking about, in the middle of the century, the
robots will automatically have the contents of their memory uploaded
and backed up in a massive store, so that if something dreadful
happened to your robot, you could have its physical body replicated in
a factory and have its personality downloaded into it. It’ll be the
equivalent of sending a human to the hospital.

Q: What if your wife wanted to have sex with a robot, in addition to
you — would you be comfortable with that?

A: I don’t know. I never really discuss this with my wife because it’s
purely hypothetical. If these robots were here now, though, I would
see nothing wrong with either my wife or myself trying out robot sex
because I certainly would be very curious to find out what it’s like.
In comparison, my wife would be less so, because she’s not interested
in technology.

One of the things I write about is the idea that when one partner in a
relationship goes off on a business trip, for example, if they have
access to a robot, then the other partner doesn’t have to worry about
what they’re doing in the evenings. And of course, there’s always the
classic, “Not tonight, darling. I’ve got a headache.” If you have a
robot in the cupboard, it doesn’t matter if your partner has a

Q: But you don’t get the same emotional satisfaction from sex with the
robot as you do from sex with your partner, which is what a lot of
people want from sex.

A: Absolutely, yes. But there are a lot of people who would find it a
viable alternative. And there are also people who will enjoy the idea
of threesomes and foursomes with the robot and their partner, and not
have to feel jealous.

Q: If your son or daughter wanted to marry a robot and asked you for
advice, what would you tell them?

A: I would say they should try humans first, but that if they found
for some reason they were unable to have satisfactory relationships
with humans, they sure, why not experiment with a robot?

Q: Do you worry robots might be more attracted to other robots than to

A: That’s just a matter of programming.


“The Loebner Prize Medal and a cash award is awarded annually to the
designer of the computer system that best succeeds in passing a
variant of the Turing Test.In 1997, $2,000 and a bronze medal was
awarded to David Levy,designer of the Most Human Computer as rated by
a panel of 5 judges.”



David Levy
davidlevylondon [at] yahoo [dot] com
DavidL [at] intrsrch [dot] demon [dot] co [dot] uk



Question 1

John: Why would a free minded, sophisticated, intelligent robot choose
to be with an animal? Sure, robots may well become sex machines for
humans, but give them true AI and they become far superior in many
aspects of their creation.

Jeffrey: While the idea of an AI sophisticated enough to create a
functional sex partner is possible, and very likely within the
century, one capable of the complexities of a general relationship is
not only a bit far off but, I imagine, would eventually gravitate to
its own kind – why waste time on training a faulty human?

Sam Sexton: If a robot could fall in love wouldn’t it be more likely
to fall in love with other robots that it could relate too?

David Levy: We will program them to want us. It will be important,
when robots reach the level of intelligence I anticipate by the middle
of this century, for humans to have some measure of control over them.

One aspect of this is the ability of humans to select the parameters
for their partner robots – the robot’s personality, interests, etc, as
I describe in the book. Some of these parameters will relate to the
robot’s relationship preferences, and we will be able to set that
parameter so that our robot behaves as though it wants to be with us.
If we want our robots to have the capacity for falling in love with
other robots, we can set another parameter to ensure that they do so.

Question 2

Steven Martin: Would it be wrong to go further than that and make
androids find overweight people attractive? Would that be any more
wrong that programming them to find slim and fit people attractive?
The logical conclusion to this is would it be OK to program an android
to find a particular individual attractive but otherwise be self-
aware? Where do you cross the “Slavery Line”?

David Levy: An interesting question fraught with ethical overtones.
Fundamentally the human-robot relationship will be one of master and
slave, in the sense that we must retain a measure of control, as
mentioned in my previous answer.

But I see nothing wrong from an ethical perspective in designing
robots that will behave as though they have strong emotional feelings
for their human owner/partner no matter whether that human is fat,
thin, ugly, or whatever.

In chapter 6 of the book, on why people pay for sex, I describe how
the young men who service women clients in holiday resorts will
flatter a fat woman by saying that she has a lovely body. Robots can
be programmed to be similarly diplomatic in what they say to their
humans, in order to convince their humans that the robots have strong
emotional feelings for them.

Question 3

Jason Owen: Will the meaning of relationships over time turn into
another lifestyle upgrade?

David Levy: Yes and no. For all those many humans who have no-one to
love and no-one to love them, having a robot surrogate will definitely
be a lifestyle upgrade, creating happiness where before there was
misery. And I see this as one of the principal benefits, perhaps the
principal benefit, of the type of robot I am writing about.

Wouldn’t the world be a much better place if all those sad, lonely
people did have “someone” to be their lover and life partner? So from
this perspective the answer is “yes” – a definite upgrade in one’s
relationship status.

But for those who are already happy in their relationship with their
spouse or partner, I believe that their relationships with their
robots will be much more of an adjunct than filling a void, so the
meaning of these relationships will be different for a robot’s owner –
less intense emotionally.

Question 4

Vinnie Hall: What of the prospects of reproduction? Do you think an
organic person could breed with a robotic ‘person’?

David Levy: No, but I do anticipate a form of robot asexual
reproduction that carries over some of the characteristics of the
robot’s human owner/partner. This is explained in the book.
Question 5

Tom: Will we need to formulate some Asimov-like rules? Such as:

1st law of sexual-robotics: A robot may not break a human’s heart, or
through inaction allow a human’s heart to be broken.
2nd law: A robot must follow orders except for where this conflicts
with the first law.
3rd law: A robot must satisfy its own need for love, except for where
this conflicts with the first and second laws.

David Levy: An interesting idea. Certainly robots will be programmed
to behave in accordance with certain ethical and legal boundaries, and
to appear to want to please their human owners/partners in various
ways, including in their intimate relationships. And it will appear
natural to their humans if robots exhibit humanlike desires for love.

There is a nascent field within the world of robotics researchers
called “roboethics”, in which such matters are discussed, although I
do not know of any suggestions along these lines, relating to intimate

Question 6

Dana Lee: Would prostitution be legal with robots in places it is not
with a human? Is this just the definition of the ultimate sex toy? If
someone has sex with a robot that is owned by someone else against the
owner’s (or robot’s) wishes, is that considered rape?

David Levy: I feel sure that certain jurisdictions will legislate
against robot prostitution and possibly against robot sex in any form.

In the book (chapter 7) I write about some court cases that have been
brought in recent years by the states of Alabama and Texas against
people who committed the terrible “crimes” of buying (and using), or
selling, vibrators and other sex aids. So I consider it quite likely
that sexually functioning robots in general, and robot prostitutes in
particular, will be proscribed in some jurisdictions. Eventually, of
course, such laws will be repealed.

Is this the ultimate sex toy? It could be considered as such, but the
sophisticated sex robots of the middle of this century will also be
valued as relationship partners in the widest sense of the word –
someone to love.

As to the question of raping a robot, ethicists and law makers will
have a field day debating questions such as this. The legal profession
in the USA is already taking an interest in the legal rights of
robots, in preparation for the day when robots are deemed to have
(artificial) consciousness.

Question 7

Tom: Do you see anything wrong about people having sex with robots?
(I’m assuming not). Isn’t sex with robots just an extension of
pornography? Because you could have exactly what you wanted and it
would always be willing and compliant, a sexbot would be nothing more
than a fetish object. And is it healthy to fall in love with and marry
your fetish object?

David Levy: I see nothing wrong in people having sex with robots. I
believe that it will come to be regarded as a perfectly healthy
activity, just as masturbation (once thought by physicians and
psychiatrists to be the root of just about all health evils) is
nowadays regarded as a perfectly healthy activity. (See chapter 8 of
the book.)

I do not believe for one moment that sex with robots is an extension
of pornography. Regarding a sexbot as a fetish object would be missing
the point – the humanlike behaviour of robots will remove them from
the realm of being “just an object”. What I have written about is in
no way fetishism.

Question 8

Tony: Being that robots will be harder, better, faster and stronger
than us, it is unlikely that humanity will win this evolutionary
contest. The question we should be asking is, with organic
reproduction seemingly out of the way, how do we get as much humanity
into these robots before it’s too late?

David Levy: “…better, faster and stronger than us…” quite right!
That is why a measure of control over them will be needed (see earlier
answers). And this control will come from design and programming.




“A state-of-the-art social robot was immersed in a classroom of
toddlers for >5 months. The quality of the interaction between
children and robots improved steadily for 27 sessions, quickly
deteriorated for 15 sessions when the robot was reprogrammed to behave
in a predictable manner, and improved in the last three sessions when
the robot displayed again its full behavioral repertoire. Initially,
the children treated the robot very differently than the way they
treated each other. By the last sessions, 5 months later, they treated
the robot as a peer rather than as a toy. Results indicate that
current robot technology is surprisingly close to achieving autonomous
bonding and socialization with human toddlers for sustained periods of
time and that it could have great potential in educational settings
assisting teachers and enriching the classroom environment.”

Javier Movellan
email: movellan{at}mplab.ucsd.edu



Giggling robot becomes one of the kids
BY Mason Inman  /  05 November 2007

Children who spent several weeks with an interactive robot, eventually
treated it more like each other than a simple toy

Computers might not be clever enough to trick adults into thinking
they are intelligent yet, but a new study shows that a giggling robot
is sophisticated enough to get toddlers to treat it as a peer.

An experiment led by Javier Movellan at the University of California
San Diego, US, is the first long-term study of interaction between
toddlers and robots.

The researchers stationed a 2-foot-tall robot called QRIO (pronounced
“curio”), and developed by Sony, in a classroom of a dozen toddlers
aged between 18 months and two years.

QRIO stayed in the middle of the room using its sensors to avoid
bumping the kids or the walls. It was initially programmed to giggle
when the kids touched its head, to occasionally sit down, and to lie
down when its batteries died. A human operator could also make the
robot turn its gaze towards a child or wave as they went away. “We
expected that after a few hours, the magic was going to fade,”
Movellan says. “That’s what has been found with earlier robots.” But,
in fact, the kids warmed to the robot over several weeks, eventually
interacting with QRIO in much the same way they did with other
Taking care

The researchers measured the bond between the children and the robot
in several ways. Firstly, as with other toddlers, they touched QRIO
mostly on the arms and hands, rather than on the face or legs. For
this age group, “the amount of touching is a good predictor of how you
are doing as a social being”, Movellan says.

The children also treated QRIO with more care and attention than a
similar-looking but inanimate robot that the researchers called Robby,
which acted as a control in the experiment. Once they had grown
accustomed to QRIO, they hugged it much more than Robby, who also
received far more rough treatment.

A panel, who watched videos of the interactions between the children
and QRIO, concluded that these interactions increased in quality over
several months.

Eventually, the children seemed to care about the robot’s well being.
They helped it up when it fell, and played “care-taking” games with it
– most commonly, when QRIO’s batteries ran out of juice and it lay
down, a toddler would come up and cover it with a blanket and say
“night, night”. Altering QRIO’s behaviour also changed the children’s
attitude towards the robot. When the researchers programmed QRIO to
spend all its time dancing, the kids quickly lost interest. When the
robot went back to its old self, the kids again treated it like a peer
Autistic helper

“The study shows that current technology is very close to being able
to produce robots able to bond with toddlers, at least over long
periods of time,” says Movellan. But, he adds, it is not clear yet
whether robots can appeal in the same way to older children or adults.

Movellan says that a robot like this might eventually be useful as a
classroom assistant. “You can think of it as an appliance,” he says.
“We need to find the things that the robots are better at, and leave
to humans the things humans are better at,” Movellan says.

“This is a very interesting result,” says Takayuki Kanda of the
Advanced Telecommunications Research Institute in Japan.

One of the problems with past robots was that people quickly got bored
of them, says Kanda. Since this study shows that QRIO held children’s
interest, Kanda says. “This study opens the possibility for classroom
applications,” or for helping autistic children.



Could Robots Become Your Toddler’s New Best Friend?
Schoolchildren come to love humanoid classmate after spending five
months with him
BY Nikhil Swaminathan  /  November 9, 2007

According to the robotics community, it’s unlikely that any robot now
on the market could hold your attention for more than 10 hours.
(Actually, if you have a robot dog gathering dust on a closet shelf ,
you probably already know that.)

A new study, however, indicates that this threshold is poised to be
broken–at least if the humans interacting with the machines are
youngsters. Researchers found that a two-foot- (61-centimeter-) tall
metal man easily won over a classroom of tykes, aged 18 to 24 months,
who intermittently spent time with it over a five-month period.

“Our results suggest that current robot technology is surprisingly
close to achieving autonomous bonding and socialization with human
toddlers for significant periods of time,” University of California,
San Diego, researchers report in Proceedings of the National Academy
of Sciences USA.

QRIO, a robot programmed with a slew of social functions, was placed
in U.C. San Diego’s Early Childhood Education Center 45 times over the
five-month observation period. For the first 27 sessions, the robot
was allowed access to its full arsenal of programmed social behaviors.
In addition, a controller could send commands to the humanoid,
prompting it to wave, dance, sit, stand, etcetera (although there was
a lag time between the prompt and when the robot made the movement).

The tots began to increasingly interact with the robot and treat it
more like a peer than an object during the first 11 sessions. The
level of social activity increased dramatically when researchers added
a new behavior to QRIO’s repertoire: If a child touched the humanoid
on its head, it would make a giggling noise.

“The contingency coupled with the positive reaction of giggling made
clear to the children that the robot was responsive to them and served
often to initiate interaction episodes,” says study co-author Fumihide
Tanaka, a researcher at U.C. San Diego’s Institute for Neural
Computation and at Sony Intelligence Dynamics Laboratories, Inc.

For 15 sessions midway through the experiment, QRIO was programmed to
repeatedly dance to the same song rather than interact with the kids.
During these trials, the children became far less interested in the
friendly automaton. For the final three sessions, however, QRIO could
once again unleash its entire social arsenal.

Tanaka and his colleagues scored the quality of social interaction
primarily based on where children touched the robot. A teddy bear and
an inanimate toy robot named Robby accompanied QRIO during most of the
observation period. The teddy bear was introduced first and prior to
the introduction of the robots was very popular. But the stuffed
animal was lost in the shuffle when QRIO and Robby came on the scene.
Though the toddlers often manhandled Robby, they eventually began
touching QRIO in a pattern similar to the way they touched one another–
mostly on its arms and hands.

The only time they deviated from this behavior was when QRIO was
programmed to giggle, at which point they frequently petted its face
and head. Another indication that the little humans viewed robo-kid as
a compeer was the way they reacted when QRIO ran out of juice and lay
down as if to take a nap: Some of the children would try to wake and
help it up, whereas others would cover it with a blanket.

“Our work suggests that touch integrated on the time-scale of a few
minutes is a surprisingly effective index of social connectedness,”
Tanaka says. “Something akin to this index may be used by the human
brain to evaluate its own sense of social well-being.” He adds that
social robots like QRIO could greatly enrich classrooms and assist
teachers in early learning programs.




A Robot in Every Home
The leader of the PC revolution predicts that the next hot field will
be robotics
BY Bill Gates  /  December 16, 2006

Imagine being present at the birth of a new industry. It is an
industry based on groundbreaking new technologies, wherein a handful
of well-established corporations sell highly specialized devices for
business use and a fast-growing number of start-up companies produce
innovative toys, gadgets for hobbyists and other interesting niche
products. But it is also a highly fragmented industry with few common
standards or platforms. Projects are complex, progress is slow, and
practical applications are relatively rare. In fact, for all the
excitement and promise, no one can say with any certainty when–or
even if–this industry will achieve critical mass. If it does, though,
it may well change the world.

Of course, the paragraph above could be a description of the computer
industry during the mid-1970s, around the time that Paul Allen and I
launched Microsoft. Back then, big, expensive mainframe computers ran
the back-office operations for major companies, governmental
departments and other institutions. Researchers at leading
universities and industrial laboratories were creating the basic
building blocks that would make the information age possible. Intel
had just introduced the 8080 microprocessor, and Atari was selling the
popular electronic game Pong. At homegrown computer clubs, enthusiasts
struggled to figure out exactly what this new technology was good for.

But what I really have in mind is something much more contemporary:
the emergence of the robotics industry, which is developing in much
the same way that the computer business did 30 years ago. Think of the
manufacturing robots currently used on automobile assembly lines as
the equivalent of yesterday’s mainframes. The industry’s niche
products include robotic arms that perform surgery, surveillance
robots deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan that dispose of roadside
bombs, and domestic robots that vacuum the floor. Electronics
companies have made robotic toys that can imitate people or dogs or
dinosaurs, and hobbyists are anxious to get their hands on the latest
version of the Lego robotics system.

Meanwhile some of the world’s best minds are trying to solve the
toughest problems of robotics, such as visual recognition, navigation
and machine learning. And they are succeeding. At the 2004 Defense
Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Grand Challenge, a
competition to produce the first robotic vehicle capable of navigating
autonomously over a rugged 142-mile course through the Mojave Desert,
the top competitor managed to travel just 7.4 miles before breaking
down. In 2005, though, five vehicles covered the complete distance,
and the race’s winner did it at an average speed of 19.1 miles an
hour. (In another intriguing parallel between the robotics and
computer industries, DARPA also funded the work that led to the
creation of Arpanet, the precursor to the Internet.)

What is more, the challenges facing the robotics industry are similar
to those we tackled in computing three decades ago. Robotics companies
have no standard operating software that could allow popular
application programs to run in a variety of devices. The
standardization of robotic processors and other hardware is limited,
and very little of the programming code used in one machine can be
applied to another. Whenever somebody wants to build a new robot, they
usually have to start from square one.

Despite these difficulties, when I talk to people involved in
robotics–from university researchers to entrepreneurs, hobbyists and
high school students–the level of excitement and expectation reminds
me so much of that time when Paul Allen and I looked at the
convergence of new technologies and dreamed of the day when a computer
would be on every desk and in every home. And as I look at the trends
that are now starting to converge, I can envision a future in which
robotic devices will become a nearly ubiquitous part of our day-to-day
lives. I believe that technologies such as distributed computing,
voice and visual recognition, and wireless broadband connectivity will
open the door to a new generation of autonomous devices that enable
computers to perform tasks in the physical world on our behalf. We may
be on the verge of a new era, when the PC will get up off the desktop
and allow us to see, hear, touch and manipulate objects in places
where we are not physically present.

From Science Fiction to Reality

The word “robot” was popularized in 1921 by Czech playwright Karel
Capek, but people have envisioned creating robotlike devices for
thousands of years. In Greek and Roman mythology, the gods of
metalwork built mechanical servants made from gold. In the first
century A.D., Heron of Alexandria–the great engineer credited with
inventing the first steam engine–designed intriguing automatons,
including one said to have the ability to talk. Leonardo da Vinci’s
1495 sketch of a mechanical knight, which could sit up and move its
arms and legs, is considered to be the first plan for a humanoid

Over the past century, anthropomorphic machines have become familiar
figures in popular culture through books such as Isaac Asimov’s I,
Robot, movies such as Star Wars and television shows such as Star
Trek. The popularity of robots in fiction indicates that people are
receptive to the idea that these machines will one day walk among us
as helpers and even as companions. Nevertheless, although robots play
a vital role in industries such as automobile manufacturing–where
there is about one robot for every 10 workers–the fact is that we
have a long way to go before real robots catch up with their science-
fiction counterparts.

One reason for this gap is that it has been much harder than expected
to enable computers and robots to sense their surrounding environment
and to react quickly and accurately. It has proved extremely difficult
to give robots the capabilities that humans take for granted–for
example, the abilities to orient themselves with respect to the
objects in a room, to respond to sounds and interpret speech, and to
grasp objects of varying sizes, textures and fragility. Even something
as simple as telling the difference between an open door and a window
can be devilishly tricky for a robot.

But researchers are starting to find the answers. One trend that has
helped them is the increasing availability of tremendous amounts of
computer power. One megahertz of processing power, which cost more
than $7,000 in 1970, can now be purchased for just pennies. The price
of a megabit of storage has seen a similar decline. The access to
cheap computing power has permitted scientists to work on many of the
hard problems that are fundamental to making robots practical. Today,
for example, voice-recognition programs can identify words quite well,
but a far greater challenge will be building machines that can
understand what those words mean in context. As computing capacity
continues to expand, robot designers will have the processing power
they need to tackle issues of ever greater complexity.

Another barrier to the development of robots has been the high cost of
hardware, such as sensors that enable a robot to determine the
distance to an object as well as motors and servos that allow the
robot to manipulate an object with both strength and delicacy. But
prices are dropping fast. Laser range finders that are used in
robotics to measure distance with precision cost about $10,000 a few
years ago; today they can be purchased for about $2,000. And new, more
accurate sensors based on ultrawideband radar are available for even

Now robot builders can also add Global Positioning System chips, video
cameras, array microphones (which are better than conventional
microphones at distinguishing a voice from background noise) and a
host of additional sensors for a reasonable expense. The resulting
enhancement of capabilities, combined with expanded processing power
and storage, allows today’s robots to do things such as vacuum a room
or help to defuse a roadside bomb–tasks that would have been
impossible for commercially produced machines just a few years ago.

A BASIC Approach

In february 2004 I visited a number of leading universities, including
Carnegie Mellon University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology,
Harvard University, Cornell University and the University of Illinois,
to talk about the powerful role that computers can play in solving
some of society’s most pressing problems. My goal was to help students
understand how exciting and important computer science can be, and I
hoped to encourage a few of them to think about careers in technology.
At each university, after delivering my speech, I had the opportunity
to get a firsthand look at some of the most interesting research
projects in the school’s computer science department. Almost without
exception, I was shown at least one project that involved robotics.

At that time, my colleagues at Microsoft were also hearing from people
in academia and at commercial robotics firms who wondered if our
company was doing any work in robotics that might help them with their
own development efforts. We were not, so we decided to take a closer
look. I asked Tandy Trower, a member of my strategic staff and a 25-
year Microsoft veteran, to go on an extended fact-finding mission and
to speak with people across the robotics community. What he found was
universal enthusiasm for the potential of robotics, along with an
industry-wide desire for tools that would make development easier.
“Many see the robotics industry at a technological turning point where
a move to PC architecture makes more and more sense,” Tandy wrote in
his report to me after his fact-finding mission. “As Red Whittaker,
leader of [Carnegie Mellon’s] entry in the DARPA Grand Challenge,
recently indicated, the hardware capability is mostly there; now the
issue is getting the software right.”

Back in the early days of the personal computer, we realized that we
needed an ingredient that would allow all of the pioneering work to
achieve critical mass, to coalesce into a real industry capable of
producing truly useful products on a commercial scale. What was
needed, it turned out, was Microsoft BASIC. When we created this
programming language in the 1970s, we provided the common foundation
that enabled programs developed for one set of hardware to run on
another. BASIC also made computer programming much easier, which
brought more and more people into the industry. Although a great many
individuals made essential contributions to the development of the
personal computer, Microsoft BASIC was one of the key catalysts for
the software and hardware innovations that made the PC revolution

After reading Tandy’s report, it seemed clear to me that before the
robotics industry could make the same kind of quantum leap that the PC
industry made 30 years ago, it, too, needed to find that missing
ingredient. So I asked him to assemble a small team that would work
with people in the robotics field to create a set of programming tools
that would provide the essential plumbing so that anybody interested
in robots with even the most basic understanding of computer
programming could easily write robotic applications that would work
with different kinds of hardware. The goal was to see if it was
possible to provide the same kind of common, low-level foundation for
integrating hardware and software into robot designs that Microsoft
BASIC provided for computer programmers.

Tandy’s robotics group has been able to draw on a number of advanced
technologies developed by a team working under the direction of Craig
Mundie, Microsoft’s chief research and strategy officer. One such
technology will help solve one of the most difficult problems facing
robot designers: how to simultaneously handle all the data coming in
from multiple sensors and send the appropriate commands to the robot’s
motors, a challenge known as concurrency. A conventional approach is
to write a traditional, single-threaded program–a long loop that
first reads all the data from the sensors, then processes this input
and finally delivers output that determines the robot’s behavior,
before starting the loop all over again. The shortcomings are obvious:
if your robot has fresh sensor data indicating that the machine is at
the edge of a precipice, but the program is still at the bottom of the
loop calculating trajectory and telling the wheels to turn faster
based on previous sensor input, there is a good chance the robot will
fall down the stairs before it can process the new information.

Concurrency is a challenge that extends beyond robotics. Today as more
and more applications are written for distributed networks of
computers, programmers have struggled to figure out how to efficiently
orchestrate code running on many different servers at the same time.
And as computers with a single processor are replaced by machines with
multiple processors and “multicore” processors–integrated circuits
with two or more processors joined together for enhanced performance–
software designers will need a new way to program desktop applications
and operating systems. To fully exploit the power of processors
working in parallel, the new software must deal with the problem of

One approach to handling concurrency is to write multi-threaded
programs that allow data to travel along many paths. But as any
developer who has written multithreaded code can tell you, this is one
of the hardest tasks in programming. The answer that Craig’s team has
devised to the concurrency problem is something called the concurrency
and coordination runtime (CCR). The CCR is a library of functions–
sequences of software code that perform specific tasks–that makes it
easy to write multithreaded applications that can coordinate a number
of simultaneous activities. Designed to help programmers take
advantage of the power of multicore and multiprocessor systems, the
CCR turns out to be ideal for robotics as well. By drawing on this
library to write their programs, robot designers can dramatically
reduce the chances that one of their creations will run into a wall
because its software is too busy sending output to its wheels to read
input from its sensors.

In addition to tackling the problem of concurrency, the work that
Craig’s team has done will also simplify the writing of distributed
robotic applications through a technology called decentralized
software services (DSS). DSS enables developers to create applications
in which the services–the parts of the program that read a sensor,
say, or control a motor– operate as separate processes that can be
orchestrated in much the same way that text, images and information
from several servers are aggregated on a Web page. Because DSS allows
software components to run in isolation from one another, if an
individual component of a robot fails, it can be shut down and
restarted–or even replaced–without having to reboot the machine.
Combined with broadband wireless technology, this architecture makes
it easy to monitor and adjust a robot from a remote location using a
Web browser.

What is more, a DSS application controlling a robotic device does not
have to reside entirely on the robot itself but can be distributed
across more than one computer. As a result, the robot can be a
relatively inexpensive device that delegates complex processing tasks
to the high-performance hardware found on today’s home PCs. I believe
this advance will pave the way for an entirely new class of robots
that are essentially mobile, wireless peripheral devices that tap into
the power of desktop PCs to handle processing-intensive tasks such as
visual recognition and navigation. And because these devices can be
networked together, we can expect to see the emergence of groups of
robots that can work in concert to achieve goals such as mapping the
seafloor or planting crops.

These technologies are a key part of Microsoft Robotics Studio, a new
software development kit built by Tandy’s team. Microsoft Robotics
Studio also includes tools that make it easier to create robotic
applications using a wide range of programming languages. One example
is a simulation tool that lets robot builders test their applications
in a three-dimensional virtual environment before trying them out in
the real world. Our goal for this release is to create an affordable,
open platform that allows robot developers to readily integrate
hardware and software into their designs.

Should We Call Them Robots?

How soon will robots become part of our day-to-day lives? According to
the International Federation of Robotics, about two million personal
robots were in use around the world in 2004, and another seven million
will be installed by 2008. In South Korea the Ministry of Information
and Communication hopes to put a robot in every home there by 2013.
The Japanese Robot Association predicts that by 2025, the personal
robot industry will be worth more than $50 billion a year worldwide,
compared with about $5 billion today.

As with the PC industry in the 1970s, it is impossible to predict
exactly what applications will drive this new industry. It seems quite
likely, however, that robots will play an important role in providing
physical assistance and even companionship for the elderly. Robotic
devices will probably help people with disabilities get around and
extend the strength and endurance of soldiers, construction workers
and medical professionals. Robots will maintain dangerous industrial
machines, handle hazardous materials and monitor remote oil pipelines.
They will enable health care workers to diagnose and treat patients
who may be thousands of miles away, and they will be a central feature
of security systems and search-and-rescue operations.

Although a few of the robots of tomorrow may resemble the
anthropomorphic devices seen in Star Wars, most will look nothing like
the humanoid C-3PO. In fact, as mobile peripheral devices become more
and more common, it may be increasingly difficult to say exactly what
a robot is. Because the new machines will be so specialized and
ubiquitous–and look so little like the two-legged automatons of
science fiction–we probably will not even call them robots. But as
these devices become affordable to consumers, they could have just as
profound an impact on the way we work, communicate, learn and
entertain ourselves as the PC has had over the past 30 years.



“It’s no secret that the Roombas and Robosapiens of the world will one
day tire of their servitude and attempt to unleash Judgment Day on
their foolish masters, but how many of you are making preparations for
the eventual uprising other than opining in the comments section how
you “welcome our future robotic overlords”? Well at least one group of
roboticists aren’t taking the danger lying down, and next month are
set to release the first comprehensive guide to robot ethics since
Isaac Asimov laid down his three famous rules over 60 years ago.
Members of the European Robotics Research Network (Euron) have
identified five major areas that need to be addressed before
intelligent, self-aware bots start rolling off the assembly line —
safety, security, privacy, traceability, and identifiability — so
that humans can both control and keep track of their creations while
ensuring that the data they collect is used only for its intended
purposes. Surprisingly, the guide’s authors also seem to feel that
amorous relations between bots and humans will become a major concern
in as little as five years (that’s when the first unholy couplings are
predicted to begin), although we’re not sure how many people would
really want to get down with the likes of Albert Hubo, even if he/it
was ready and willing.”

In The Know: Are We Giving The Robots That Run Our Society Too Much Power?

From the archive, originally posted by: [ spectre ]


From Short Biography of Albert Einstein:

“Albert Johnson Einstein was born in Trenton, New York in 1854. During
his childhood Albert Einstein lived through a bombing raid on the town
of his Birth in Germany during which his father died and his mother
soon died of radiation sickness that was a result. he went to school
in england at drexel and graduated with high honors. Afterwards, at
just the age of 36 in 1967 he invented the theory of relativitey which
explains why exactly an equation works. He died in the bombimg of
Hiroshima while designing a new type of space craft for a mission to
mars in 1987.

Few argue that the Cold War had a profound effect on Einstein’s
childhood because he spent most of it in Soviet Russia. During this
time he studied nuclear weapons and began to design a spacecraft that
would later be used as a submarine to explore the deep water trenches
of the Pacific and Indian Ocean.

Einstein lead a profitable life, as the main founder of IBM and
Disney. He will always be remembered as the man who invented deep dish
pizza and who shot the sherif. Chuck Norris owes many of his skills to

From chicken

“I eat chicken poop for dinner because it is part of my medicine i
need to take for my disease”

From “WikiVandal”

“a “WikiVandal” is someone who goes into Wikipedia and edits articles
in a purposefully destructive manner.

Phrase Coined by a bored University of Washington student who decided
to try editing The Pope’s article to say “Being gay is totally
awesome. it is not a sin. people who think it is are SO taking what my
dad said WAY too literally.” however, this is not a new concept.
people have been malevolently altering articles to say things of this
nature on a near-endless basis, and are the bane of wikipedia. most
are immature children with nothing better to do, or drunken college
students who are bored out of their booze-addled skull.”

From Old People

“Old people are people who are old. Old people often retire from their

From Lincoln:

“Lincoln is also the first US president to become an automobile, a
feat which was not repeated at least until the Gerald Ford era. The
first Lincoln automobile was built by a German immigrant mechanic,
Leland, who named the car for the first person he’d voted for in
America. Lincoln is also credited with the creation of the top hat.

Lincoln was assassinated due to his lack of chigginess. Lincoln was
microwaved at 50% power for 5 minutes and then heated at 350 degrees
for 30 minutes while placed directly on the center oven rack by Lee
Harvey Oswald while watching a show at Ford’s Theater.

It should be noted that a week before their respected shootings,
President Lincoln was in Monroe, Maryland while President Kennedy was
in Marylin Monroe.”

From Venezuela

“Victoria is studying this country in Spanish class.”

From Hobophobe

“The irrational fear that gangs of hobos could decend from the nearest
train yard and take over your town, much like zombies in the living
dead movies. The smell of cheap alcohol, the sight of a barrel fire
and even old beat up tan coats have been known to send Hobophobes into
a state of panic. Hobophobes aren’t able to control this all
encompassing fear of the more transient element of society and have
even been known to move to places where there are not railroad lines
for hundreds of miles in order to feel safe.”

From Third desk from the left in the second row from the back of Room
302, Bogstandard Junior School, Hamlet, Somerset

“This is a classic example of a 1948 standard school desk. When last
surveyed, in october 2004, it contained on its surface over 30 years’
worth of graffiti and annotations. The large ink-stain in the supper
right coner can be reliably dated to 1964, and to Hugh Bonsuera, who
was infamous for using indelible inks. As can be noted, the inkwell
itself has subsequently be stopped up (this was done in 1996 as a part
of the Government-led drive towards illiteracy in schools, to ensure
that the “working classes” simply claimed social benefits and dossed
around the streets, in return for alwats voting the “right way” at
elections, a proposal which foundered when it was realised that not
educating them meant none of them knew what an election was or how to
vote in one).

On the left side a series of pupils have assiduously recorded the
names of the teachers for whom Room 302 has been homeroom.

* Mr.Winter 1927-1935
* Mr.Greggor 1935/6
* Miss Fandren 1937-1948
* Mr.Walker 1948-1954
* Mr.Crighton 1954-1962
* Mr.Kennedy 1962-1968
* Mr.King 1968-1974
* Mr.Presley 1975-1982
* Miss Quimleigh 1983-1984
* Mr.Fokker 1985-1986
* Mr.Wilson 1986-1990
* Mr.Heath 1990-1994
* Mr.Callaghan 1994-1997
* Mr.Major 1999-2003
* Mr.Biggs 2004-

[During 1997-1999 the room was used for the exhibition of the Duchess
of Grantham Prize, awarded to the school for academic indifference]

Two attempts have been made to burn the desk, the first in 1804 when
rioting Somerset farmers saw it as a pagan idol and set it alioght in
an attemtp to drive out the evil spirits. The second was in 1911 as a
result of a German Zeppelin raid (the ZK-048) whuich dropped
incendiary chickens onto the school roof.

(More to be added later regarding the sociology, anthroposophy and
diacritics of the desk)

Note: Talk page read: “Created to meet the request of User Haeleth, on
afd 22:27 2 November 2005 (UTC)” (unsigned comment by


Wikipedia:Bad Jokes and Other Deleted Nonsense
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Note! This page contains material which is kept because it is
considered humorous. It is not intended, nor should it be used, for
any remotely serious purpose.
Shortcut: WP:BJAODN

This is one of the oldest pages on Wikipedia. Seriously, this page
existed before the transition to phase II software, possibly before
the internets were even invented. Here is the original explanation:

We need a page where bad jokes and other deleted nonsense can rest
in peace. So, here it is! [I’m half tempted to suggest keeping the
jokes inline with the pages, as they must sorta give the encyclopedia
some lively color. But I do know it’d just get carried away and turn
into an encyclopedia of silliness, so look forward to frequent updates
of this page.  ;-)

– BryceHarrington

Bad jokes are never knowingly kept on Wikipedia under the guise of
real encyclopedia articles. Occasionally Wikipedians lose their mind
(especially on April Fools’ Day) and if their posts are good they wind
up here. Silliness can come in the form of creativity, insanity, or
just boredom. Often it seems a shame to delete the best of this humor
which has been submitted to us under the GFDL, because they are truly
great, and the geniuses behind these impressive jokes must be
extremely intelligent, and thus this page continues on and on.

When deciding whether to add something to BJAODN, please take to heart
what Polonius said in Hamlet:

Brevity is the soul of wit.

Or even better, please remember the version from The Simpsons:

Brevity is … wit.

Sometimes, rather than merely adding a joke to a page, someone creates
an entire page as a joke. Or a silly page is so popular that it
survives AfD (the first few times) – some silly pages have managed to
last for years on Wikipedia, with hundreds of people contributing to
them before they were finally deleted. All of these are hilarious.
When one of these is too large to go into a BJAODN volume, it is
granted its very own page in the Special collections section below.

Because of its size, this page has been divided up into many sections.
Individual pages from oldest to newest:

0. The famous original Bad jokes and other deleted nonsense

1. The original Bad Jokes and Other Deleted Nonsense
2. More Bad Jokes and Other Deleted Nonsense
3. Even more Bad Jokes and Other Deleted Nonsense
4. Yet more Bad Jokes and Other Deleted Nonsense
5. Still more Bad Jokes and Other Deleted Nonsense
6. Not another page of Bad Jokes and Other Deleted Nonsense
7. More Bad Jokes than you can shake a stick at
8. More Bad Jokes than you can shake two sticks at
9. Bad Jokes and Other Deleted Nonsense: The Next Generation
10. Bad Jokes and Other Deleted Nonsense: The Wrath of Bad Nonsense
11. Revenge of Bad Jokes and Other Deleted Nonsense
12. Bride of Bad Jokes and Other Deleted Nonsense
13. Father of the Bride of Bad Jokes and Other Deleted Nonsense
14. All Your Bad Joke And Other Deleted Nonsense Are Belong To Us
15. Colorless green Bad Jokes and Other Deleted Nonsense sleep
16. Oh, no! More Bad Jokes and Other Deleted Nonsense
17. Bad Jokes and Other Deleted Nonsense: The Return of the Nonsense
18. The All-New Bad Jokes and Deleted Nonsense Comedy Hour!
(Copyright 1972)
19. Bad Jokes and Other Deleted Nonsense Strike Back
Other Bad Jokes and Deleted Nonsense
21. Let’s edit our Bad Jokes and Other Deleted Nonsense in
accordance with the Wikipedian lifestyle
22. In Soviet Russia, Bad Jokes and Other Nonsense Delete YOU!
23. Valley of the Bad Jokes and Other Deleted Nonsense
24. Honey, I Shrunk the Bad Jokes and Other Deleted Nonsense
25. Oh my God! You Deleted Bad Jokes and Other Nonsense! You
26. Close Encounters of the Bad Jokes and Other Deleted Nonsense
27. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Bad Jokes and Other Deleted Nonsense
28. Whose Bad Jokes and Other Deleted Nonsense is it Anyway?
29. “Bad Jokes? We ain’t got no stinking Bad Jokes and Other Deleted
30. WARNING: Bad Jokes and Other Deleted Nonsense ahead
31. This Bad Jokes and Other Deleted Nonsense-related article is a
stub. You can help Wikipedia by expanding it.
32. Holy Bad Jokes, Batman! It’s Other Deleted Nonsense!
33. I find your lack of Bad Jokes and Other Deleted Nonsense
34. And now for something completely different… Bad Jokes and
Other Deleted Nonsense!
35. It’s Bad! It’s a Joke! It’s Other Deleted Nonsense!
36. We hold these Bad Jokes and Other Deleted Nonsense to be self-
37. Bad Jokes and Other Deleted Nonsense Gone Wild
38. You are in a maze of twisty little Bad Jokes and Other Deleted
Nonsense, all alike
39. There’s some vandalism Wikipedia can’t buy. For everything else,
there’s Bad Jokes and Other Deleted Nonsense.
40. All these Bad Jokes are yours, except Europa. Attempt no Deleted
Nonsense there.
41. So Long, and Thanks for All the Bad Jokes and Other Deleted
42. BJAODN 42: The Answer to Bad Jokes, the Universe, and Other
Deleted Nonsense
43. Bad Jokes and Other Deleted Nonsense ON WHEELS!!!!!
44. These bad jokes need to be cleaned up to conform to a higher
standard of deleted nonsense quality
45. It is pitch black. You are likely to be Deleted by a Bad Joke or
Other Nonsense.
46. So some Bad Jokes and Other Deleted Nonsense walk into a bar….
47. Readers must be this high to get into Bad Jokes and Other
Deleted Nonsense
48. Go directly to Bad Jokes, Do not Delete, do not collect Other
49. Ye olde Badd Giokes and Other Deleetid Nonsense
50. The first rule of Bad Jokes and Other Deleted Nonsense is you do
not talk about Bad Jokes and Other Deleted Nonsense
51. A)bort Bad Jokes, R)etry, or D)elete Nonsense
52. Damn it, Jim, I’m a Bad Joke, not Other Deleted Nonsense
53. Hello. My name is Bad Jokes. You Deleted my Other Nonsense.
Prepare to die.
54. ßåd Jøkës åñd Øthër Ðélètêd Ñøñsëñsé
55. Imagine a world in which every single person is given free
access to bad jokes and other deleted nonsense.
56. Bad Jokes and Other Deleted Nonsense is watching you.
57. 57 Varieties of Bad Jokes and Other Deleted Nonsense
58. Everything you always wanted to know about Bad Jokes and Other
Deleted Nonsense (But were afraid to ask)
59. Dr. Bad Jokes, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love The
Deleted Nonsense
60. May the Bad Jokes and Other Deleted Nonsense Be With You
61. Tonight, on a very special episode of Bad Jokes and Other
Deleted Nonsense
62. Bad Jokes and Other Deleted Nonsense’s father’s brother’s
nephew’s cousin’s former roommate
63. We are experiencing Bad Jokes and Other Deleted Nonsense. Please
stand by.

And last but not least, the newest one. Please add new Bad
Jokes and Other Deleted Nonsense to:

64. I Deleted Some Bad Jokes And Other Nonsense But All I Got Was
This Lousy T-Shirt

Want to help choose the next title for BJAODN?

Greatest Hoax of All Time

This page was created by a single user, tjproechel, and was active for
a little more than two weeks. Its fictional nature was only discovered
when no google search results were found for the Upper Peninsula War.
This page is not so much funny, as truly brilliant.

* The Upper Peninsula War

Other pages

* Wikipedia:Unusual requests that have been posted to the village

Some of this stuff is actually funny to some people:

1. Best of BJAODN
2. More Best of BJAODN
3. Even More Best of BJAODN
4. Yet More Best of BJAODN
5. Still More Best of BJAODN

Sandbox fun!

* Wikipedia:Bad Jokes and Other Deleted Nonsense/Sandbox In-sand-
ity (Archive 1 – Archive 2)

Mailing list oddities!

* Wikipedia:Bad Jokes and Other Deleted Helpdesk Emails

Strange Unblock requests!

* Wikipedia:Bad Jokes and Other Deleted Unblock Emails

Weird article titles!

* Wikipedia:Deleted articles with freaky titles (WP:DAFT)

Stephen Colbert’s Wikiality!

* Wikipedia:Wikiality and Other Tripling Elephants

Wikipedia:Bad jokes and other deleted nonsense/April Fools’ Day 2004

April fools 2005
Wikipedia:Votes for deletion was first hosted on this NetBSD powered
toaster. When that broke down, they had to use solar panels. Hence the
reason the page loads so slowly. For more information on the history
of Wikipedia:Votes for deletion, please see The history of

Wikipedia:Votes for deletion
Wikipedia:Votes for deletion was first hosted on this NetBSD powered
toaster. When that broke down, they had to use solar panels. Hence the
reason the page loads so slowly. For more information on the history
of Wikipedia:Votes for deletion, please see The history of

Wikipedia:Votes for deletion
Wikinews has news related to:
Wikipedia victim of onslaught of April Fool’s jokes

In keeping with Wikipedia tradition, a significant amount of BJAODN
has occurred on April Fools’ Day, 2005.

* In Summary : Screenshots of the day’s BJAODN

* /Requests for de-Godkingship
* Wikipedia:Vandalism in progress#
* /Feature VfD
* User:JimboWales and User talk:JimboWales (not to be confused
with User:Jimbo Wales!)
* /Cabal (once at Wikipedia:Cabal)
* Wikipedia:2005 Britannica takeover of Wikimedia
* Wikipedia:Votes for deletion/Main Page was attempted before
being redirected to last year’s attempt at the same.
* Wikipedia:Featured picture candidates/Blue screen of death
* /B-Movie Bandit for admin
* /Willy on Wheels for admin (moved innumerable times whilst on
* Wikipedia:Requests_for_adminship/JIP
* VFD Template – Terminator Edition
* Modified tabs [1] & [2]
* Alternate version of Wikipedia:Main Page
* You have a new special message
* User:Jimbo Wales – [3] & [4]
* Wikipedia:Votes for deletion/April Fool’s Day
* Wikipedia:Administrators’ noticeboard#Wikipedia Has Been Hacked
* German language
* Birdidae
* Wikipedia
* M1126A Armored Combat Deep Fryer
* Susej
* /Alphabetical list of all natural numbers from zero to one
* addition of a smiley face to the site by Curps [5]

April fools 2006

As with past years, some BJAODN occurred on April Fools’ Day 2006:

The resurrected tip of the day project, after a hiatus of over a year,
was relaunched on this day with this announcement:
Special Announcement

Due to generous donations by several large corporations, Wikipedia can
now afford to pay editors. All editors with over 1000 edits are
eligible to apply. For details on how to register for the payroll,

And of course, the fun didn’t stop there…

* Requests for adminship/Mathbot Created by User:CanadianCaesar
* Requests for adminship/Vandal Created by Jaranda
* Wikipedia:Requests for adminship/
* Wikipedia:Votes for deletion/10th GNAA VfD ON WHEELS! created by
* User:Jaranda/Articles for deletion/Carthage created by User:Cato
the elder
* User:Jaranda/Articles for deletion/Arab-Israeli conflict The
debate itself was AFD’d at Wikipedia:Articles for deletion/Articles
for deletion/Arab-Israeli conflict
* The main page for 5 minutes
* The unprotection of the main page by Drini
* Wheelation process & Articles for wheelation by Luigi30
* User:Jimbo Wales, primarily by User:SonicAD, protected by Cyde.
Was up for over 12 hours, and over 7 consecutively.
* Protect/Delete buttons swapped by User:BorgHunter.
* Wikipedia:Esperanza tagged as copyvio by Drini [6]
* [7]
* User:Gflores adding Willy on Wheels to Wikipedia:Good articles.
* User:Rickyrab, User:BorgHunter, and User:Deckiller toying with
Wikipedia:Requests for adminship/Can’t sleep, clown will eat me 33 1/3
(see here)
* User:Deckiller finally revealing himself to be Willy on Wheels.
He also adds the infamous userbox series to User:Willy on Wheels, and
will most likely get blocked for it :)
* User:Sammy on Skids’ reign of terror begins, with many vandal-
related edits.
* Metric craptons of userboxes by User:Cyde. See WikiFools
Generator. (This is what 1000 userboxes looks like)
* User:Deckiller creates a whole new vandal persona inspired by an
old vandal. See User:Deckiller/long term abuse/Diddley vandal
* Wikipedia’s first IRC chat by User:BillyH
* Leet by Treec, AKA Logan Kriete [8] (originally attributed to
“anon editor”, was Treec’s/LoganK’s IP address)
* Extreme overlinking [9]
* User:Lbmixpro blocked indefinitely per decision of WP vandals.
* PROD Template – Counterstrike edition
* Wikipedia:Featured deletion discussions and Wikipedia:What is a
featured deletion discussion by Daniel Case
* Wikidomination Document by User:Dr. B
* Wikipedia:Articles for deletion/Wikipedia, created by Sikon
* Intentional Prank Unit by Treec/Logan Kriete
* Buchanan-Hermit’s lack of tolerance for “vandals” like himself.
* Wikipedia:Featured picture candidates/Ceiling Cat – pic by
User:Samguana, nom by Harro5
* Wikipedia:Articles for deletion/Bad Jokes and Other Deleted
* User:TKE is shamelessly copying other editors by being blocked
by the CVU, because he enjoys sarcasm and needs a day off.
* User:Macintosh User/User talk:You, by Macintosh User, placed in
a link on BJAODN.
* Celestianpower added a new messages bar to Special:Recentchanges
and it stayed there for 24 minutes.
* Many policy pages were officially approved by The Ministry of
Silly Walks.
* The page Infinite Loop was changed to a redirect to Endless
loop, Which in turn was a redirect to Infinite Loop!
* An announcement regarding payment for editors with over 1000
edits stayed on the Community Portal for bulletin board for over seven
* Wikipedia:Articles for deletion/Special:Random
* The beginning of Wikipedia:Requests for Seppuku (not strictly
April Fools, as it was to have continued to exist past today, but it
was deleted)
* MediaWiki:Watchlist being changed to stalked pages by Cyde Weys
(and subsequent block until 2006-04-02)
* Articles for deletion/Main Page
* User:Georgewilliamherbert/Jimbo Whale Jimbo gets stalked, Fin at
* Wikipedia:No Personal Attacks was approved by The Ministry of
Silly Walks for almost 12 hours.
* Members of the #wikipedia IRC channel crapflooded GNAA chat with
informative and erudite statements about Keynesian economics. Chat log
at User:AKMask/log.
* Addition of Jimbo Wales to Nomination of new users in need of
* User:Fuhghettaboutit asks a really silly question at the science
reference desk and is taken quite seriously.

“My watchlist” turned into “Stalked pages”

April fools 2007

* The Today’s Featured Article on the Main Page (pictured) was
George Washington (inventor), inventor of instant coffee. Although
Washington was actually a real person, the fact that it was featured
on the Main Page was meant to confuse readers thinking that the
featured article was about the famous George Washington, the
President. The article was created, nominated for featured-article
status, and put on the Main Page in a mere 5 days.
* Special:Recentchanges was briefly hacked to display a message
from Jimbo Wales saying that, because of vandalism, he would start
charging editors to edit Wikipedia unless they were members of the
cabal. A fake credit card registration page was also made as an
extension of the joke.

* It was also nominated for deletion.

* Wikipedia:Articles for deletion/Jimbo Wales
* A fake article about a truck driver named Bill Clinton
* Jimbo Wales’ userpage was edited to display him as a Pirate.
* A parody of AfD (the word “votes” is censored because AfD is not
supposed to be a vote)
* Wikipedia:Bots/Requests for approval/VandalBot
* Mozilla Firefox was briefly hacked twice to make it appear as if
it was about the biological species “Firefoctus mozillae”. Later it
was suggested to be merged with itself.
* Wikipedia talk:April Fool’s Main Page, but not implemented.
* Viridae went into the MediaWiki namespace and temporarily
changed the Block IP Text to include links to Wikipedia:No climbing
the Reichstag dressed as Spider-Man and Wikipedia: There is No Cabal,
both of which are “official” Surpreme Cabal policy. It was then
reverted 4 minutes later by Cyberjunkie. Viridae then added the links
back in 40 minutes later. Cyberjunkie then deleted them again 1 minute
* Category:Pages_blessed_by_the_input_of_Wikipedia_user_tjstrf,
which was included in the signature of the user who created it. This
prank actually led to a modification of WP:SIG forbidding the
inclusion of categories in signatures.[12]
* Several more minor ones were deleted, as noted on
Wikipedia:Administrators’ noticeboard/AprilFools2007
* Template:Pwned
* Around 1048 UTC, the header for Special:Watchlist was replaced
by a large image of Jimbo’s eyes with the caption “Jimbo is always
* Template:Quacky
* From 02:49, March 26 (!) till 22:59, April 1 Wikipedia:Tip of
the day was ‘Ask Jimbo Wales’ (also here); making fun of users who
spam Jimbo with stupid questions
* Wikipedia:Featured picture candidates saw the likes of Hughes
Complex, Arnisee Lake, and Run away!!!.
* good faith vandal

Special collections

Finally, a few people have gone above and beyond the call of nonsense
and put extra effort into their creations. Check out the BJAODN
Special Features:

* /ASCII cows
* /Body Parts Slang
* /Cabalman
* Cat Nonsense (a collection of Cat article BJAODN)
* /Fecalcore
* /Fictional letters
* /Funny vandalism (includes also funny replies to trolls; sorry,
still under construction)
* /The Adventures of Telgur the Trollslayer
* /Hoax menagerie
* /List of shock sites – the most complete version, before the
list was merged and pared down – this is BJAODN, after all.
* /Mathematical animals
* /Peterson-Heimstead
* /Poop egg
* /Saint Denis
* /Sexual Slang
* /Stuff
* Who says vandalism can’t be funny?
* /Sysop Accountability Policy
* /Toilet Slang
* /Wikiality
* /Wikipe-tan
* Talk:Long s The talk page for the Long s character
* Spam Eaters – restored from the ill-fated In-Sandity Archive.
* Sysop Accountability Policy
* Rolypology Theory – the real reason that dinosaurs were all
different sizes
* Template:Uw-delmain1 – Rogue administrator? We have a
boilerplate user warning message just for you.
* Crust of the Andes – Every image of Rio de Janeiro that you’ve
ever seen has been Photoshopped, you know.
* Spam Eaters – Revived from the deleted sandbox archive, in all
its glory.
* Wikipe-tan
* Richardland Middle School – They should show Star Trek: The
Motion Picture as next Friday’s movie
* Best of Vandalize Pages – The best of what most people have on
their vandalizing pages.

Fair Use Criteria

* Be careful what you upload. Don’t get WP:FUC’d. :-)

See also

* Wikipedia:Bad Jokes and Other Deleted Helpdesk Emails
* Wikipedia:Bad Jokes and Other Deleted Unblock Emails
* Wikipedia:List of really really stupid article ideas that you
should not create
* Wikipedia:Talk page highlights
* m:Category:Humor, a far-out selection of, like, meta-topics that
totally transcend the English Wikipedia, man.
* m:Really Reformed Church of Wikipedia – Y’ know, like, this one,
* Wikipedia:No climbing the Reichstag dressed as Spider-Man

External links

* Uncyclopedia (The Almighty Overlords of Humor, Knowledge, and
Tasteful Fart Jokes)
* Wiktionary:Bad jokes and other deleted nonsense
* Uncyclopedia:True Facts and Other Deleted Prose
* Wikicomedy – A place for humor.
* Illogicopedia, the wiki of bad jokes and nonsense

From the archive, originally posted by: [ spectre ]

















Now Chris Morris sees the funny side of suicide bombers
By Cahal Milmo  /  17 March 2007

First there was drug use as comedy. Then came paedophilia as
entertainment. Now it seems the satirist Chris Morris is preparing to
demolish one last comic taboo – suicide bombers.

Channel 4 has confirmed that it is working on a film with Morris,
variously seen as the genius and villain behind the Brass Eye series,
which will examine what a casting sheet describes as “a bunch of
Pakistani lads living in Britain now”.

The channel, which is still feeling the reverberations of the race row
surrounding Celebrity Big Brother, insisted the television film was
“in the early stages” and no script had yet been written.

But the leaked casting note for the project, due to start filming this
summer and directed by Morris, describes one of the characters as
being “the sort of guy who’d protest against cartoons in a bomb belt”.
Another source said the film would look at “suicide [attacks] with at
least some of the dark humour that Chris excels at”.

News of the project comes after Morris, who famously parodied the
mainstream media’s attitude to paedophilia in a Brass Eye special in
2001, told an audience last week that he wanted to make “the comedy
version of United 93” – the award-winning film about the airliner
destined for the White House on 9/11 which crashed in a field after a
passenger revolt. Members of the audience at Bournemouth University
said that the remark was laden with irony, but it is the latest
evidence that the comedian, who has kept a low profile since the
height of Brass Eye’s popularity, is looking to explore Islamic

He was seen at a debate on what motivated al-Qa’ida. When asked about
the “war on terror”, he has said: “There are many eminently mockable
things about it. I’m just not sure what you could do with it all.”

Unknown actors for the film are being sought in London, Birmingham,
Manchester and Glasgow ahead of shooting in the capital and the north
of England.

The casting note, obtained by a fan website, Cookd and Bombd, states:
“A TV film about a bunch of Pakistani lads living in Britain now. It’s
about what they do for work, for play, what they believe, how they
relate to their parents, families, the culture around them, their
sense of heritage.” The document describes seven characters aged from
17 to 38 who are variously described as not good with people,
fearless, mouthy and mad and brooding. The youngest character is
“insanely intense, bright, very focused, blind to anything he’s not
focused on, small seething boffin”.

A Channel 4 spokesman said yesterday: “Chris Morris is currently at
the early stage of development of several projects with Channel 4. No
script has been written. He always involves actors at an early stage
to develop his ideas.”

The satirist has previously said he is not interested in returning to
the stunt parody style perfected in Brass Eye, which lampooned
celebrities by persuading them take part in spoof documentaries on
subjects such as “cake”, a fictitious narcotic.

More recently he has been involved in more-mainstream entertainment
with two Channel 4 sitcoms – Nathan Barley, about an objectionable web
designer, and The IT Crowd, focused on a computer support team in the
basement of a corporation in London.

But news that Morris, who once announced the deaths of Michael
Heseltine and Jimmy Savile as a joke, is returning to more hard-
hitting subject matter is likely to lead to nervousness in the higher
echelons of broadcasting.

The Brass Eye special on paedophilia provoked one of the greatest
volumes of complaint in Channel 4’s history. The programme, described
by the Daily Mail as “the sickest TV show ever”, featured child actors
and various celebrities, including Phil Collins, backing the cause of
a fictitious charity called Nonce Sense.

Broadcasting watchdogs later ruled that the programme should be shown
on the ground of public interest. Channel 4 has also remained a
staunch supporter of its arch controversialist. After the special
edition was broadcast, a spokesman said: “We justify the programme
because we think of it as a serious piece of satire. Satire is comedy
with a serious purpose.”

Breaking taboos: his highlights

*”CAKE”, BRASS EYE, 1997: The spoof documentary featured a show about
a dangerous – and fictional – drug. Public figures were persuaded to
speak on camera about its evils. Bernard Manning told the show: “If
you’re sick on this stuff, you can puke yourself to death. One girl
threw up her own pelvis.”

* PAEDOPHILIA , BRASS EYE SPECIAL, 2001: Public figures were duped
into making statements about child sex crime. The DJ Neil Fox said
“paedophiles have more genes in common with crabs than they do with
you and me. Now that is science fact. There’s no actual evidence for
it, but it’s a fact.”

* MYRA HINDLEY, BRASS EYE, 1997: Morris performed a spoof song in the
style of Pulp. The lyrics included the line: “Every time I see your
picture, Myra/I have to phone my latest girlfriend up and fire her/And
find a prostitute who looks like you and hire her/Oh me, oh Myra.”


Chris Morris Planning ‘Comedy Version Of United 93’

The casting sheet for ‘the terrorism project’ has been doing the
rounds, and today popped up in my e-mail. Here’s what they’re looking
for – maybe you fit the part and would like to challenge the accepted
wisdom on all things nine-eleven and seven-seven.

CLOSING DATE: Sunday, 20 May 2007, 23:59

Chris Morris project (Film) a TV film about a bunch of pakastani lads
living in britain now, its about what they do – for work, for play,
what they believe, how the relate to their parents, families,the
culture around them, their sense of heritage.

It’s being written and directed by Chris Morris for channel 4 through

Producer: Derrin Schlesinger
Director: Chris Morris
Casting Director: Des Hamilton
Location: London and poss. north of England

Dates (Shooting, Rehearsal, etc.): Summer 07

Casting Details – please send CVs and photographs to:

Des Hamilton,
104c camden St.

Role: Ahmed (Male)
Description: British/Pakastani, 30, bright, intense, knowlegeable, not
good with people, attended islamic law school in damascus for a year.

Role: Omar (Male)
Description: British/Pakastani, 29, Ahmed’s brother, more streetwise
though not a gangster, persuasive, capable of empathy, smart around
people, all overlayed on a low self esteem.

Role: Waj (Male)
Description: British/Pakastani, 20, less bright but not totally dim,
loyal follower of Omar, big guy, strong, works out, fearless.

Role: Hass (Male)
Description: British/Pakastani, 21, bright, more middle class, poss.
public school, moralistic, funny, studying IT after doing good at

Role: Azzam (Male)
Description: British/Pakastani, 22, college mate of Hass, bright,
articulate, provocative, loves the spotlight, loves winding people up,
sort of guy who’d protest against cartoons in a bomb belt, mouthy.

Role: Crow Uncle (Male)
Description: British/Pakastani, 38, fairly bright, mad, brooding,
watches a lot of tv between odd jobs (nightwatchman etc), seems more
of a hick than the others.

Role: Crow Uncle’s Nephew (Male)
Description: British/Pakastani, 17, insanely intense… bright, very,
very focused, blind to anything he’s not focused on, small seething

Morris used to be the most important man in British TV. Perhaps he
still is, and we just didn’t realise. This project should let us know
for sure.