Proving that the Japanese will not be happy until there's a machine to do absolutely everything, a Kansai university team have created a digital laughter-meter. They've even coined a unit, the "aH". One second of loud laughter is about 5 aH, equivalent to about ten seconds of a good Simpsons episode, or four episodes of the recent stuff. The machine can even tell between real and fake laughter, presumably so that it can punish the fussy humans who find its "child-head crushing" routine unamusing. The key is the motion of the diaphragm, the muscular sheet below our lungs. While we can fake facial expressions and volume, our insides tell the real story.
Is this the future of comedy and/or human enslavement?
One imagines the data is a little skewed - I don't know how much other people laugh when hooked up to electrodes by teams of Japanese scientists, but I wouldn't say it's much. Another danger is that the product could be misused. It registers laughter, not actual humor, in terms of muscle motion in the diaphragm. One fat Jerry Springer guest hooting at somebody getting kicked in the crotch will register higher than a real human watching Monty Python. Once television executives get a number to use instead of the awkward "individual sense of humour" thing that they seem to hate so much, new comedies will make "Will and Grace" look like a sophisticated social satire.
Besides: If you're driven to the point where you're using digital meters to tell if people are really laughing, then they're really, really not. Just accept it.