The Facts

Great Moments In Science with Dr Karl

Sinister buttocks, grandmother mortality rates in relation to student exams and cat survival rates depending on how many storeys they fall.

These were just some of the topics discussed during Great Moments in Science with Dr Karl at the World Science Festival Brisbane 2016 on Friday evening.

Dr Karl Kruszelnicki is an Australian science commentator and author who has more than 28 years of education under his belt.

He has also read through $10,000 of scientific literature every year and is rarely unable to answer a question.

Dr Karl's passion and knowledge of science was clearly evident during his show.

During a meet and greet afterwards he was asked several questions by audience members and not only was he able to answer them, but he was also able to list books and websites where more information could be found.

"Science is a way to not get fooled and understand the universe around you and as a bonus you get to experience this incredible feeling of awe and wonder," Dr Karl said.

“Recently when the discovery of gravitational waves was announced, chills went up and down my body for a minute.”

Dr Karl's show on Friday night was captivating, entertaining and mind-blowing.

"I try to find something the average person would be interested in and keep it new and fresh," he said.

"I was so touched this morning because some people had driven down from the Sunshine Coast in the dark and then stood outside the venue for two hours, just so they could get a good seat for one of my shows."

However, Dr Karl's shows don't always hit the spot.

“Sometimes you don't quite get the audience .... for example they might want Adele, but instead you give them Taylor Swift – they’re both good, but one isn't what the audience wants at the time.”

Those who were lucky enough to secure a seat in the sold out Plaza Auditorium at the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre, got their money's worth.

The show started with the following declaration ......

The first topic of the night was illustrating the relationship between grandmother mortality rates and the number of exams different types of students have.

A common excuse to escape an exam is that there has been a death in the family and grandmothers are usually the first to be killed off.

In the table below, the top row represents an A-grade, C-grade and F-grade student, the far left column describes what type of exams these students have coming up and the numbers are how many grandmothers have supposedly "died" per 100 students.

After a hilarious (and morbid) start to the evening, the phrase "sinister buttocks" then made an appearance.

The reason?

Well, teachers are always trying to think of new anti-plagiarism techniques, to stop students cutting and pasting their entire assignments.

However, students are aware of this and Dr Karl said that in order to avoid being caught plagiarising, they use a thesaurus and change some of the words in each sentence.

But it doesn't always work.

One student used the motto of famous polar explorer, Sir Ernest Shackleton, in his piece of assessment and decided to change some of the words.

So, Shackleton's motto of "no-one will be left behind" became "no-one will be sinister buttocks".

Speaking of students, here is another fun fact from the presentation .....

Although you wouldn't believe it after reading the "sinister buttocks" story.

Moving out of the classroom, Dr Karl then talked about a natural phenomenon, lightning.

The picture below was taken at a lookout in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

A woman saw her hair standing up on end and her boyfriend took a picture. 

Little did they know this was a sign lightning was about to strike.

Thankfully they left, but a matter of minutes later lightning struck the lookout and killed several people.

The final highlight of the evening was a study showing the number of cats who survived falls from tall buildings.

The results showed a cat has a better chance of surviving a 32 storey fall than a seven storey fall.

As the cat falls, it is still accelerating until it descends more than seven storeys.

At that point the cat begins to react to the situation and adjusts its body position in the air to ensure that every part of its body hits the ground at the same time and therefore has the highest chance of survival.

However, Dr Karl made a point of stating that the case wasn't the same for dogs. 

At the end of the show, Dr Karl hoped the audience left the auditorium in a state of "awe and wonder" while thinking “wow, isn't that amazing”.

There's a good chance this was the case last night, after Dr Karl broke into song towards the end of the event and sang a few lines from Robert Palmer's "Bad Case of Loving You".


Doctor Doctor, gimme the news I've got a
Bad case of lovin' you
No pill's gonna cure my ill I got a
Bad case of lovin' you

And the audience had a bad case of lovin' you, Dr Karl ….