"I've got a story to tell you. It's a good one, too. Imagine, 1962, rural village of Kashasha, Tanzania. Girl's boarding school. Girl is sitting in class.Thus begins a Quite Interesting segment from Radio Lab's February 22nd 2008 episode.
She begins to laugh.
The girl next to her, maybe to her left, hears her laugh and she begins to laugh.
Across the classroom a third girl joins in, the teacher gets upset, but it's too late. Soon four girls, and eight -- the entire class has begun to laugh, and then cry, and then laugh, and then cry..."
"Just 'cause, I don't know. Anyhow, a girl outside at that moment walking down the hall, imagine she hears the laughter from the classroom. She starts to laugh, and as she walks and laughs her laughter goes into other classrooms, and soon the whole school is doing this: laughing, crying, laughing, crying... Teachers cannot control these girls; when they try to, the girls get violent!"
"They get violent?"
"Yup. The principal then has no choice, he's gotta close the school.
They open the school a week later, and it happens again. So they close the school a second time.
Meanwhile, the girls who started all this, they go back to their villages many many miles away, and this ... thing, whatever it is, spreads. Up and down the coast of Lake Victoria..."
"You mean people in the villages start to laugh?"
"Yup. In one village, 217 people start to laugh and cry. A second boarding school has to shut down.
And no one knows why."
I had never heard Radio Lab before (the only other NPR show I've really gotten into is This American Life, and even then I prefer the video adaptation). But now I suddenly =get= why people listen to NPR.
Because it's fascinating.