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