It is easier to smile than frown: True/False?

First, a correction. I was certainly frowning when several readers pointed out that I wantonly ignored air resistance when claiming that a falling coin could kill three weeks ago. With aerodynamics complicating matters, the matter becomes much murkier. I still think our our hefty currency could be lethal but we’d need an experiment to know for sure.

It’s at times like this that the brow should be furrowed, but that doesn’t stop those of a perpetually sunny disposition from telling the rest of us that smiling uses less muscles than frowning. They seem to believe that we should all be happy all the time, or at the very least not wasting precious energy by displaying our dissatisfaction. These people will not be pleased (if such a thing is possible) to hear that the muscle argument is on very shaky scientific ground.

The lack of real science is plain to see. The number of muscles needed for each expression is different each time the claim appears, varying from the low teens to over a hundred. The stated numbers generally make no sense anyway, with a frown requiring far more muscles than are actually found on the face. Maybe a frown requires one or two more muscles than a smile but, as far as actual effort required, there is probably not much in it.

And anyway, wouldn’t it be even easier to wear no expression at all? My face spends plenty of time in neutral, but that kind of zombified look is best kept for late-night channel-surfing, tax returns, and other situations where there is no chance of scaring small children. A frown is better than nothing, I suspect.

As this is my last appearance in these pages I want to thank to all my loyal readers (what the heck, the disloyal ones, too), especially those who have contributed suggestions and pointed out errors. True/False will continue to appear on the web at truefalse.co.nz. Feel free to suggest topics through the site.

Whether that news leaves you smiling or frowning, at least you don’t have to worry that you’re overexerting yourself.

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