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ABC Fora with Tony Jones -

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THEME MUSIC I'm Tony Jones. Hello, and welcome to ABC Fora, of privilege and elitism, Are private schools enclaves to a flawed public-education system? or important alternatives deserve government money Do schools that charge fees them available to more families? to improve their facilities and make of the public education dollar Or should all schools as good as they can be? be spent on making government of the arguments canvassed Well, these were just some IQ Squared debate, in the recent hotly fought schools is unconscionable." "that public funding of private a student debater We pick up with Tim Matthews, arguing that it is. from Sydney's Caringbah High I stand before you tonight Ladies and gentlemen, of the public-education system. as a product

who pay for private education And given that those of you a superior product, feel that they are purchasing that some of you feel this can only mean an inferior education. that I'm having that it's the students We just heard Jennifer say by a lack of choice. who are disadvantaged thinks that is very, very mistaken. Ladies and gentlemen, anyone who of the best, My education has consisted and the best of teachers. the most amazing of opportunities my perceptions of education Perhaps this is because Olympic-sized swimming pools aren't bound up in cricket pitches, or the name on my blazer. or orchestra recital halls to present the needs But tonight I'm here of all public-education students, the resources of facilities I enjoy, students who don't have

not all is equitable. because even within our own system, and, indeed, it should be, But it could be, into the public education system. if every public dollar went torn between telling you I stand here tonight desperately need funding that public schools how fantastic they are. and telling you

Both are true. But much like our prime minister, I stand here before you tonight ladies and gentlemen, of the sauce bottle. asking for a fair suck not even a skerrick Because there's in the current funding arrangement, of the Aussie ethos of the fair go upon all who support it. and it brings shame the word "choice" with meaning The opposition tonight is imbuing "inalienable rights", that puts it on par with and equality and fraternity right up there with liberty and every other democratic tenet, of equality, with the possible exception out of the question because that's certainly with the current funding arrangement. with a single word The simplify a complex issue that's meant to shut down debate. This will not happen tonight. are quite happy to debate choice, We on the affirmative but we contest the negative's use, a thinly veiled exaltation which is nothing more than and the joys of such happy concepts of the right to elitism terms which are more accurate as entrenched social stratification,

on a prospectus. but don't sound nearly as good aren't arguing tonight The negative and their supporters for a universal right to choice, the irrevocable luxury of a choice, but rather, that the wealthy have unimaginable for many individuals. disadvantage will prevent So long as socio-economic at a private school, any individual from an education will be null and void. all arguments about choice this is the point Ladies and gentlemen, like to argue in which private school principals pay taxes, too. that private school parents one very, very simple fact, This argument ignorantly overlooks is guaranteed a place everyone who pays their taxes at their local government school. tomorrow morning, They could turn up a nine o'clock an obligation to educate them. and their local school would have government school However, should a regional disadvantage close down tomorrow, in an area of socio-economic that not many of its students you can be fairly certain of Sydney's top private institutions. would be particularly welcome at one

therefore, are also paying taxes, The parents of these students, which go to fund schools have the opportunity to attend. they will never, ever in its arsenal of defence, too. The Government uses choice its subsidies merely permit parents They would have you believe that

their children, to choose where they send it's passively responding it maintains that for private schooling. to parents' growing preference

the current funding arrangements The truth is, to make the move. actively encourage parents policy is socially irresponsible, Dare I suggest that, at best, this complicit in this elitism. and, at worst, public schools don't get enough funds Bottom line, of facilities, to maintain their standard are given more funds. while non-government schools

Behind the facade of choice, plunge their hands deeper and deeper elite private schools and we're all the poorer for it. into the public pocket,

we allow so much money And the fact that makes us an international idiot, to be given to the private sector and of that, I am profoundly ashamed. this week, Idiocy even had a spokesperson an audience in Washington when Julia Gillard told equity problem, that we have a serious educational and that our education system is just satisfactory. have a very simple solution We in the affirmative to all Ms Gillard's problems - the public education system. fund and only fund

I wonder if she...

APPLAUSE Brookings Institute in Washington, I wonder if she explained to the fund the private system. that, unlike America, we ludicrously with public funding One of our key contentions is the superfluous nature of private education tonight in the private sector. of government expenditure Ladies and gentlemen, it is a pity

that before tonight we couldn't take a visit to one of these elite private schools, because then you'd be truly ashamed of what we're condoning. If you ever visit The King's School in Parramatta, and drive past their 15 playing fields, both cricket and rugby, 14 tennis courts, five soccer fields and swimming pool, you'd have to wonder why

this institution received $5.8 million of public funding in the last year, when it's not possible, for example, to replace the gas heaters in public schools across New South Wales, you know, the ones that don't conform to World Health Organisation safety standards. As a further injustice, despite these 15 cricket fields, more than your average country town,

The King's School has not produced an Australian Test cricketer since the Boer War. APPLAUSE Perhaps, ladies and gentlemen, we should be demanding just a little more return on our $5 million investment. This unequal and superfluous distribution of funds is typified in Kevin Rudd's BER distribution.

BER allegedly stands for Building the Education Revolution, perhaps a more apt title would be Bolstering The Education Of The Rich. Now, those opposite will be very quick to point out that a majority of projects announced last week in the School's Pride program were given to government schools, at around 70%. In response to this, we could point out that this doesn't actually correlate to a 70/30 split in funding, and that, on average, private schools actually receive more for each project than their government counterparts. More worrying, however, is the allocation of funds in these systems. Of the projects commissioned in government schools, 32% are for the construction of new classrooms. If we compare this to the fact that a similar percentage, 35%, of all projects in non-government schools are performing-arts centres and multi-purpose halls, we begin to see this disparity in the allocation

of education funding, where government funds for government schools fund the essentials, where government funds for non-government schools directly fund the unnecessary. It's at this point, ladies and gentlemen,

that we encounter the argument by the private-school lobby that due to the contributions of parents, private schools actually save taxpayers money.

This altruistic attitude is obviously inherent in their gracious acceptance of a $2.8 billion surplus of funding over four years.

If the distribution of grants to non-government schools was conceived as a cost-cutting measure, then I should hope some government economist is losing their job. If the primary aim driving education spending is cost-cutting, then again, there is a rather obvious solution - stop funding unnecessary projects in non-government schools. This creates a pragmatically illogical and morally reprehensible situation which reinforces the social hierarchy of schools and does not, despite their statements to the contrary, allocate funds based on need. Now, ladies and gentlemen, we can all agree that a recital hall does not an education make, but how must a public-school student with condemned classrooms and science labs eaten away by termites feel, students in schools like Hurstville Boys, the neediest school of choice for crumbling classroom video clips, how must they feel about the value that we put into their education? It gives me very little sympathy for the principal of The Cranbrook School, Jeremy Maddin, whose school, by the way, received a $1.2 million surplus in funds in the last year, TIMER BELL who claims that if they didn't have a surplus, the place would fall apart.

LAUGHTER Now, while the image of Cranbrook's two football fields and multi-storey weight and fitness centre,

advertised on their website, falling apart is unfortunate, I doubt that I'll be losing much sleep over it. And if Mr Maddin was really searching for a way to cut costs, could I suggest limiting the three-quarter colour page ads for rowing directors taken out in the Herald? Every cent of public funding must go to the public-education system, and if you want to select another system, you should pay every single cent of it. No longer can our politicians continue to talk down the public-education system, while holding open the public purse for private schools. We need to defend public education, we need to reject the false rhetoric of choice, we need to stand up for the fair go, because if we don't, we'll all look back and be so profoundly ashamed. APPLAUSE Michael Duffy. Good evening. I have to confess that I haven't been prepared by life to be representing this side of the argument tonight - my own children have gone to government schools, and they're pretty fabulous places. My wife and I actually went to private schools, they weren't so fabulous. Alex went to an Anglican girls' school, which was a mixed experience, one of their best teachers was a Canadian and it later turned out that not only had he lied about his identity and the possession of a degree, but he was a bank robber on the run from the Mounties.

LAUGHTER I, for myself, attended a Christian Brothers school where violent beatings were common and sometimes these were administered by men who took more pleasure in what they were doing than seemed seemly to us. The educational benefits of this were minimal, apart from providing us with an insight, denied our contemporaries in the state school system, of what it might have been like to have been a prisoner in the Gulag Archipelago. A bit of horse-riding and a Christian atmosphere would have been very welcome. LAUGHTER So, it's therefore with a certain amount of modesty that I stand before you today as a defender of private schools. I do so because I'm a small-L liberal, and I believe that in general, people should be free to make their own choices, and the reason for that is that individuals know more about what we want and what we need than anyone else does. I think if there's one lesson we could take from 20th century history, it is that we should be suspicious of anyone who seeks to take control away from individuals and place it in the hands of an elite that claims to know what's best for other people. And that's exactly what the proposition being put here tonight would lead to. If all government funding of private schools stopped tomorrow, most of those schools would not be able to survive financially,

many of them would close down. Let's consider some of the implications of that. The first would be financial - government funding of recurrent costs in private schools is about half the amount per pupil that goes to public schools, so if all the pupils now in private schools

had to move into public schools, the government would need another $5 billion. They wouldn't need all that amount under the proposal being put tonight, because not all private pupils would move across, but I suspect a majority of them would. They'd need a lot of money, and this would be a financial catastrophe. We're often told that state schools are so badly under funded that they're on the brink of collapse. There's a certain paradox here that was noted but not resolved by the last speaker, which is that we're also told that those schools are providing a world class education. But let's put that aside and accept that government schools ought to be better funded, which I happen to agree with, how could the job of educating a large number of pupils now in private schools do anything other than harm the public system?

I just don't see how we can afford it, and I think our friends over here possibly need to suggest a financial model for what they're proposing. But a far bigger problem with tonight's proposal is that putting most schools in the hands of the government would create one big system, it would be an education monopoly, and history shows us that monopolies are usually bad, they're bad in business, they're also bad in the provision of government services because of a phenomenon known as staff-capture, in which staff come to run things in their own interests rather than those of the public that they're supposed to serve. The NSW Teachers' Federation has a long record of trying to control many aspects of education in public schools. This goes well beyond their own pay and conditions. It's opposed major reforms that are now accepted by almost everyone. Now, I'm not here to be critical of the unions, I've been a delegate in two of them myself, one in the public sector, but as a small-L liberal I believe it's bad for any one group to have too much power, and I think that in one big school system, the union would have too much power and it would abuse it, because without significant diversity, there would be no comparisons, there would be no alternatives, and therefore, there would be little restraint. And there would also, of course, be much less information. We're seeing at the moment in the matter of school performance that many of those who work in the public education system don't want you to know what's happening in your child's school. Another group whose power would increase in reach under one big system would be a politicised Department of Education, and I can illustrate how such power gets used to micromanage with a small story about tonight's event -

apparently, our organisers approached our two star school debaters here with the proposal, the clever proposal that they switch sides so that Sam would have defended public schools and Tim would have stood up for the bastions of privilege, he would have been able to get over some of that cricket-pavilion envy. According to my source, who is not on my team and is not one of the organisers, the Department of Education knocked the idea on the head, there was no way it was going to have one of its pupils defending private schools. This decision was unfortunate for a number of reasons, not least because it deprived the boys of a chance to show us

what splendid futures they might have as barristers. LAUGHTER AND APPLAUSE That's what we on the right call an unintended consequence. It's often asserted that diversity benefits only those who can afford to make choices, in fact, diversity contributes to the health of the whole system, and that ends up helping those not just in private schools but public schools, too. Different types of schools can stimulate each other, ideas can be tested in private schools, they can flow to public ones, and vice-versa. In this way, the existence of diversity and choice benefits even those who are too poor to make choices. It's often assumed that choice means choosing a private school, but there are many people, such as my wife and myself, who can afford to make a choice and have chosen public schools

for our children. And this is often overlooked, but we have made a choice just as much as any parent who sends their child to a private school has made a choice, and we value that, and without a diverse public and private school system, we would not have been able to make a choice, either. And I think we should have the right to make that choice.

Now, one of the biggest and most common claims that's made for forcing everyone into public schools is that it would increase social cohesion, and I'd like to finish by considering a few aspects of this. Australia is already one of the most cohesive societies in the world. Are we sure that changing our current arrangement and moving to one big system of the sort found in countries such as France, America and Britain, would necessarily improve that cohesion? A comparison of ourselves with those countries raises the possibility it might in fact reduce it. So we tinker with tradition, we tinker with the institutions we have, I believe, at risk, there's a danger in that. There have been some considerable changes in Australian society which, on the whole, I think, in recent decades, we've handled reasonably well, some other nations. certainly compared to as the impact of immigration I'm thinking of things such from non-European cultures, and its associated culture the rise of a large welfare class in some parts of Sydney, of these have been felt the social impacts and south-western Sydney. largely in western the best way to assimilate Now, conventional wisdom holds cultural and social diversity into the same schools, is to put all our kids where they'll learn to get along with each other. This involves parents, too, because schools are often communities of parents. Well, a lot of parents in western and south-western Sydney clearly feel differently to this conventional wisdom, and they've moved their children into the many low-fee private schools that have sprung up in these areas, and I wonder if this might have served as a kind of social safety valve, and enabled those parents to tolerate changes they might have otherwise opposed more vehemently. educational diversity, I'm suggesting that maybe a bit like the cultural diversity of multiculturalism, inherent in the policy has actually contributed a great deal social cohesion. to Australia's overall of difference Here too, we've practised tolerance rather than forced assimilation, under the one big system. which is what you'd have If I might end on a personal note, the choices made by the parents I don't pretend to understand I've just described, many of the choices because I don't live where they do, made by other people in this world, of their lives. and I don't know the circumstances I'm not them. I suspect many of the people in this room wouldn't understand the choices about education by people who live in very different circumstances, either, but I do respect their right and their freedom to make a choice, and when you vote later on tonight, you'll be voting, in effect, on whether you want to take that freedom away from them and from all of us. Thank you.

APPLAUSE

Well, that was broadcaster and journalist Michael Duffy continue to be given arguing that public money should to non-government schools. the rest of that event, If you'd like to see and author Jane Caro including arguments from adwoman Sam Malloy, and private school debater for Fora: Extended Mix. join me next Thursday evening at 5:35 of NAIDOC week, Well, today is the start Honouring Our Elders, and its theme this year is Nurturing Our Youth. include a family and market day Celebrations around the country will in Sydney's Redfern. next Friday, to be held at The Block

in Australia, More than any other urban area The Block has become a meeting place, and some would say, spiritual home for city-dwelling Aborigines. However, it has also long struggled with problems of crime, violence and drug abuse. Stolen Generation member Bill Simon has been in and out of jail for much of his adult life, the rest of the time, he's lived on or near The Block. His recent book, Back On The Block, is a moving and personal account of his life story, and his triumph over his demons. His friend, Aboriginal Housing Company CEO Mick Mundine redevelopment of the area. is overseeing the proposed The Block, its stories, its problems, Here they're at Gleebooks discussing and its importance. All of us Indigenous people there, because it's ours. we all love The Block it's the heart of Australia. Actually, I look at it,

they're ripping our heart out, If they take that away from us, all the generations because all the families, he's been there a long time, as Mick said, when I was, what, 18? and I first went down there a long while ago, you know, And I'm 62 now, so that's Many a change? and I - It was a lot different then, we had great times, and Mick would know, we had two-up schools everywhere, every block and all that. We wasn't no angels in the past, you know. That was pretty good then in those days, you know, and we just enjoyed it. Growing up there, that's where all us Stolen Generation guys came, down to The Block to look for our people, you know. And that's where we found them when we went down there and I just, I know that... ..it's going to get better. And, as Mick said,

a lot of the hard yakka we've been through and all that kind of thing, at every tunnel there's a light, but as he said, it's a pretty long tunnel,

if you know what I mean, but we know it's there, and we hope that the community, so we just pull together, can start to come alongside us, Australia, this journey together. you know, so we can all finish for the Australians, And I think not only who are coming over here but for the people in boats and everything else, you know, they've got a short memory, we didn't put the first boat people that come here, we didn't lock them up. But now they're doing the things to other people.

Yeah. So you know, I think, we should have hearts of compassion and to welcome people to this country because it is a beautiful country, the Great South Land of the Holy Spirit, and God's in this as well, because, I don't know if you know this, before Cookie and his crew, but the Romans got here and we chased them off - Should have kept them. Julius Caesar's son got here, Yeah, Peter from Pompeii, they went all around Australia, they had two galleys, and they asked 30 of us - they came to The Block there LAUGHTER I'm talking about the movie crew, Not Peter of Pompeii, and they asked 30 Koori dancers they came down there, the movie. if they wanted to be involved in

so we all went out there, And we said yes, who had just about 30 years jail, at that stage, there was a guy there and he was very hurt, the little red things to put on, and they give us and all that kind of thing, and paint let's really spear some of these..." and this guy kept saying, "Well, and he swore. I'm a Christian." I said, "No, I can't do that, But, what the plot was, from Pompeii the Romans and little Peter and his big Roman soldier's hat, with his little white tunic

run down to the beach they were to have

and go back to the big galley, and get in a little dinghy they had a big galley there as well. And then our job was to, he'd say, when he'd look at his watch, Roman soldiers and Peter, go!" "Righto, and they'd take off down the beach, he said, "Righto, you ready?" then he looked at us Aboriginals, Go!" he said. We said, "Yeah, yeah, quick." mate, And they were chucking the spears, like that. and they were just missing them They knew it, too, we ran next to the water cos what we did was get a closer shot at them. where it was harder, so we could hurt them, they were only little... And it was just, we wouldn't have that chucked my spear. and I was the last fella in your own Aboriginal tongues," He said, "I want you all to speak child, I've lost it. and cos I'm a Stolen Generation speaking in my Eveleigh language, I didn't know anything so I was

they didn't know that, either. "Don't come back!" But I spoke in English and I said,

He said, "Cut, cut, cut." that scene again." He said, "I want you to do They said, the Roman soldiers said, they're really trying to spear us." "We're not doing that again, He said, "They're supposed to." "Yeah, but they really are!" They said, you know. So, we had a great time making that, Yeah. they caught the galley, But actually, up there caught the galley up in Queensland, the Murris and burnt it, and took off back to Rome, so they got on another galley and the artefacts they've now found the burnt galley dating back to that time period. it's not Cookie's, And that's our Aboriginal culture, you know what I mean? Cookie wasn't even here then, when all this happened. But that's in our history.

Um, sorry to drag you back to the present.

I was looking today at the Department of Planning website, checking up on the approval process, as I do now and then, I have done over the years, One of the interesting documents is a collection of the various submissions in response to the exhibition of the Pemulwuy scheme.

There are a whole lot of supporting submissions and quite a number of objections - a small amount, 14 or something. and some of the objections are There's a summary sheet here "intimidating and violent community" things like, and "new buildings will not solve economic problems"

and "existing stock was allowed to run down and new stuff will be inhabited by drug dealers." They're all anonymous. I've got no idea who they're from. It's only interesting because it indicates a feeling of the community members around that it has happened in the past and will continue to happen in the future. It reminded me of the first time I ever walked through The Block, which was many years ago. I didn't know what it was. I was new in Sydney and went for a walk and wandered accidentally through. I remember feeling conspicuous and watched, not threatened, really, but just slightly uneasy. It took me a while to work out what had happened. I went out the other side and everything was fine. A lot of people have that sense about The Block, white people particularly, that it's not welcoming for them. So, how do we go about healing that? It's not only white people who are afraid, a lot of blackfellas are too. Yes, probably. You go back ten years ago - it was a very vicious cycle, as you know. A very vicious cycle. That's true ten years ago - white people, it wasn't safe for them to walk through The Block. You go back five years ago, it's pretty well the same. But you're talking about today, we work so hard. White people and even parents going to the community centre walking through with their baby. We're going to say, why would you take your pram through The Block?

We've got workers down the bottom that walk through The Block. I do it much more happily now too. Don't get me wrong. I mean to say, you get a few idiots on The Block. As you know, people on drugs, there's no boundary where drugs are concerned. We got people that drink alcohol. You get the good drinkers, you get the bad drinkers.

But it has changed a lot. Don't get me wrong.

That community centre has changed the feeling. The community centre has brought a new life to the community. It's like the boundary of reconciliation, bringing people together, white and black. I'm talking about the youth too. You'd be surprised to go there - it's a blessing, the community centre. It was bad in the past but you can trust -

it's not what you'd call clean-safe - but the police are working very hard with us in the drug-related issue. We had a commander called Catherine Burn.

She's assistant commissioner now on one of the levels.

She came there and in 14 months, she brought them respect. When a new commander arrives, he still carries on the same respect that Catherine left there. Would you say that police and the community are getting on quite well these days? I know there's a real history to this. You get promoted most ways. You get some people that don't police there because they're doing the wrong thing. We all know this. It's no secret.

But the police are working very hard. I know the blame has got to stop. The blame has got to stop sooner or later. When Brother Bill, then people realise why the blame has got to stop. We've got to start blaming ourselves for being in a predicament too. The reason I'm saying that is because we've got our people

selling drugs, and it's no secret, selling drugs and they've got that alcohol issue there. They're still there. It's time for our our people to stand up and be accounted for. That was Mick Mundine talking about The Block in Sydney's Redfern. He was at Glebe Books with Bill Simon and Elizabeth Farrelly. If you'd like to see that conversation in full, head to our website: Ours is a complicated world made up at the elemental of protons, molecules and atoms. Quantum theory is the study of these tiny particles,

the behaviour of which explains much of our physical world.

However, very few people can credibly claim to understand it. British broadcaster and journalist Marcus Chown's most recent book is called Quantum Theory Cannot Hurt You. It's been described as "the most accessible book on the subject ever written." Here, he's at the Sydney Writers' Festival with astronomer Fred Watson.

Quantum Theory Cannot Hurt You is rather more than just a book about quantum theory. In fact I think this is two books in one. It is, yeah. The first half is quantum theory and the second half is relativity, which, as an astronomer, I'm supposed to know something about. But I have to confess,

and it may be that many of you are in the same boat, that quantum theory completely baffles me. If I may, I'd like to read an excerpt from page 27, which is a good page to have. It says, "In experiments, it is actually possible

to observe a photon", which is a particle of light, "or an atom", which is a particle of matter,

"being in two places at once, the everyday equivalent of you being in San Francisco and Sydney at the same time." What I want to know, Marcus, is who are you talking to in San Francisco right now? It does sound pretty amazing, doesn't it? Extraordinary. We can't actually observe that. We can observe the consequences of an atom being in two places at once. Nature is quite clever about hiding this. But you can demonstrate this with an experiment which was first done in 1801 in London by a guy called Thomas Young. Oddly enough, I walk past his house nearly every day. Really? It's only about a quarter of a mile from where I live. He did an experiment where he shone light of a single colour on an opaque screen with two parallel, closely spaced slits in it. The light went through both slits. The only thing you need to know is - on the other side it mingled. In mingling, it created an interference pattern, which is a pattern of light and dark regions, just like a supermarket bar code.

The key thing is, this only happens if two things mingle. In the 20th century, this experiment had another incarnation, when people fired particles of light - by then, we'd discovered that light was a stream of particles, photons - at this opaque screen with the two slits in. If this experiment is done where there are huge great time gaps between the photons arriving, so they arrive at these two slits one at a time, you still get the interference patterns, as if something was mingling with something else. The inference is that each of these photons goes through both of the slits at the same time. So, it's in two places at once. If you try and determine which of the slits it goes through, the interference pattern vanishes. Nature does not permit you to know that but you see the consequences of it. It's bizarre, isn't it, this process of when you measure a quantum effect, all the quantum effects disappear is called decoherence. Is that right? Yes. It's what I suffer from on Saturday mornings. I won't go into decoherence, but yeah, that is what it is. I thought it was called incoherence, actually. That's what we are, incoherent. Quantum theory is our very best description of the microscopic world of atoms and it's given us the modern world. It's given us lasers and computers and nuclear reactors. It tells us why this stage is solid, why the sun shines. So, it's fantastically successful. It also gives us a window into this counterintuitive world,

this Alice In Wonderland world beneath the skin of reality where an atom CAN be in two places at once, or three places at once. Or everywhere at once. Where things happen for no reason at all, or an atom can communicate with another atom when they're separated by the width of the universe, and they can do that instantaneously. The big puzzle is, why is the world that underlies our world so different from the everyday world? That is a big puzzle. Decoherence is the phenomenon by which the quantum world morphs into the everyday world. Yes, I understand. I'm interested in this concept of things happening for no reason at all. That's what happens in Canberra. (LAUGHS) Yeah. What it means is, our normal concept of cause and effect essentially lose their meaning in the quantum world. If things just happen spontaneously, because they want to...

Yes. ..the normal phenomena of cause and effect vanish. If you take two, I don't know, plutonium atoms, completely identical - or take uranium atoms - in the next second and the other one might disintegrate in five billion years' time.

But if you looked at them, they're exactly the same. No difference. If you had two bombs,

two sticks of dynamite with timers and they were identical, they would explode at the same time. You would expect so. This was the thing that deeply shocked Einstein. He famously said, "God does not play dice with the universe". He thought there has to be something beneath quantum theory. Things cannot happen for no reason. You may wonder how the microscopic building blocks of you and me behave in this random fashion

and yet everything in the everyday world is predictable. We know - we hope - the sun will come up tomorrow.

It might do. Yeah. And the reason is, what Nature takes away with one hand, it grudgingly gives back with the other. It turns out that although the fundamental universe that underpins our world is unpredictable, the unpredictability is predictable. (LAUGHS) Work that one out. Quantum theory is a recipe for predicting the unpredictability. We can know with certainty that something has a 50% chance or a 95% chance of happening.

It's something. It's a start. Quantum theory, the theory of things happening on very small scales, as well as leading to all these curious paradoxes and decoherences and things happening for no reason also potentially give us some very exciting concepts, like quantum entanglement and the potential of quantum computing, none of which I understand. Do you? No. (LAUGHS) Oh, OK. Does anybody else? I kind of do, yeah. I think this is a counterintuitive reality. It is. We can't expect to completely visualise it. It's unvisualisable. But we can get glimpses. Quantum computers, you're talking about. What I wanted to say is that I lied to you

and that quantum theory is not a theory of microscopic objects. It's not a theory of small things. It's actually a theory of isolated things. Because it's possible to isolate something small like an atom from its surroundings, that it behaves in this bizarre manner. But in principle, if we could isolate Fred from his surroundings - at the moment there are air molecules and light photons bouncing off him - if we put him in a vacuum chamber... I do it all the time! ..and completely isolate him from his surroundings, he would behave like a quantum object. He would be able to to go through two doors simultaneously and do all these incredible things. Wow. That's what a quantum computer is. It's an attempt to build something big that is quantum, to exploit the ability of an atom to be in many places at once to do many calculations at once. A quantum computer could massively outperform the fastest supercomputers we've got today. The problem is being these is they have to be isolated. You've got to build a big thing that's completely isolated from its surroundings. They're being built in vacuum chambers, cooled to -270 degrees, this kind of stuff. There's currently a race on in the world between militaries... I don't know if you're building a quantum computer. We're doing things like that. You know. Universities, governments, are trying to build a quantum computer. We will have one on a desktop within maybe 20 years. Currently, we've got primitive quantum computers and the biggest can manipulate something like ten binary bits.

Your computer at home can manipulate billions of bits. So, they're very primitive. But they're not only a practical, nuts-and-bolts device that you can put on a tabletop that behaves like a quantum object, they have profound philosophical implications for the nature of reality.

It's very easy to imagine building a quantum computer

within maybe 20 years that can do more calculations simultaneously than there are particles in the universe. That's right! Then you have to ask yourself where is the quantum computer doing the calculations?

Your computer can store a number of a particular size because it's got the memory space. Where is the quantum computer doing the calculations if it's using more physical resources than exist in our universe? David Deutsch, who's a physicist at the University of Oxford, says that what the quantum computer does is exploits parallel realities. It exploits copies of itself in parallel universes. When you set a quantum computer a problem, it splits into multiple copies of itself in parallel realities, they all work on threads of their calculation and they come back together with the answer. So he says the quantum computer is something entirely new under the sun. It's the first thing we've ever invented that exploits parallel universes. Well, that was science writer and broadcaster Marcus Chown. And if you'd like to hear the rest of that mind-blowing talk you'll find it in full on our website at: Well, finally today, while receiving treatment for cancer, US author Winifred Gallagher noticed how much better she felt as she focused on her family's immediate needs, rather than her chemotherapy. When she recovered she began studying the neuroscience and psychology of attention. Her book, Rapt: Attention And The Focused Life, argues that your life is the sum of what you focus on and that that can have a profound effect on your wellbeing. Rapt attention is total focus, and it's the key to controlling your experience and changing your life if you want to change your life. Your outlook, your mood, your productivity, your health, are all very closely tied with attention. As my personal hero William James puts it, "My experience is what I agree to attend to." I love that. My experience is what I agree to attend to. The idea that your life is the sum of the material objects and the mental subjects that you focus on, is not just some fanciful notion, but a physiological fact. Let's do a little experiment, which William James devised. First focus on my reading glasses for a minute. Consider their colour, their size, their shape, you know, wonder what strength they are, if they're stronger or weaker than yours, probably stronger. Make some associations with it. You know, what does it mean to have glasses or not have glasses? Neuroscientists have now discovered what went on in your brain when you focused on my glasses. They've discovered that attention is a process of selection

in which your brain sort of spotlights or almost photographs the target, the thing that you're focusing on, which becomes depicted, as scientists say, in your brain. It's as if it was a photograph that gets stored in your album that you call reality, or the world. And that's a very powerful position, because if it's part of your brain, it changes your brain, it can affect your behaviour. At the same time that attention is enhancing my glasses, that's not my glasses. it's suppressing everything So it's an either or proposition. not both. You're focusing on this or that, of making those decisions, So, you can see the importance become part of your world, because the things that you focus on part of your reality, as far as you're concerned, and the things you ignore, might as well not even exist. That's quite a sobering fact. is turning the vast chaotic world And attention's great benefit

pocket version of the world into your small sort of that is comprehensible.

that the world had to offer, If we took in everything we'd go mad.

I mean, that's the reason bad LSD trips in the '60s. why people used to have attentional screens would drop They'd take LSD and their and they'd flip. and they'd just be flooded with stuff that attention filters reality, So, it's a wonderful thing because that allows you to have a comprehensible world that you can cope with. But there's a drawback - that little piece of reality that you zero in on is far more fragmented and subjective than you assume. and the bad news. So, there's the good news If you look back over your years to other things, you'll see that if you paid attention instead of medicine, if you studied law instead of college, if you went to India instead of that one, if you married this one your life would be think how different by focusing on those subjects. the future that you'll create That same dynamic applies to

from tonight onward. "pay attention" suggests, As the expression, of this mental money. you a limited supply as mental money. You can think of attention You have enough to pay attention to about 173 billion bits of information in a lifetime, in an average lifetime. Where are you going to spend the money? Are you gonna pay for an HBO re-run? Or are you gonna practise that guitar piece or that piano piece that you've been meaning to get to? It's a decision. Your answers will help shape your brain, your world and your experience. To ensure our survival, Homo sapiens evolved two ways of focusing - involuntary bottom-up attention asks, to focus on here?" "What's the obvious thing For you guys, it's me. Right? It's the obvious thing to focus on. you don't have to think, If you smell smoke, to the smell?" "Well, should I pay attention Of course, you pay attention a fire could endanger you. because it could be you don't have to think about it, If you encounter a snarling dog, you will attend to that target. Wailing siren, flashing red lights. Bottom-up involuntary attention. We don't have to think about it. top-down attention, But we also have voluntary a very different question - and that asks not what's obvious thing to focus on, but what do YOU want to focus on? Do you want to focus on the noise out in the street, or on the report that you have to write? Do you want to focus on the jealous thought, or the peaceful thought? Top-down attention is your tool that lets you choose your focus and therefore shape your experience. I wrote the book because 5.5 years ago I got a very nasty breast-cancer prognosis, and it was not at all sure that I was gonna make it. for the illness And my coping strategy focus on how I was very sick was that I saw that I could either and I could die, all these terrible treatments, and I was going to have which I did have, would be motherless, and my five children and how terrible everything was. "All of that is true, I could focus on that or I could say, to write a book, but I also signed a contract I have a lot of presents to buy, Christmas is coming, I have a lot going on. I'm a mom, I'm a wife, moving forward with my life I'm going to focus on as well as I can, as much as I can. I'm just not going to think any more than I have to about this cancer business." So I set about doing that and sort of, to my surprise, it really worked. It really worked.

I'd get up and I'd say, "Well, you know, I'm bald, I don't feel very well, I'm kind of tired, I could just lie in bed and watch Oprah or something, or I can get up and put on my sweatsuit and go across to my office and work on the book." And I just kept doing that. whatever seemed to be productive. I just kept doing I wasn't happy all the time, saying, It's not happy, "Oh, have a happy thought!" when you're going through chemo I mean, you don't feel that happy radiation and all that kind of stuff. and surgery and more chemo and when you're not happy, There's a lot of times could focus on something but I found that I almost always rather than unproductive. that was productive, So, when I got better, I said, to this attention business. "Gosh, there's really something I'd better do some research. with the neuroscience, And I started out and I just found that in fact there's tons of research on attention that I just feel I know I sound like I've drunk the Kool-Aid, but I just think it's a wonderful tool that we've kind of lost track of. So, as I indicated, when you're sick,

if you have a bad biopsy or you've lost your job or one of your kids is in trouble or something, that's when attention becomes really, really important to take charge of your attention. Because we naturally evolved to pay more attention to fears and sadness

because they cause pain and... and anger and those emotions And we're meant, nature, we evolved, it's supposed to motivate us to have the pain because to get rid of the pain. to do something that's causing the pain. Solve the problem It's very adaptive. you had with a friend, If you're upset by a quarrel you make amends. served a purpose. So, the negative emotion and you're worried, If your kid is sick call the doctor. your anxiety makes you That's good.

and you feel angry and you protest, If you witness injustice to that negative emotion. that is a useful productive purpose this orientation we have Unfortunately, however,

to pay attention to negative stuff, we end up stuck on lots of painful and destructive ideas and feelings that serve no problem-solving purpose whatsoever. Like, you know the sort of thing, "I'll never lose those ten pounds. Never, never, never, never."

"This job is too hard for me. No-one could do it. What does he think, I'm Superman or something?" "She gets all the lucky breaks. everything comes so easily to her." She gets all the lucky breaks, You know these kind of thoughts. these useless negative thoughts You must focus away from like, to more productive positive ideas if I go to the gym." "I'll lose the ten pounds but I'll give it my best shot." "This job is challenging, She's made her own breaks." "Irene is a very accomplished person. There's a world of difference - it's the same situation, which one of those thoughts, are you going to focus on? which one of those thoughts it's a more pleasant way to live, And this is not just because productive positive thoughts it's much more practical focusing on literally expands your horizons, your visual field.

They put research subjects in front of computerised displays, visual displays, and the subjects who are cued to be in a positive state see much more information on the peripheral edges of the screen

than people in a neutral or negative state. So, what does this mean? "Oh, that's great. So you see more?" No, you also conceptually see the big picture. You have more options to consider. You're in a better position to make decisions. It's very practical.

negative thoughts, In contrast, negative emotions,

narrow your focus. the computer screen, If you're sitting in front of you don't see the stuff here. You just see that one problem.

David Kellerman, I think of that poor soul who killed himself last week, because of Freddie Mac, hung himself in his house

responsible for the mortgage crisis. because he felt personally came home, changed his shirt, He apparently worked 24/7, went right back out again, his whole world, until the whole world, no longer included his wife, his little girl, his neighbours who love and miss him. All that's gone, his health, young guy, the only thing he could see was that crisis, and he hung himself. He limited his options to hanging himself. Research on neuro-plasticity shows that your brain and your behaviour can be actually changed by what you attend to and experience.

My favourite example of this is London taxicab drivers. is so challenging The maze of London streets have enlarged hippocampuses, that the taxi drivers' brains which is a brain structure if that's the plural I want, spatial processing in memory. that's in charge of So, imagine that. It's like a muscle. of these guys. And they have FMRI screens Winifred Gallagher And that was author the Los Angeles Public Library. talking at hope you enjoyed the show, That's all for today, and I'll see you again next Thursday evening at 5:35 for Fora: Extended Mix, and the rest of the IQ2 debate about public funding of private schools - is it fair enough or is it unconscionable? In the meantime, visit our website at:

There you can find the full versions of everything you've seen on tonight's show and much, much more. I'm Tony Jones. Enjoy your evening. Closed Captions by CSI