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Big Ideas -

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(generated from captions) Australian Caption Centre Copyright 1994 Supertext Subtitles Ruth Ellison Subtitle Editor: Subtitler: Michael Watson

This Program is Captioned Live.

Good morning - there are no

from the crash of a plane carrying Good morning - there are no survivors

six Australian mining executives in

west Africa. The Sundance Resources

board members were on a business

trip, when the twin engine jet

carrying eleven people disappeared

an area of dense jungle. A carrying eleven people disappeared in

found the wreckage in a remote part an area of dense jungle. A helicopter

of the congo. Between 9 and 10

have been already retrieved. I guess of the congo. Between 9 and 10 bodies

that they have already retrieved the

black box of the plane and it is

impossible to tell you exactly the

reason why this crash has taken

place. the delegation was heading

an iron ore venture owned by the place. the delegation was heading for

Perth-based company. A tornado has

ripped through the town of billings

in the US state of Montana, tearing

the roof from a sports arena and

damaging a casino. Debris was flung

hundreds of metres in all directions

but there were no reports of

from the winds that hit more than but there were no reports of injuries

kilometres an hour. And the agility from the winds that hit more than 160

of the competitors has been stunning

crowds at the robot olympics in

northern China. They've been

competing in a variety of events

sprint and kung fu to boxing and competing in a variety of events from

dance. The winning time in the five

metre sprint was twenty seconds.

ABC news with Ros Childs at midday. metre sprint was twenty seconds. More I'm Tony Jones. Hello and welcome to Big Ideas. This Program is Captioned Live. THEME MUSIC I'm Tony Jones. Australia's Mr Soccer, Les Murray, On today's show - from his refugee past. shares dramatic stories

5,000 miniature robots Why oceanographers have set floating in the sea. to save us all from oblivion. And a canny six-step plan We are a very lucky civilisation invented a technology because we have sort of accidently

many of the threats that I think obviates civilisations to collapse. that have caused previous of the Internet This is a connectivity map

is present a case and what I'm gonna do tonight system that this rapid electronic network that we would want provides six very important steps to avoid collapse. a watershed moment in our history So I think we're at the thing that saves our future. and this - this - may just be We'll hear more Internet evangelist David Eagleman from neuroscientist and a little later. leader Malcolm Turnbull But first, former Liberal Party Deakin Lectures in Melbourne took to the stage at the recent to take a swipe at what he calls over climate change. Kevin Rudd's political cowardice Turnbull argues

on a carbon trading scheme that the Prime Minister's back down was self-destructive. Tony Abbott directly And though he didn't mention his own party's policy on the issue. there is veiled criticism of as part of a panel Malcolm Turnbull was speaking on the politics of climate change. that is uniquely challenged We live in a continent by climate change. that is becoming drier and hotter We live in a dry continent the population live. in the southern part where most of And we have witnessed that. the hottest decade on record. We have seen the last decade

was the one before that, The next hottest the next hottest the one before that. it is effecting us now Climate change is real, severe impact on Australia. and it is having a particularly resource available to us And yet, right now we have every of climate change to meet the challenge

except for one - and that is leadership. APPLAUSE

change have been betrayed Our efforts to deal with climate by a lack of leadership - the like of which I have never seen a political cowardice in my lifetime before. SCATTERED APPLAUSE The abandonment - the Emissions Trading Scheme The abandonment of by the Prime Minister the most remarkable political acts - surely must be one of I might say, self-destructive political acts there is some justice - LAUGHTER ah, that we've ever seen. with a policy Here was a man who came to office that he said was the answer of our times. to the greatest moral challenge the support of the Senate. Ultimately, he could not secure in the Opposition, There was a change of leadership I remember it well. LAUGHTER upon to support the government - But oppositions can never be relied the Opposition. that's why they're called and has the ability, But he had the ability, a double dissolution. to take the matter to

to resolve that deadlock He has a constitutional means to take it on, but because he did not want to take on this issue because he did not have the guts he squibbed it and abandoned it. "What do you stand for, Kevin?" And he wonders now why people ask What do you believe in? What do you stand for, Kevin? on climate change If you do not believe in action what is the substance, of your leadership? the political substance, there is nothing there. And the answer is - of having a national government We are in the absurd position target, which has set an unconditional cut, by 2020 of five percent from 2000 levels to achieve it. but does not have the means

to achieve it It does not have the means because it has cast those means away. of this And the surreal political aspect out of cowardice - is that Kevin Rudd chose funk, as Tim Flannery described it - the Emissions Trading Scheme not to take on of imposing a great big new tax, for fear of being accused the Emissions Trading Scheme notwithstanding that the latest Nielsen Poll, had, on the basis of the support of 58% of the population, of industry, had the support of the vast majority and had been well - was well understood with Green Papers, White Papers, had been consulted extensively studies, amendments, negotiations, it was a well understood instrument for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and one which we knew would work. He squibbed that challenge and instead has gone off to pick a fight with his mining tax which nobody understands, which nobody was consulted about,

and which now has produced the most extraordinary political backlash we've seen in many years. It's an incredible, surreal episode of political - a combination of political cowardice and political incompotence. Now, the fact is - the inconvenient, for some people melancholy fact of life is this - we cannot effectively, cost effectively achieve a substantial cut in emissions without putting a price on carbon. We have to put a price on carbon -

we can do it by a carbon tax if you like, the better approach is via a cap and trade emissions trading scheme. I think most people in Australia who write about this agree on that. But you cannot get away from the fact that there is a cost. Now, the Coalition's new policy - unlike the Government which has no policy, it has a policy vacuum, the greatest policy vacuum to meet the greatest moral challenge - the Coalition has a new policy which amounts to the Government - that's to say you, the taxpayers - paying for sufficient abatement in the form of offsets to meet the five percent target by 2020. I have to say, while it is not a policy I would propose or that I would regard as ideal, it does potentially, or theoretically, have the ability to meet the five percent target. It is a medium-term, stop-gap policy, that's probably the best way to describe it.

What it doesn't do, of course, is set a long-term carbon price, it doesn't give the investors - people like Grant King from Origin who spoke here earlier in the week - it doesn't give the investors and the business community the confidence, the signal that they need to know what kind of investment, what sort of equipment to buy what sort of fuel to have to generate electricity in the years ahead. So the Coalition's policy, which to say is better than nothing, which is what the Government has, is a medium-term stop-gap which hopefully will be succeeded by a thorough going price on carbon. If I could just conclude on this point, the proposition that the Government has put out that nothing has been done internationally and that justifies shelving the Emissions Trading Scheme is flawed for two reasons - firstly, the Government has - and the Coalition supports - an unconditional five percent cut and if you make a commitment to that cut it follows that you must have the means to carry it out.

The Government currently does not have the tools to do that. Perhaps Mark Dreyfus will tell us what they are, he might be able to produce them. But the second argument is that not enough has happened internationally. Well, Warwick McKibbin, the member of the Reserve Bank board and one of the most distinguished climate change economists in the world has analysed the commitments made under the Copenhagen Accord and he makes the point

that the commitments that have already been made

are very substantial. China's per capita emissions on the basis of what it has committed to the accord will be 22% lower, the United States will be 33% lower -

this is lower than business as usual - ours, at a 5% cut, would be 35% lower. So, there are substantial commitments that have been made and of course the Europeans have made, as you know, very substantial commitments themselves already. So there is no reason, no political, moral, economic or ethical reason for this extraordinary abandonment of responsibility by the Government

and what we have instead of leadership is cowardice. What we need to become truly a low-emission economy is courage and leadership. Thank you. Well, that was Malcom Turnbull speaking at the Deakin Lecture series in Melbourne. And to hear the thoughts of some of the other players in that lively debate, including Nick McKim, the leader of the Tasmanian Greens, Tim Flannery and the British High Commissioner, visit our website: Next up, a glimpse of the work being done by about 5,000 miniature robots that are floating in the oceans. According to Tony Haymet, one of the world's top oceanographers, these tiny robots are constantly monitoring temperature, salinity and other data which is feeding our knowledge of global warming. They may even help us to find new ways of using algae as a fossil fuel. Dr Haymet was a guest of the Global Change Institute at the University of Queensland. So let's talk about life in the ocean. What if I were to tell you that there were 176 million blue whales in the ocean but we didn't know about them or see them until about a decade ago? That's a pretty amazing statement and if I were in Queensland you'd probably elect me to Federal Parliament for saying something like that. I like to get the Queensland joke out of the way as soon as possible. But you'd be right and so what we now know is that 90% of life in the ocean is bacteria and viruses, microbial life. And indeed the things that we think of as the iconic things - the coral reefs, the whales, the sharks, the big tuna, the other big fish - they're just the PR spokespeople for the ocean. The real action we've come to learn in the last decade, is this amazing set of life that's in the ocean. And that's the challenge that lies ahead. And I'm one of those who thinks that to understand this life - we don't understand much of it, we understand a little bit of it - but we can't possibly get out into the ocean with ships in the traditional technologies - no taxpayer or politician would tolerate that kind of expense. And so to understand all these things that exist in just one litre of sea water - 10 billion viruses, 1 billion bacteria, 5 million protozoa per litre -

half of the organic matter that's used in the ocean is used by these microscopic organisms. And, of course, about 50% of the oxygen that we breathe is created by the ocean. And I read, in preparation for this talk, that every second

that there are approximately 10 to the 23 viral infections occurring in the ocean, a somewhat awesome statistic. And unfortunately this movie may not show up but this is actually a dead dinoflagellate in the middle there, about 20 micro metres across. It's surrounded by a halo of cholera bacteria

which I might have a chance to talk later on in the talk. So this is the challenge we have in front of us. I should declare up front that we don't quite know how to explore this life. We don't really even know how to classify this life, it seems to change so often with time at a same location in the ocean and it changes from nearby location to nearby location

within a few tens of kilometres. So that's what lies ahead and in the rest of the talk, I'll try and describe in the next 40 minutes the progress that we've made. Before I get back into my talk I want to tell you a bit about Scripps and since we're on video and I have a very troublesome communication director I have to say that we're an institution, not an institute. If you belong in an institution you'll know what I mean. We were founded in 1903. There are 1,400 that I pay. What I mean by that is that there are another 500-600 volunteers who help me run our aquarium and other volunteer aspects of it. Little picture in the top right is what La Jolla used to look like when we started. There was no suburb, no houses, just a very nice beach which persist to this day. Um, interestingly, we're a soft money institution.

which means, for those of you who know what that means it's an interesting way of life - it means we raise the money every year to do our research. The government doesn't give us very much money every year so it's a fairly Darwinian process.

You learn to live by your wits and talent and you're a little bit susceptible to the comings and goings of various governments and administrations. One of the things that my great predecessor Roger Revelle, the fifth director of Scripps, did was not only start climate research, which we'll talk about in a second, but he created the University of California, San Diego, 49 years ago. Probably the other thing you need to know is that it's a very beautiful place. That's Scripps at sunset - a pier that's been there in some form since 1916. My office is right at the foot of that pier. So I got this invitation to help you celebrate your 100th birthday and it was an oration. And I don't know about you - I've given lectures before but I've never given an oration before. And I thought I'd better do some practice

on - in the oration department. And so I'm sure you'd like to think that professors wander all over the world so here I am a week ago in southern France. Unlike you, the audience seemed to leave quite quickly so...

So I practised this talk. So understanding the oceans, the biology of the oceans, the atmosphere of the solid earth, it's a tough thing to do. We're limited by the sheer vastness of the 71% of the planet that's covered by ocean and the great depths - average of seven kilometres. In addition, in the solid earth and the atmosphere we're limited by easy access. And from a traditional point of view, it's just plain expensive to do this research. And so what I'm going to tantalise you with tonight is just some of the tools that have come to the fore in the last decade

that really allow us to do experiments that we've always wanted to do and people in the audience here knew 40 or 50 years ago we should do but they were just too darn expensive to do. So this graph here is the work of my late colleague Charles David Keeling - he was the first one to measure CO2 in the atmosphere. We've done that every month for the last 52 years. It's probably the most important graph to come out of Scripps and has led to a scientific understanding of what greenhouse gases, including CO2, are doing to the planet.

This gives me a chance to show you the lab at Mauna Loa on top of a volcano in Hawaii and a photo of Dave himself

and also to show probably the next most important location for this kind of work

which is our very own Cape Grim in north-west Tasmania. In addition to this C02, which has now risen 39% above the value that nature gave us in about 1850, a lot of that CO2, somewhere between one-quarter and a third of it, has dissolved into the ocean and the red curve is the record of acidity of the ocean - so-called pH. Experiment started by none other than the very same Charles David Keeling.

Unfortunately he started them much later than the 1958 CO2 experiments. And people who understand the acidity of the ocean are extremely alarmed by this graph which is persistent around the tops of the ocean throughout the world. It simply reflects the fact that when CO2 is in the atmosphere, there's nothing we can do to stop it dissolving in the ocean. And when it dissolves in the ocean it creates more hydrogen ions so it increases the acidity, but, more importantly, it decreases the availability of carbonate ion and so any little organism that wants to secrete a calcium carbonate shell at first has a great deal of difficulty in doing that and eventually starts dissolving as the acidity becomes such that a shell of a sea snail such as - we call them pteropods - or indeed coral - coral reefs - will eventually start to dissolve. So one of the things we'd like to do

is have a way of measuring the acidity of the ocean all over the world's ocean. At the moment we do that in just a couple of places. They turn out to be Bermuda and Hawaii and the peninsula in Antarctica.

I've never quite figured out why my scientists always seem to pick these exotic locations. But what we really need to do is measure the acidity as a function of depth and location and indeed the season of the year. There's a difference between summer and winter and autumn and spring. So the old-fashioned way to do that is to take your ships out to the ocean and this is the Scripps fleet - four vessels and a floating platform called FLIP that rotates 90 degrees. And it's still important that we have a few ships but the new robotic age is embodied by this successful experiment. And here are 3,255 robots - Argo floats, we call them - this is where they were on 9 April, 2010 a few days ago when I was finishing off this talk. More precisely,

these were where they had surfaced in the last ten days, the last reported position of these robots. So rather than take out many hundreds of vessels and keep them constantly in the ocean to measure the properties that we need to understand what's happening to the planet - in this case the temperature and salinity as a function of location and depth we have these nifty little robots that have been developed over the last couple of decades. And indeed a program of 26 countries has led to a fantastic experiment that I think is not well-enough known. The reason that I know about these floats

is partly because my colleagues at CSIRO were greatly involved in this experiment - indeed Australia is the third-largest contributor. And I'm playing a little movie here to show you how these robots work - they're dropped off vessels. They actually are little submarines so my colleague Russ Davis perfected a kind of a bladder... MOBILE PHONE RINGS ..Your mother's on the phone! That's what I like to say to my first-year chemistry students. It somehow stops the phone calls. There's a little bladder in here that changes the density of the float so it's able to sink itself into the ocean using very low power - basically mobile phone batteries. It sinks down to a specified depth. We usually use something like a kilometre although if you're willing to use more power it can go deeper. It drifts along in the ocean currents for ten days

and then after those ten days it pops to the surface, all the time measuring the temperature and salinity - the profile. These are very important properties, the most basic chemical properties of the ocean. When it gets to the top of the ocean it beams its data back just in one direction through the satellite network. It all comes down to a computer server that happens to be at Scripps and then it's distributed free to everybody. And you can log on to: and see all of the data yourself. So this is another depiction of where these floats are. The colours actually indicate the country of origin of these floats. So this is an absolutely incredible experiment that works today. It's hit its design point in 2007. There's a constant program - the floats last about 4.5, 5 years. They cost about $15,000. Compare that to the huge expense of taking scientists out on vessels and actually lowering instruments into the ocean to measure this. And so, already, very important things have been discovered by these floats. In today's Australian newspaper

I summarise the work of three different groups about examining a hypothesis about the change in precipitation that's going on as the planet warms.

Probably the most important result from this work

combined with earlier measurements from vessels is an actual measurement of the heat content of the ocean. For those of you who understand the concept of heat capacity, the heat capacity of the atmosphere is the same as the heat capacity of just the first metre or two of the ocean. And so the ocean is the great heat reservoir of the planet and if it is true, in fact, that the planet is heating up then you must see a signature in the ocean. That was ocean researcher Tony Haymet and the robots exploring our oceans. and if you'd like to be fully submersed in those ideas,

tune in tomorrow at 11am, right here on ABC1 for Big Ideas Extended Mix. American neuroscientist and fiction writer, David Eagleman, reckons the Internet will save us from certain oblivion, inoculating us against disease and tyranny and a host of other things that might do us in. It takes luck and technology for a civilisation to survive, and according to Eagleman, the Internet may help manage the six requirements of a durable one. So, step number one for avoiding the collapse of civilisation, is - OK, so this is a virus. And disease epidemics caused by microbes like this,

viruses and also bacteria - these are the things that precipitated the fall of the Roman Empire

and of the Golden age of Athens and of most of the empires of the native Americans. And it's sort of surprising that when you look at the largest threat to the survival of civilisation, that it's something so small. And, in fact, it's so invisibly small that viruses and bacteria weren't understood until very recently in history. And yet, despite their small size, these have caused more death and destruction

than all the famines and wars put together. So, take as an example smallpox, which was the most destructive disease in history. It's killed hundreds of millions of people between ancient times and 1977, when it was finally eradicated. The Romans lost up to a third of their population in parts of their empire, and about a millennium later, what happened was the Crusaders came back from pillaging distant lands, and they brought an epidemic of smallpox to Europe, Europeans then went over they brought smallpox to the New World, and in doing so, devastated the Incas and the Mayans and other natives there. And some of you may know, in 1707, smallpox wiped out a third of Iceland. So, similarly the Black Plague, Yersinia pestis, this wiped out a third of Europe, starting in 1347. And then it kept coming back to haunt Europe century after century. Yellow fever so badly decimated Napoleon's armies in Haiti, that Napoleon gave up the idea of having a Western French Empire, just because of yellow fever.

Because of his 22,000 crack soldiers that he'd sent to Haiti, 21,000 of them died. And that's why Napoleon sold the Louisiana territory to the United States - because he finally, he said, "I just don't want to be running this show, confronting diseases that I no longer understand." So he sold it for roughly five cents an acre, which in a bloodless manner, doubled the size of the United States. OK, and so, it goes on and on. There are these viruses and bacteria that have really navigated the course of history in major ways. And what I'm gonna suggest is that the Internet is really our key to survival here. LAUGHTER Um...and this is for three reasons - first, what the Internet gives us is the ability to work remotely. And when you can work from home telepresently, what this allows you to do is inhibit viral transmission by reducing face-to-face contact, the human-to-human contact. So in the face - LAUGHTER So, here's the idea - next time that there's a really killer virus coming our way if businesses are prepared in advance, what they can do is really leverage telepresence to keep supply chains running with the maximum number of employees working from home. Now, this isn't gonna keep everybody off the street,

but it's gonna vastly reduce the density and it turns out that when it comes to epidemics, that's all you need to do. You just need to get things below a tipping point. So, the reason viruses have this sort of tipping point is because viruses have a limited lifetime

and a certain probability of infecting somebody. And so, if you have very low host density, then the virus dies before it can get to a new host. But as soon as you get enough people together, then it can find new hosts, and you go from some sort of equilibrium state into an epidemic - it really blows up. And in fact, you can see this sort of thing happening every Christmas Holiday season, with people shopping in the malls, because they all bunch together, and then you cross over this population tipping point, and then everyone gets flu and cold. OK, so now, here's the problem - in the past, societies have reacted to epidemics by bunching together. So, for example, in medieval Europe, when the Black Plague hit, and other plagues like it, warring religious factions, who spent all their time killing each other, would show solidarity in the face of all this death, by marching together in the streets together, to show that the Catholics and the Protestants could be friends in the face of the plague. Well, that was a real misstep in terms of density. And it turns out that the native Americans, in a show of good will, they would gather in the tents of people who were infected with smallpox. Everyone would gather together, and again, unfortunately that was a gesture that was sort of ill-fated.

And so, this is exactly the fear that all major medical centres have - that next time we have a major, a new strain hitting us, whether it's avian flu or swine flu, or something,

the big fear that medical centres have is that everyone with a cough is gonna come flocking into the med centre to get checked out. And this is really dangerous. And so, I think this is the second great opportunity

afforded to us by the Net, besides telepresence, is telemedicine, whereby with increasingly sophisticated technologies, we don't have to have patients coming in and bunching up together. But instead we can have diagnosis from a distance. OK, so the telepresence and the telemedicine are very useful because they keep the population density below a tipping point. I think there's a third benefit that we get from the Internet - which is we can optimally direct resources when there is an outbreak. So, you may know that the Center for Disease Control tracks the flu by tracking what happens at the local hospitals. Now, the thing is, it takes two weeks for the CDC to put together their report. It lags the actually flu outbreak by two weeks. So Google came up with a better idea. And what they do is they track where people are searching for terms related to the flu. So if they're searching for information

on symptoms or medicines or something, it turns out that over the course of the nation, that serves as an excellent proxy for where there's a flu outbreak. So while the CDC's report lags by two weeks, Google's lags by only a day. So, this gives us a very rapid way to know dynamically exactly where the flu is and where the outbreaks are happening. OK, so, unlike previous generations, that were brought down by disease especially because they didn't know how to react in terms of density and sparseness - We can now do better because of the Internet. If we're well prepared when the next epidemic arrives, we can fluidly shift into a self-quarantined, telepresent society, in which the microbes fail by dint of host sparseness. And so, there's a lot of talk about the ills of social isolation, and everybody sitting on Facebook. But whatever those ills are, it bodes a lot worse for the microbes than it does for us. So, although we're well into this step,

there's work to be done if we want to save our civilisation.

Businesses really need to work on developing their disaster plans, and their work-from-home epidemic plans. I wrote a paper on this in the journal Nature, about five years ago and I've been watching as businesses have been doing this. I've been monitoring, sort of, how this is going. Some businesses are doing it. Most aren't, still. It's really important to try to get businesses to do this, and it's extremely easy to test, right? To work out the kinks - by having everybody work from home. And then the second thing, as a society, we really need to keep developing telemedicine and similar ideas like that. So that's step one, where the Internet already gets us a long way down that road of not coughing on each other. The second way, that I propose the Internet is going to avert the collapse of civilisation,

is with this - you don't want to lose things. So, in a battle between Julius Caesar and Ptolemy VIII, Julius Caesar got backed into a sort of funny military move, and what he ended up doing was burning his own ships at the dock. Now, military historians talk about whether it was a good idea or not,

but the thing was he accidentally lit the docks on fire, and that burned down the library at Alexandria. Now, the reason that was such a tragedy is because the library at Alexandria had for a very long time been collecting the manuscripts of every single person who passed through the port. So if you were going through Alexandria, you had to give up your manuscripts for careful copying by the scribes and then they would give it back to you. So what the library housed was ALL of the knowledge at that time. This was the repository. The problem was it was the single repository. And when it got torched, it's now just a memory. And the thing is that all the knowledge collected over that period of time, was lost entirely in a single fire. And it turns out that the learning and discovery of the Mayans met the same fate in the bonfires of the Spaniards. So, of the thousands of books that the Mayans had written that catalogued all of their learning and discovery, and so on, we only have four of them. Only four survive into modern times. Now, can you imagine somebody trying to understand our civilisation by reading, let's say, the Bible, and Frankenstein, and Harry Potter and Twilight. LAUGHTER That's the situation we're in where we're trying to understand the Mayans. All of their knowledge is gone - it was burned. The Minoan civilisation was a flourishing civilisation between 2700 BCE and 1450 BCE. It was on the island of Crete. They had all kinds of trade and discovery.

Here's one of their frescoes. This is known as the Phastos Disc from the Minoans. And does anybody know what those symbols mean? Nobody does. Join the club, yeah, exactly. Because it was completely lost. And in fact, they weren't even called the Minoans - that's not what they called themselves,

that's a name that a British archaeologist gave to them, because we don't know what they called themselves. So everything they had and knew was lost to us. OK, so knowledge is hard won by societies and civilisations, but it's very easily lost. And it proves impossible to estimate the number of museums and archives and libraries and houses of learning that fell under the swords of invaders or under the wrecking ball of natural disasters. So the problem is history is characterized by this sort of amnesia,

where you have civilisations that flourish.

If you can imagine little fires on the surface of the globe there, where there's a fire that happens for a while, and then it gets doused out for whatever reason, and everything they learned is now forgotten. The thing is that this impacts survival - this isn't just some sort of historical interest thing. So take, as an example, inoculation. Many people know that in Europe, inoculation was introduced by Lady Montagu,

and the idea is that you introduce a little bit of the virus to somebody, and that confers immunity to a bigger dose of the virus, for example, with smallpox - this is where it was used. Well, inoculation isn't just a good idea - it's a great idea, because it really reduces the death rate. But what's not so widely known outside of Western circles is that Lady Montagu didn't invent this. And in fact, the Ottoman Empire, where she first saw it, they didn't even invent it. Turns out that this inoculation had been in practice in China, in India and in Africa for centuries, unbeknownst to the Europeans. So for example, in China, inoculation was underway since the tenth century, and by the time of the Ming Dynasty in the 1500s it was widely practiced - everybody was doing it. But the Europeans had to sort of re-stumble on this on their own, much later. Does this matter? Well, you bet it matters, because millions of people died in the meantime while this was going on - while some people had the knowledge of inoculation, and others didn't. Now, Edward Jenner in 1796, improved on inoculation. Instead of injecting somebody with smallpox, you used cowpox instead, which makes them less sick, but it also confers the immunity. Well that was a great idea that Jenner had, except we now know that six people in Germany and England had the same idea, and they had shown the success of that idea, but nobody knew. What happened is the little fires got lit, but they didn't spread,

so everybody had to independently rediscover this. Now, as I mentioned, it really matters if these things have to get rediscovered, of if they can catch on and spread, because at the same time that all this was going on with Lady Montagu and then later with Dr Jenner, native Americans were dying of smallpox. The knowledge existed in other places of the planet, but they didn't exist as these whole empires were falling here. OK, so what happens is, if you can imagine, these little fires going on. I should mention two more examples, actually...this is stunning, but... ..did you guys know that basic plumbing ceased to exist for a millennium after the collapse of the Roman Empire. People forgot how to do plumbing. They had to rediscover that 1,000 years later. And as one more example, in the year 1900, three different botanists independently discovered the rules of genetic inheritance, which Gregor Mendel had quietly published 40 years earlier. It was independently rediscovered three times in the same year. So if you can imagine these little fires - you've got inoculation, that goes, and then goes away, and you've got basic plumbing, and you've got the rules of genetic inheritance, and what you really want, is for an idea to get discovered once, and then really catch fire. That's what you want to happen - LAUGHTER and that's what the Internet is good for, because it's distributed. And when you distribute ideas, it can latch on everywhere and get spread around, and in fact, this was one of the original motivations for the Internet, was to have distributed storage. And the big idea is when you distribute things, bits of knowledge and transformed ideas can latch on immediately, the news spreads everywhere and redundantly. And it makes it very difficult to erase, so fires, like the Library of Alexandria, and floods and so on, have a very difficult time erasing such a knowledge set. So for example, in my field, as a neuroscientist, I, every day, use PubMed, which is the central collection of all of the biomedical research. So anything that's discovered anywhere on the Earth, is gonna end up in here very quickly,

and I can find it with a few clicks. Right?

There's a company called JSTOR, which some of you may use. They scan these old archives of all these old journals from the 16 and 1700s, journals that nobody goes down to the library and actually dusts off anymore. Now it's fully text-searchable, you can find things that were once lost to history - they've been exhumed now, and they're all right there at your fingertips. And of course, with something like Google Books, you have the world's writing is all there

and it's clickable and discoverable and readable. And so the idea is that if the Mayans had had PubMed, they could have just looked up inoculation, right? And unlike the Library of Alexandria, you can't torch Google Books. Like, that's really here to stay. So, that's the idea. Now, as an example of the modern appreciation of storing knowledge in a redundant, indestructible manner, everyone recognises Michelangelo's David. Well, this is not actually Michelangelo's David - this is Michelangelo's David, and it's being scanned with a 3D laser scanner, from a group, it's a group from Stanford, in the University of Washington. And what they did is they scanned the entire statue, and what you're seeing on the right is a reproduction of it made of a billion polygons

at a quarter of a millimetre resolution. This is the largest scanned object in the world right now. And the idea is that if the museum were to be suddenly destroyed in an earthquake this statue would not be lost. It's totally reproducible now. This is what's known as the Digital Michelangelo Project, and you can download this on a CD, on your JumpDrive, it's stored all over the world. And what this means is unlike - by the way, this just got completed a few months ago. So, previous to that, if this hadn't have been done, and there were an earthquake,

it would just be utterly lost - there would be no more statue there. Now, this is just a piece of art, of course, but I'm using this as an example of the way that we can create things now and make them immune against destruction. Where this becomes really important is with the intellectual discoveries that might be happening anywhere on the Earth, and that might become really important for our future. We won't be losing those ideas anymore, and we can draw on them when we need them. And we're not wasting time with parallel rediscovery as has happened so many times in history. So this allows us to optimally solve problems, including problems that we don't even know are problems yet. David Eagleman there, and how the internet can avert the collapse of civilisation. And you can find the rest of his six-steps on our website: Well finally today - they call him Mr Soccer, or these days Mr Football but for Les Murray, Australia's best loved soccer commentator there'll be no Socceroos or interesting restaurants for that matter without people like his parents, who fled communist Europe in the 1950's. The former Hungarian refugee shares his family's harrowing story

in one of the Museum of Australian Democracy's 'Uncensored Conversations.'

One day sometime around 1954 when I was about eight-years-old my father didn't come home from work at the usual time as the hours passed by, we were all worried sick. We knew that his usual routine was to stop off at the local pub on the way home from the factory, have a couple of drinks

but be home by around 6 o'clock. Just in time to check our homework and beat us about the head for getting most of it wrong. But that night he didn't front, until he finally walked through the front door around midnight, ashen faced. To explain what happened. He told us he met a stranger at the pub, a most friendly man who engaged him in conversation. And in that conversation, things turned to all sorts of things, including politics. The man asked my father, "And by the way, what do you think of our ruling regime?" And he said, "they're a bunch of pigs and scoundrels." "And what do you think of our beloved Prime Minister?" Matyas Rakosi was his name, and my father said, "well he's the biggest pig of them all." And the man pulled out a badge from his inside pocket, and said, "Secret Police, you come with me." So they took him away and interrogated him, etc, eventually they let him go. But that's the kind of country Hungary was at that time. In the mid 1950's, a time when, you didn't know if your neighbour or your best friend was an informer. You couldn't criticised openly, even to your schoolmates, in the school yard, the government. You were told what flag to wave and when to wave it when to march and when not to march. And what to say publicly and what not to say. Then there was suddenly a beam of light, on October 23 1956. Some demonstrations started, student demonstrations in the streets of Budapest, which turned ultimately into a full scale revolt. And it was the first revolt against the Soviet regime in any of the Soviet satellite states or the Warsaw pact countries. And for a while, cause I remember listening to the radio and how the tone of the radio news coverage changed after a certain number of days, the revolutionaries actually won the fight and suddenly the counter-revolutionaries became revolutionaries, according to the same news reader and so there was joy in the streets, and my parents were very happy that things are going to change and then the newsreader changed the tone again a few days later on November 11 of that year. And the tone went back to referring to the revolutionaries, or freedom fighters as they became known around the world, as counter-revolutionaries and scum and criminals. And of course we knew then that it was all over again because the tanks had rolled in, ordered by Moscow and the revolution was crushed. My father was quite active during the revolution not in a sense of taking part in the fighting, but he was on his soapbox opening his big mouth and that would have given him a reputation which basically made him a man to be, who could be arrested at any time. One particular day, we lived in a compound of apartment blocks, and there were always people in the apartment block who were on that side of, on the "dark side" shall we say.

And after the revolution was crushed, a bunch of kids from these families congregated in front of our apartment - our appartment was on the first level - and they snowballed the apartment and some of the windows were open, we weren't home, my parents weren't home and they pelted our apartment with snowballs, including those that came in through the window and basically ruined the furniture and the painting on the walls and everything. And when my parents came home from work that day

they made a decision that they couldn't continue to stay in the country any longer, it was basically too dangerous. So the following morning at 3 o'clock we were raised - my two brothers and I were raised from our beds

and we were hauled on the back of a truck and we were on the way to the Austrian border. My parents had planned everything out brilliantly, they had crossed all the "t's" and dotted all the "i's"

and they had the right people who would meet us along the way. It's quite a long story and I don't have time tonight to tell it all to you.

But, basically, two days later - we left on 9th December and two days later on 11th December -

we walked across the border. We were aided by a young man, his name was Louis - I'll never forget his name - who was basically our guide across the border. He was today's people trafficker. My parents paid him - or his family - whatever they had, they didn't have very much. I remember my mother wanted to give him her fur coat because she had this fur coat that's been - that had been in the family for donkey's generations and the young man said "No no no, that's where I draw the line." And he guided us in the dead of night, at midnight, across the border. The border was... ..The first Austrian village was about a mile from his village and about halfway on the walk he stopped - he walked with my little brother and my hand, holding our hands,

dead quiet, everybody was silent, all I can remember, the only noise I can remember, is the squeaking of the shoes on the virgin snow. And he stopped and he said "This is as far as I go." He kissed us all, said goodbye and turned around and went back and disappeared into the night. He told us beforehand that we just walk in a straight direction

and we'll come to an Austrian village. And so we kept walking and we were silent as well, there was no talking, because we didn't know - we didn't have the faintest idea what awaited us. We could hear singing in the distance somewhere

and the singing got louder, we didn't know what it was. We finally got to the source of the singing and they were two Austrian drunks staggering home late at night after a night out at the bierkeller, the local keller. My father spoke fluent German and spoke to them

and explained to them who we were and what we were doing. And one of the drunks broke out into raucous laughter and he slapped my father on the back and he said "Well, welcome. You are free." It was a...

..a seriously significant moment in my life.

And we were free after that. We were in refugee camps for six months in Austria and then came to Australia - because Australia was the first to accept us, basically -

in 1957. Um...

..And of course we've been grateful for this,

for this country accepting us ever since. I think that it's important that - what I'm trying to say in this address is it's important for us to understand refugees - what they go through,

how hard it is for them to make such decisions. My parents were talking about fleeing the country for years before they actually did it because it's such a huge step - dislocating yourself from your culture, from your history, from your traditions, from your family and going somewhere where you don't know what awaits you. We were very fortunate that we came to Australia where refugees at that time were very welcome. They were welcome because politically they were... ..they were of the right stuff. In other words, it was good PR for governments to allow in Hungarian refugees who were such heroes, rising against the might of the Soviets. So it was very easy to get away with admitting Hungarian refugees. But it's not necessarily the case today. I mention the people traffickers, by the way, they too have to be understood. I understand that they are not very nice people because they are business people and they break laws. But the reality is that refugees could never, ever succeed in their...in fleeing their country and arriving at a destination without somebody to guide them. And usually those people ask for payment for a service they provide.

So, I'm not so sure that the people traffickers should be so demonised as they are. I was very grateful for Louis who guided us across the border - without him, we could not have reached our freedom.

I mentioned that Australia in the 1950s was a very different place and...but my problem is... ..today I'm very disturbed by the fact

that Australians are not educated enough about refugees. Australians are generally unaware

that refugees can make a tremendous contribution to their new country simply because the extreme steps the precarious measures that they take, the dangers that they face, that they are prepared to face, in order to gain their freedoms, in order to come to a land of opportunity makes them very determined to make a success of their lives in their new country. Frank Lowy, once a refugee himself, says "Let them in and let them come and let them live next door to me." And I agree with those sentiments.

Australia's Mr Soccer, Les Murray, and his refugee past. Well, that's all for today. Hope you enjoyed kicking around those big ideas. You can catch the full match, including injury time, of that talk along with everything else you've seen on the show today on our website at: And don't forget to tune in tomorrow at 11am right here on ABC1 for Big Ideas Extended Mix. And more of Tony Haymet's fascinating report back on the health of our oceans and the sea critters within. I'm Tony Jones, have a splendid afternoon. Closed Captions by CSI This Program Is Captioned Live.

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