What do engineers use for birth control? That was the question posed by scientists at the Institute of Neurology in London to a team of volunteers wired up to a scanner monitoring their brain activity.
If you followed the story, you’ll know the experiments were all about identifying what happens when we ‘get’ a joke: the biology of humour, no less.
The contraception question formed part of a genre of humour called semantic jokes, which ‘light up’ parts of the brain concerned with speech.
So prepare your neurones for the punchline. What do engineers use for birth control? Their personalities. How we laughed.
But not much. Just a couple of weeks ago, the great and the good of the science and engineering community got together to launch a ‘Charter for Science and Engineering’.
The point of all that was simple: scientists and engineers should be working together on all fronts, not least to promote these professions jointly and create a well-informed population that sees the impact of technology in our everyday lives and the importance of those who create it.
This will benefit both the scientific and technology professions, and in the long run, head off the skills shortages that are liable to afflict both.
So it really is amazing that a bunch of scientists should pick on engineers as the butt of the schoolboy humour they chose for their experiments, with the result that this old chestnut of a joke then got broadcast across the UK on Monday morning.
Thanks a bunch. We just wonder how many potential engineering students have now binned their UCAS forms and opted instead for media studies.
They shouldn’t be worried, of course. It is easy to name any number of charming, charismatic engineers. Many are readers of this magazine.
And one other thing: in the interests of harmony, we won’t dwell on the overriding empirical evidence that supports the proposition, within the scientific profession, that Socks+Sandals=Beard. That just wouldn’t be fair, would it?