Australia’s favourite medical doctor and scientist Karl Kruszelnicki, always known as ‘Dr Karl’, entertained a packed house at Penrith City Library on Friday night. Dr Karl was presenting one of the suburban events of the Sydney Writers’ Festival, and the crowd who attended from Penrith and further afield were not disappointed.
Dr Karl took his audience on a rapid tour of the human body digestive system, drawing gasps of surprise, and perhaps mild horror, as he recounted case histories of the transfusion of fecal matter to repair deficiencies in essential bacteria in the human body. His descriptive expression, the ‘trans-poo-sion’ is sure to become a scientific and literary classic. Dr Karl had more topics to discuss in a wide-ranging presentation that moved from ‘poo’ to the outer reaches of the universe.
Conspiracy theory buffs were reassured to learn that the famous ‘prediction’ from an ancient Mayan calendar that the world will end in 2012 is no more than an attention grabbing hoax. Dr Karl certainly grabbed the attention of the audience when he pointed out that if astronomers can see the moons of Pluto, they would certainly be able to see a large planet heading for a collision with Earth to end the world. Thus reassured, the audience was able to enjoy Dr Karl’s description of Asteroid 18412 Kruszelnicki, apparently a very minor planet, named after the good Doctor himself.
The crowd watched with fascination as Dr Karl reviewed the history of his appearances on the Reader’s Digest Australia list of ‘The Most Trusted Australians’. Not everyone was familiar with the list, having perhaps only heard of Reader’s Digest as the publishers of ‘condensed books’. There is not the space to discuss how alarming the idea of ‘condensed books’ is. Dr Karl, it emerged, had hovered around the top ten of the ‘Most Trusted’ list for several years. Like a good scientist, he had produced a trending graph of his appearances on the list and determined that his rating is on a downward trajectory. The good Doctor’s rapid fire delivery and tongue firmly planted in cheek had his audience almost hugging themselves with laughter at this point.
More ironic humour emerged when Dr Karl took questions, one of which was whether there would be another series of the television science show ‘Sleek Geeks’. Dr Karl related that the Australian Broadcasting Commission (ABC), who screened the show, had stated an intention to run more shows just like ‘Sleek Geeks’, before telephoning the cast and ‘sacking’ them all. Undaunted, the good Doctor suggested that a mere fifty paper letters to the ABC would be enough to get the show running again.
A smiling Dr Karl left the stage to sign books and pose for photographs, while his audience went away resolving to write to the ABC.