Life ad­vice

Dr Karl Kruszel­nicki says you don’t have to be smart to be knowl­edge­able.

Sunday Herald Sun - Stellar - - Contents -

Iam not smart. De­spite all the ac­co­lades I’ve re­ceived [in­clud­ing the Ig No­bel Prize from Har­vard Univer­sity for his re­search into belly­but­ton fluff] and the de­grees I’ve earned in physics, maths, bio­med­i­cal en­gi­neer­ing, medicine and surgery, I am not very clever at all. My IQ is only 110, so I’m in there with two-thirds of the pop­u­la­tion whose IQS fall be­tween 85 and 115.

What I am is knowl­edge­able. I read a lot, and then I turn that knowl­edge into sto­ries – about four sto­ries ev­ery week – and that builds up into a data­base. If you do four sto­ries a week, that’s 200 a year. Over 30 years, which is the length of my me­dia ca­reer, that’s 6000 bits of knowl­edge. Once you ac­quire that knowl­edge, you can con­fi­dently say things like: the Pa­leo diet is a con; we did go to the moon; global warm­ing is real; and Diet Coke does not give you can­cer.

As one of Aus­tralia’s most trusted sources of in­for­ma­tion, I take my role very se­ri­ously. It can be scary think­ing about how much faith peo­ple have in me to be cor­rect. I make mis­takes. For ex­am­ple, I got it wrong about why it is your fin­gers and toes get wrin­kled when you stay in wa­ter for a long time. And it took me 15 years to get the right an­swer.

There is a lot of dis­in­for­ma­tion in our so­ci­ety. For ex­am­ple, 25 per cent of Amer­i­cans do not ac­cept the Earth goes around the sun. That’s a quar­ter of the US pop­u­la­tion. Aus­tralian data would likely re­flect the same thing. So even though the best job in my life was be­ing a doc­tor in a kids’ hos­pi­tal, I can do more good in my role now by pro­vid­ing the com­mu­nity with in­for­ma­tion such as why they should get vac­ci­nated.

Since I was a kid, I’ve been cu­ri­ous. I lived in a refugee camp for the first few years of my life – my fam­ily came to Aus­tralia from Swe­den – in a town on the bor­der of New South Wales and Vic­to­ria called Bonegilla. All I re­mem­ber from that time is we used to have one egg a week to eat. My par­ents wouldn’t eat it. They’d give it to me… be­cause that’s what par­ents do.

When I was about seven, some­one gave me a book on astron­omy. I had no idea how big Aus­tralia or the Earth was, how there were all th­ese other plan­ets in the so­lar sys­tem, or how many stars were in the gal­axy. It turns out there are 300 bil­lion! I was filled with an awe and won­der. And it has never left me. Karl, The Uni­verse And Ev­ery­thing (Pan Macmil­lan, $34.99) is out now.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.