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Is it really the best medicine? Neurobiologist Robert R. Provine discovered that no scientist had ever looked into the weird, uncontrollable, and very human phenomenon of laughter, so he started off on his own. Laughter: A Scientific Investigation is his warm and--of course--funny report on how and why we giggle and snort with such regularity. Basing his views on field research conducted in a broad array of social situations (laughter being notoriously difficult to evoke in the laboratory), Provine posits that we use it as a universal, preverbal means of communication. Though animal research is controversial, it suggests that apes establish and maintain relationships using laughlike behavior, so it could be the missing link between animal communication and true language. He also explores instances in which we seem to laugh our way into and out of social situations, and includes a list of tips for keeping the laughs flowing. The irony of the scientific community not taking laughter seriously isn't lost on Provine, and he takes every opportunity to remind his fellows that even the seemingly most trivial matters can hide the most profound truths. If that isn't funny, what is? --Rob Lightner [via]