THIS DOC KNOWS WHAT’S UP
DR KARL IS NEVER SHORT OF A STORY WHEN IT COMES TO SCIENCE, AND HE’LL BE SHARING THEM WITH US AT THIS YEAR’S WOODFORD FOLK FESTIVAL
What’s the origin of life? What would happen if the Earth stopped spinning? And the biggest question of all, is coffee good for you? While there’s no end to the questions, fortunately we have Dr Karl to help with the answers. Karl Kruszelnicki is one of the country’s most respected science commentators but, despite the fact he has three degrees (in science, engineering and medicine), he says his special power is that he’s a generalist. In fact, Karl points out that he’s not even particularly smart, with an IQ of 110 which is just above average. But he’s very good at understanding things. “I just work hard and turn stuff into stories. Knowledge is hard to pick up but, once you’ve got it in your brain, it’s fairly easy to keep it there,” Karl said. “It took me six hours to understand why the sky is blue, but now I can give it to you in two minutes.” In the pursuit of knowledge, Karl reads a one-metre-thick pile of scientific literature every month, looking for interesting, strange and weird things he can turn into stories. “There’s no end to questions, it just goes on and on forever. I’m on an impossible, frivolous journey to try and understand everything in the universe. Knowing that it’s impossible, but I’m still going to give it a go.” While he spends most of his time unpacking how things work, the one thing he doesn’t get is how people convince themselves to believe in something with no proof. “We’re in a time where there’s the highest level of information ever in the history of the human race, and yet there’s still people who won’t look at the facts. It’s astonishing to me, like with climate change, they refuse to accept the science.” Karl will be exploring climate change and more, including hosting a State of the Reef forum when he visits the Sunshine Coast later this month for the Woodford Folk Festival. The reef itself takes on a special significance at this year’s festival, celebrated in the beautifully illustrated festival poster by artist Gavin Ryan and symbolising the theme of connection. The festival’s head of programming, Chloe Goodyear, said: “As we lead into 2018 being the year of the reef, it’s a focus for us in our talks program. “This year it’s all about connection between people and that’s why coral has a solid presence. It links into the endangered natural world and how people are treating each other.” It’s reflective of the overall culture of the festival: it’s folk, but not as you know it. Chloe said while good times and being uplifted would be a common theme, Woodford was also a place for discovery, self-reflection and recreation. “Bill Hauritz (founder and festival director) hoped that the festival would be a place that everybody would come to celebrate what was wonderful about Australian culture, and increasingly international culture. But also bringing out of the shadows the things we want to examine and cast a light on them, discussing them with dignity and respect,” she said. “If we can be a place where all of that can rest happily together, then we’re grateful.” Particularly noteworthy is the Uluru Statement from the Heart which will be at Woodford for the whole week, along with Noel Pearson’s recognition discussions. Chloe’s personal picks also include Irish fiddle player Martin Hayes and Canada’s The East Pointers. You might also catch Dr Karl on stage again as a go-go dancer this New Year’s Eve – one of his highlights from last year’s festival. It’s an unexpected outcome for a scientist, but Karl knows better than anyone that life’s an unknown quantity. “You don’t know how life will turn out in retrospect, you just run through it. I’ve been incredibly lucky – though my life people have been so nice to me. I just loved school, but I was a wog refugee kid so I got bullied by all my classmates. “The only way out was the library – it became my friend so I spent a lot of time there reading and learning. I was very lucky that everything worked out so beautifully.” And, he says, he wouldn’t be dead for quids. Karl will be appearing at Woodford Folk Festival on December 29 and 30. His 43rd book – Karl, The Universe and Everything – is available now through Pan Macmillan Australia.
I’M ON AN IMPOSSIBLE, FRIVOLOUS JOURNEY TO TRY AND UNDERSTAND EVERYTHING IN THE UNIVERSE.