The Great Science of Everyday with Dr Karl
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The Great Science of Everyday with Dr Karl

You may have heard of a recent great moment in science with the confirmation of a Gravitational Wave event. And whilst this was a massive cosmological occasion for both the universe and human science, great moments can occur anywhere.

Dr Karl, Australia’s most popular science communicator, will soon be visiting Bendigo to present Great Moments in Science. So, what makes a great moment?

“A great moment in science is something that knocks your socks off – like my show,” answers triple j’s resident scientist, “but you know you’ve come across a great moment if you feel amazed at something that’s hit you.” This could be as massive as understanding a galaxy birth or as small as the working of a button. And he has done his research: 38 books down, with more on the way, Dr Karl knows what makes a great moment in science and how to make it entertaining.

“Come and have a good time and find out why it is safer for a cat to fall from a 32-storey building than an 8-storey building,” he says of the April 18 show.

“The smallest and quietest great moment in science would be one that’s a billionth of an atom across, for example a Gravitational Wave,” he attests, his shirt much louder than his words.

Well, he’s right: explaining a Gravitational Wave requires envisaging the very, very small. A slight abnormality that’s a billionth of an atom across (or 1 x 10-19 m if you prefer numbers) in a laser signal indicates a wave has morphed the entire Earth, briefly, as it passed by.

“However it was a pair of orbiting black holes smashing into each other at around half the speed of light that emitted these Gravitational Waves, with a power output about 50 times greater than all the stars in the universe combined.”

The Gravitational Waves were a big event for science research, with a lot of noise around the finding. So what is next for science and technology?

“The next big breakthrough will be in areas of quantum computing and renewable energies – more specifically, batteries to store the energies generated through renewable resources.” This would mean, for example, that energy from solar cells could be used at night.

With so much research out there and upcoming marvels, how do people find out more? “If you are interested in science and technology, a good place to start would be reading the popular science journals such as New Scientist, Cosmos, and others,” he says, without mentioning his informative ABC online articles or any of his multiple books.

His latest publication, Short Back and Science, has just hit shelves ready to inform readers on the mystery of earwax and armpit sweat to the intricacies of visual neuroscience.

But for many, ‘science’ is a term looked at with fear, or as something only for ‘smart’ people. When asked about this, Dr Karl replies, “Do you have a brain that can speak and make phone calls? Then you’ve got a brain that can do science.”

The audience of his Great Moments of Science show in Bendigo will be able to use their glorious brain in a question and answer session following the main presentation and, of course, to absorb all the fun.

Written by Rachel Rayner, Discovery Science and Technology Centre

When & Where: Great Moments of Science at The Capital, Bendigo – April 18

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