The story of Dr Karl
‘Why are all the gods of metalwork portrayed as having a limp?’ That the first question Dr Karl Kruszelnicki asked me when I interviewed him last week ahead of his appearance at the Byron Comedy Fest presenting Great Moments in Q&A. I guessed it was an occupational health and safety issue. Dr Karl told me I was on the right track and then said, ‘you’ll have to come to my show and I will tell you’.
I suffer from an instant-gratification disorder. I couldn’t stand not knowing. Sorry, Dr Karl, it’s arsenic. Dr Google told me.
I love how Karl knows stuff. Oh he had a dig at me, too, about my very unacademic use of he word ‘stuff’. I am a smart girl, I’m good with concepts, but hard facts seep out of my head; it’s like an intellectual leak.
How does Karl retain all this knowledge?
‘It’s a 3-part process,’ he says. ‘First part is being lucky enough to be alive when the Australian government saw education as a worthwhile investment in the future. As a result I had 16 years of education at university – all essentially free.’
Wow, Dr Karl is the best advertisement for free education that I’ve met. He’s a fierce advocate of knowledge. Remember that? When we went for fact over fiction?
‘We could do it again,’ says Karl. ‘Education is remarkably cheap. According to a 2019 monetary report, of all the government revenues in the world 8 per cent is given to the fossil-fuel companies as a present. As a subsidy! Eight per cent! That’s more than the defence budgets of most countries and they just give it away as a present to the fossil-fuel companies. If they stopped doing that they would have enough to give to the citizens of Australia so they can become well educated.’
I am all for it. I love that he knows that. I know he knows it because he actually read the 2019 monetary report. He didn’t just google it. I doubt Dr Karl has to google anything.
Dr Karl tells me about his studies.
‘I have degrees in physics and mathematics, and then a degree in biomedical engineering. I designed and built a machine for Fred Hollows to pick up electrical signals off the human retina and diagnose diseases such as retinitis matosa, which one in every 70 people is a carrier for. Took me a year to think about it and a year to build it.’
Okay, I did an arts degree and designed a bong that could be made out of a potato. That took me about a year too.
How important is that thinking year?
‘It’s a 2-part process. Same process twice,’ says Karl. ‘Don’t reinvent the wheel. Or part two – let no-one else’s work evade your eyes, so plagiarise. Look at what’s been done, sleep on it, and do it better.’
I asked if he was a systems thinker. Karl says ‘why can’t it just be a thinker?’ I suggest I’ve been coerced by the narrative around thinking.
‘The trouble is you have taken in by the 5G vaccine lizard king paedophile cannibals of the deep state…’ Karl mocks, but living in Mullumbimby he’s almost right. ‘There is one advantage of getting the vaccine: when you stand near a 5G tower it will automatically upgrade it to the latest version of the vaccine.’
We have a discussion about the image behind him. It’s midnight in the Antarctic – it’s a shot he took when he was travelling there with his wife. I ask if it’s spiritual being there. He says no, it’s cold. ‘Why would you say spiritual? There’s no blue glow.’ I suggest spiritual is more of a connection or a sense of being alive or being in nature. He says, ‘Why say spiritual? Why can’t you say a sense of awe and wonder?’
I don’t think I’m keeping up with Karl. My brain has gone funny. Kind of wobbly, but I’m laughing so much it doesn’t matter. My IQ has dropped. Karl can sense it and I can tell he enjoys this. He’s rounding me up.
Karl tells me there is a lie about dolphins.
‘The Orca whales are very intelligent and very good at killing – they’re not whales. They are dolphins. The dolphins had a very clever marketing campaign and shoved them over to the whales. So they’re all pure and clean and, in the majority of cases where dolphins interact with humans, they try to hurt them or they try to love them in a very special way.’
Then Karl gets back to the first question.
‘I had more years of education with degrees in medicine and surgery and then worked in a kids’ hospital and then I did four years at uni in non-degree subjects just to round me off and pick up information in fields where I was inadequate. Computer science, astrophysics, electrical engineering, and philosophy.’
I should never have made that potato bong. It would have taken me more than four years to round off my inadequacies.
Karl continues. ‘I read my way through $10k of scientific literature every year. From straight science journals to what the newspapers say and to what popular science says and even to Nexus. Comes out of the Sunshine Coast hinterland. A conspiracy crazy person magazine.’
And how he remembers? It’s not scientific at all. Story. Ah, the potato bong is starting to sound like a good idea again.
‘There is a special part of our brain that will remember stories better than it will remember facts. So in answer to your question: good education, lots of reading, and I turn everything into stories… Stories go into three parts: you start off with something really weird and amazing, you explain it, and then you finish off with a joke.’
Wow, so weird, Karl started with 16 years of education, and I started with a potato, and here we are: Both at the same place. Science is amazing. It has a blue glow for me, Dr Karl! Is that spiritual?
Dr Karl Kruszelnicki at Byron Comedy Fest on Saturday 15 May at 2pm. Tix are $25.