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Jan.19, 2011

Vol. 111, No. 6

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Videos: What's so funny?

Experts in the psychology of humor select film and audio clips that make them laugh.

Posted on January 19, 2011

Bernard Chazelle, Princeton professor of computer science:

This video features a science lecture by the famous cosmologist, Ricky Gervais. As you can see, his teaching style is good, yet not quite up to Princeton standards. Don't get me wrong -- the Bible is a fine physics textbook. (Would you rather learn about the universe from its designer or from a part-time alchemist who waited for apples to fall on his head?) No, what tells me Dr. Gervais might not be Princeton material is his deluded belief, his God delusion if you will, that the promising author of the science text known as "The Bible" was also a first-rate scholar. I've sat on tenure committees at Princeton. Trust me, God's promotion would hardly be preordained (so to speak). I'm not the first to point out the glaring weaknesses of the case: only one book; no peer review; no acknowledgment of previous work; irreproducible results; and, worst of all, no footnotes. And what's with holding office hours only on weekends? Perhaps a “Target of Opportunity" hire, you might ask. As a minority group, aren't gods still underrepresented at Princeton? Not exactly. In my department, for example, we have an annual event designed to reassure the students that gods indeed rule the place. It's called "Meet the Faculty."

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CURRENT ISSUE: Jan.19, 2011