This Is Your Brain on Puns

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iStock

Q. What do vegan zombies eat?
A. Graaaaaaaaaaaaains. 

If that joke made you groan like the undead, thank your bilateral processing abilities. Researchers studying the neuroscience of puns say that understanding them, even the bad ones, requires cooperation between both sides of the brain. They published their research in the journal Laterality: Asymmetries of Body, Brain and Cognition. 

Humor has a reputation for being transgressive, but all that boundary-pushing is only possible thanks to a system of internal rules. From knock-knock jokes to digs on someone’s mama, each class has its own standardized scaffolding. Some philosophers argue that humor itself depends on a formula: taking something familiar and giving it an unexpected—but not upsetting—twist. 

This “benign violation” setup is also at the heart of the pun. The joke up top takes a reader’s familiarity with the cliché of the lurching, brain-craving zombie, then uses a rhyme to add a surprising shade of meaning. Yes, we know that dissecting jokes isn’t funny. We’re done now.

Neuroscientists at the University of Windsor wondered how our brains would parse the two-step process of understanding puns. They were specifically curious to find out how the work was divvied up between the brain’s left and right hemispheres. 

To find out, they brought volunteers into the lab and sat them down in front of computers, which proceeded to display a series of easy, cheesy puns. (Ex.: “They replaced the baseball with an orange to add some zest to the game.”) Some of the puns showed up on the left side of the screen, where they would be processed first by the right side of the brain. The rest showed up on the right. The participants were timed to see how long it took them to get each joke, such as it was. 

The results showed that participants were quicker on the uptake when their puns appeared on the right side of the screen—that is, starting with the left side of their brains. This makes sense, co-author Lori Buchanan told Scientific American: “The left hemisphere is the linguistic hemisphere, so it’s the one that processes most of the language aspects of the pun, with the right hemisphere kicking in a bit later.” 

Understanding a pun, they found, requires input from both hemispheres. The left side introduces the standard, linguistic part of the sentence or joke—essentially setting up the setup—while the right side analyzes the punchline’s double meaning. 

That's probably more thought than most puns deserve. 

Nearly $100,000 in Instant Ramen Was Stolen in Georgia Noodle Heist

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iStock

It's not easy to steal a small fortune when your target is instant ramen, but a team of thieves in Georgia managed to do just that a few weeks back. As The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports, the criminals made off with a trailer containing nearly $100,000 worth of noodles, and the local police force is still working to track down the perpetrators.

The heist occurred outside a Chevron gas station in Fayetteville, Georgia some time between July 25 and August 1, 2018. The 53-foot trailer parked in the area contained a large shipment of ramen, which the truck's driver estimates was worth about $98,000. Depending on the brand, that means the convenience food bandits stole anywhere between 200,000 and 500,000 noodle packs.

Some outlets have connected the truck-jacking to a recent string of vehicle-related robberies, but the Fayette County Sheriff's Office told the AJC such reports are inaccurate. Any potential suspects in the case have yet to be revealed.

The outlaws join the list of thieves who have stolen food items in bulk. Some of the most ambitious food heists in the past have centered on 11,000 pounds of Nutella, $75,000 worth of soup, and 6000 cheesecakes.

[h/t The Atlanta Journal-Constitution]

Elvis and Priscilla Presley's Mobile Home Is Hitting the Auction Block

Keystone/Getty Images
Keystone/Getty Images

Want to live like The King? It might not be exactly what you had in mind, but the two-bedroom mobile home once owned by Elvis and Priscilla Presley is an important piece of Presley history—and it could be yours.

The 60-foot Delta mobile home, which was once stationed on Elvis’s Circle G Ranch near Graceland, will go under the hammer at the “Legends: Iconic Film & Music Memorabilia” sale hosted by GWS Auctions on August 25.

The mobile home
GWS Auctions

Inside the mobile home
GWS Auctions

Elvis used the mobile home as a getaway in the 1960s, and after he and Priscilla got married in Las Vegas in 1967, the newlyweds spent part of their honeymoon shacked up inside the ranch-on-wheels. Elvis also bought eight additional house trailers and placed them on his property to accommodate his “Memphis Mafia" entourage, according to the auction house.

The mobile home was recently restored, but it remains true to the original condition it was in when the Presleys lived there. It comes with the original paperwork and bill of sale, which was signed by Elvis in 1967. Last year, GWS also auctioned off Presley’s childhood home in Mississippi.

Also up for grabs in the “Legends” auction is Elvis’s Gideon Bible, with passages that he personally underlined, as well as his beloved 1977 Cadillac Seville. Michael Jackson’s bejeweled glove, an invitation to the wedding of Whitney Houston and Bobby Brown, and a Munchkin coat made for The Wizard of Oz are among some of the many other pop culture treasures that could be yours.

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