No joke: Science on Tap talk to feature discussion on humor-detecting computers

July 28, 2015  

Julia Taylor

Julia Taylor 
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WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Julia Taylor, a Purdue University assistant professor of computer and information technology, will headline the next Science on Tap with a talk on whether humor-detecting computers are within our grasp.

The talk, titled "What Does it Take for Computers to 'Understand' Humor?" will begin at 6 p.m. Thursday (July 30) in the upstairs of Lafayette Brewing Company, 622 Main St., Lafayette. The event is free and open to anyone 21 or older. Taylor will focus on human theories of humor and relate how they apply to computer technology.

"With human beings relying more and more on computational devices, a question of human-friendly computing raises its ugly head," said Taylor, who also is a fellow with the Center for Education and Research in Information Assurance and Security (CERIAS) at Purdue.

Assuming intelligent, voice-controlled computers could parse serious and non-serious spoken commands, "humor detection or generating a funny response here and there becomes reasonable," she said. The question at hand, however, is more complicated than it may seem, Taylor said, asking: "Will computers ever be able to handle our sense of humor? What would such enterprise entail?"

Taylor joined Purdue as a visiting scholar in 2008 after receiving her doctorate in computer science and engineering from the University of Cincinnati earlier that same year. She received her current Purdue appointment in 2011. She wrote her dissertation on humor-detecting computers. Taylor also was co-chair of the nation’s first academic conference on humor-detecting computers, the "Symposium on Artificial Intelligence of Humor," in 2012.

"Detecting humor has turned out to be a convenient and visible entry into the broader combination of computational linguistics with the fuzziness and uncertainty of human speech," Taylor said.

Science on Tap, led by graduate students Nelda Vazquez, Andrew Hesselbrock and Paula Cooper, provides Purdue faculty and collaborating researchers the opportunity to share research activities in an informal setting with presentations that are designed to appeal to a more general audience. The monthly event, which is returning after a two-month break, has averaged 80 attendees per talk during the program's first four years. 

Media Contacts: Phillip Fiorini, 765-496-3133,

Jamison Stoike,

Sources:  Julia Taylor, 765-494-9525,

Nelda Vazquez, 765-496-1487,

Andrew Hesselbrock,

Paula Cooper,  

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