peacock spiders australia, aussie english, the goss

AE 666 – The Goss: Dancing Spiders, Coward Punches, & the First-Recorded F-Bomb

Learn Australian English in this episode of The Goss where we talk about dancing peacock spiders, coward punches, the first-recorded F-bomb in English and more!

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G'day guys, welcome to this episode of The Goss. I hope you guys are all surviving well wherever you are in the world. We are still in lock-down Down Under here in Australia. And this is the second episode where I am recording it via Zoom with my old man, with my father. So today is an episode chock-a-block full of content. It is about an hour and 20 minutes long.

If you want the full episode, remember to get access to that, you need to either be signed up to the premium podcast at, which gives you access to all of the downloads for the podcast episodes. The mp3s, the pdf files, the full transcripts as well as the transcript player so that you can read and listen at the same time, or you need to be signed up for the academy where you'll have access to the premium podcast as well as hundreds of other courses that are related to Australia, Australian culture, the expression courses, everything like that.

OK, so those are for all the people who want the podcast as well as all of that bonus content to work on their English. So that's how you can get access to all of the full episodes for The Goss, including today's. Now, today, guys, we chat about a multitude of different topics. A plethora of different subjects. We talk about seven new species of Australia's colourful dancing peacock spiders.

We talk about Tasmanian devils and why you would not want to be a baby Tasmanian devil in the month of April. We talk about violence and alcohol in Australia and what a coward punch is. We also cover the earliest known use of the F-word, of the F bomb, of the word F-U-C-K in English. And then lastly, we cover a few interesting topics on Covid, on the pandemic and sort of some that up. Anyway guys, with that aside, let's get into today's episode, give a big nudge to that kookaburra and let's begin.

Well, let's get into it then. What do you been doing in lockup, Dad? How's it all going? What's the goss? What's going on?

The goss. Well, it's been raining for three days, or the last couple of days have been good, but I was hoping to get out in the garden, which I eventually did yesterday, and the rest of the time has just been fiddling around trying to set up the studio in this office. The trouble is that I need to clean the whole office out and start again, so I'm just constantly shuffling bits around. And I've just started recording a couple of videos. I was shooting the moon last night, which was good fun.

Yeah. So you want to talk about that? What was it? The biggest giant moon of the year or something?

The super moon, yeah. Super moon is when the moon is as close as it gets in its orbit to earth.

So why does it change its distance from earth? If you want to explain that.

Because it's not a circular orbit. It's slightly oval. It's not hugely oval. But otherwise we would notice a significant difference. I think it's only about a 5% difference in size between the smallest the moon looks and the largest. So to the naked good eye you couldn't tell.

Yes. And that's why we have things like what? King tides and everything, although that's paired with the sun, I take it, too.

Yeah. That's when... Those king tides are when we get the moon closest to the earth and the line up... We've got full moon... Where you get the moon, the sun and the earth are all in a line. And so you get this all... The gravitational force is pulling in the same direction.

So it's almost synergistic, right. It's really bizarre when I remember learning from geology that the moon pulls the water towards it using gravity, obviously, but that you have an equal and opposite effect on the other side of the earth so that the tide is effectively happening on the side closest to the moon and the side furthest away. Yeah. How does that work? You know much about how that effect works, that you have the water being pulled and almost... I don't know if you would say pushed, but it goes in the opposite direction?

I'm not sure. I'm not a hydro physicist. I couldn't tell you.

That was always mind-blowing when I was doing geology and learning about that stuff. I always like, "What the hell?"

But, you know, that's the sort of global tidal effect. But then the local tides are so much affected by the local geography with currents and so on. So otherwise everybody around the world would have high tide and low tide at the same time. Yeah.

Because we have those weird situations like within Port Phillip Bay, where the tide is, what, an hour or two delayed because of the opening of the bay is very small and the water takes a long time to come in and then go right.

Yeah, the tides in Melbourne are about two hours, I think, different from the tides at Port Phillip Heads.

Too funny. What else was I going to mention? There was something else I wanted to mention before we got into it, but I've forgotten what.

You'll think of it in 20 minutes.

Oh, gardening. Gardening in Australia.


It's something that we take for granted and just to assume, "Oh, everyone does that." But this is another one of those things where with Kel, when I talk to her about life in Brazil, she's like, "That's not a thing." It probably is a thing for some people, but it's not as common as it is here where you have almost every house has a garden, right. Maybe if you have an apartment, you don't have a garden. But the average person who expects to build a house expects to probably have a front yard, a backyard and they'll have a garden generally in both. You want to talk about that and Australian culture a little bit?

Yeah. Well, I in Australian... At least middle class culture has always grown up with this, certainly within the last century of, yeah, everybody wants their quarter acre block with a house on it and the front yard, the backyard and the barbecue and the flowers and the trees and everything. As part of that, the environment. The irony is that, you know, we tend to create suburban areas by cutting down a whole lot of nature, building housing development and then trying to put nature back again.

And populating it with stuff that's not native, right?

Yeah. In many cases.

Has that changed throughout your lifetime, though, in terms of what people do in their gardens with their gardens, the size of them, the plants they have in them?

Yeah, certainly I think the sort of Australian natives were just unheard of almost when I was a child. It was sort of just the sort of weirdo hippie gardeners that might have the Australian natives or indigenous plants in them. Yeah, obviously some large trees were a remnant. And so we had large eucalypts and banksias and acacias and things that that people just had any gardens, but not too many people planted them and everything was sort of much more English garden. You know, the English cottage gardens with lines of rose bushes and those sort of things.

And you still see those houses around the place. You go for a walk in any of the old suburbs, especially closer to the city, there tends to be less native staff and more of that sort of British style gardens.

Exactly. But now I think, you know, certainly for the last 30, 40 years, I think many people have realised that in fact cost us a lot of water to keep those European gardens because those plants are used to having constant water supply, whereas we have obviously a much drier summer. And if you're putting in native plants, particularly those that are indigenous to the area, or from similar climate climatic areas, then they can survive a lot longer without being watered over summer.

Well, and especially it's a big thing if you enjoy native wildlife too, right?

Yeah. Yeah. And if you want birds and reptiles and even butterflies and things like that to be around then... Butterflies in particular, they'll feed on a lot of things, but they're very specific to particular plants to breed on because their caterpillars will often be very specific. So you know, it helps if you want native animals, as you say, to have native plants. And one of the other differences, too, that...

Having spent a lot of time in North America, but North American gardens and Australian gardens are very different. North America and Europe similarly, because typically our die off period for grass, as an example, and grasses are typically used as the ground cover in most gardens. Then our die off period for grass is summer because it just gets hot and dry. Whereas in North America, in Europe, their die off period is winter because they're covered in snow. And so it's this sort of these weird different sort of, you know, people sort of pop up in spring and go, oh, look, the grass started to grow. And for us, the grass starts to grow in autumn.

Well, learning so much about, you know, the colonisation of Australia and the first Europeans to come here, it is so interesting to hear their take on the Australian bush. And that I think one example was there was a Scottish painter who was brought over as a convict and it took him, or the painting of Australian wildernesses, it took 20 years before people started getting the colours right because they were painting them with really vibrant colours that they were used to using for landscapes back in in Britain, Great Britain. So those early Australian paintings that you see of the landscape, they're way too vibrant. And it took them a long time to get used to the dull greens and greys and reds and everything, right, of the eucalypts.

Yeah. And particularly for painters, even later on, painters who were trained in the European style of landscape painting. One of the most famous Australian early landscape painters was Eugene von Guerard, who obviously by the name is European, and he trained in Europe. And when he came to Australia, he did some of the most beautiful landscape paintings of the sort of mid 19th century. But when you have a close look at it, the shapes of the trees and the leaves and things, even though he's painting Australian forests with eucalypts in them, they, individually, the bits and pieces look like Europeans because that's how he was trying to paint. So he wasn't painting as a exact picture of what he saw. He was painting what he felt and what he felt was a European forest. So, yeah you're right, it was colours, but it was also just the feel, the shapes of the trees are just sort of wrong in some cases.

They would've been so shocked, right, because the plants in the northern hemisphere, I've forgotten the scientific term, drop their leaves right. So... Except for maybe pine trees.

Yeah. You have deciduous plants that all drop their leaves during winter because it's so cold that, what, they would otherwise freeze. There's not much light anyway.

They'd freeze or they would catch so much snow that the tree would end up collapsing.

Yeah, but when they got to Australia I don't think we have any deciduous trees right. Especially not the main ones.

There are a few.

The eucalypts and everything keep their leaves around. And one of the things in Fatal Shore was that they... He said and mentioned. I was like, "Wow, that is kind of shocking is the fact that the bark of the eucalypts is the stuff that falls off the tree," right. And that would have been so strange for people to first see, this bark crinkling up and, you know, falling over the branches.

Stripping off.

Yeah, but it's such an Australian thing. That's one of those big, you know, the image of those sort of... What would you call them? Really sharp teardrop, inverted teardrop curve shaped leaves from eucalypts as well as that bark.


And twisted gnarled branches is something that's very, very Australian. But also how much the convicts and the other people would have thought it was a complete paradise because they would have likely never seen forest like that before, right. Because Britain had effectively been chopped, you know, that all trees and forest were effectively removed. They may be have been a few small ones.

Certainly a lot of places, particularly up in the Highlands, not... The Alps and another high mountain ranges in Europe are too high to have trees. But some of the places like the highlands of Scotland haven't had trees for 5000 years. But that's not a climatic thing. People just cut them all down because trees were used for building material and for fuel. And the trees grew so slowly there that once they had gone, there was just not enough forest around to protect the new growth in the winter that you'll never get it back again with that effectively artificially creating forests, they will never come again. And they as soon as your deforest, of course, there's erosion of soil. And so there just isn't the soil bank anymore to retain those trees.

It's a weird thing when you look at, you know, you go to the highlands of Scotland and they are renowned for their beauty even though it's barren, it's just rocks and small shrubs and herbs and things. But you look at it and go, "5000 years ago, this would have been forested."

And it would have had bears, wolves, beavers, large deer. All sorts of other macrofauna.

Some of which are still there. But some of the animals that obviously relied on forests just disappeared with them.

So how did you go trying to find good news this week? Did you get anything decent that wasn't the C word? Which we can leave to the end of the episode.

Yes. Not a lot, really. There are a few good stories, but some of those good stories were really just around how people are reacting to the C-word. So, yeah, it was a tough one.

So nothing? You don't have anything that's not C-related?

Not that I can think of off the top my head. So I tried very hard this morning to come up with the puppies and kittens story, but I was struggling.

I got kittens one. 7 new species of Australian colourful dancing peacock spider had been discovered.

Yeah, I did see that.

And this was... It was a paper published by someone working at Museum Victoria where I did my master's and PhD, although I didn't know the person, but it was a young guy. So he's found, or described, seven new species of these peacock spiders from mostly from Western Australia. And they shed new light on nature's most colourful critters. And he's been likening them to sort of kittens. So they're very famous, these peacock spiders, if you go on the Internet, because they kind of became domain when people found videos of them doing their displays and dances to attract mates where they kind of raise up their abdomen, that's really colourful.


And their, I think, third set of legs at the back, they put up and kind of shake around to get attention.

Third and fourth legs. Yeah.

Yeah. And so they get... They had all these videos going around with them doing the YMCA and stuff like that. So they're these really cute charismatic spiders, but they're very tiny. The size of a grain of rice. So this guy was using a magnifying glass.

They're little jumping spiders.

Yes. Well, that's it. And so I thought... I just thought it was really cute. He was saying that one of them that he named is called Maratus constellatus. So what do you reckon 'constellatus' refers to?


Yeah, exactly. So the abdomen reminded him of Van Gough's Starry Night. And so he gave it the species named 'constellatus', which I guess is Latin for 'starry.'


But they're very cool. Yeah. As you say, they're little spiders, jumping spiders, they're venomous, harmless to humans but they... Why? I guess I'll let you go on a riff here. Why are jumping spiders unique in terms of arachnids?

Well, they jump. That's one thing. I mean, most spiders are crawlers. Now, these things can crawl, too, but they can jump and they jump huge amounts in comparison with their size, a bit like fleas. So that means they're actually... You can't be a big jumping spider because, you know, your strength to body mass ratio significantly changes as soon as you get big.

Physics says no.

Yeah, exactly. You don't see elephants jumping.

I think it's something like with fleas, they jump... I can't remember if it was something like six hundred G's is what they experience when they jump.


So when they do their tiny little jumps, 600 G-force. The human body I think can withstand something like 40 to 50 and then you're dead. And when rockets take off to go into space I think they experience what, one, two, three G's, if that.

About 10 I think at the most.

And that's it. And these fleas are experiencing 600 or more because the... They're just so... I guess, yeah, the power to weight ratio is so high that they just go in 'Ping!'.

Yeah. And you know, having a different anatomy helps too, with a very small animal with a thick exoskeleton means that they're very well protected from those sort of forces. Whereas if you're like us where our skeleton is inside us, all the soft bits are on the outside, then much more exposed to those sort of force changes.

So why did jumping spiders evolve the ability to jump? Because they don't make webs like other spiders.

No, I think it's just... It'll be, and I'm not sure exactly, but I think it's probably a combined evolutionary thing of an escape mechanism and an attack mechanism. It means that you can get away from things... If you tiny, you're going to be eaten by lots of things.


So I think it's an escape mechanism, but it's also that ambush thing where, you know, some bigger ambush spiders, they sort of just dig holes in the ground or sit in the back of trees and things. And they don't leap out. They just really just grab with their front legs and their mandibles, the mouth parts.

Well, and you'll see...

But those little spiders just leap at things.

And you'll see with them that they have especially, I think, two of their eyes really, really big. And they tend to all be on the front of the head, which means that they're focused forward, for the same reason we have, you know, our two eyes on the front of our head as opposed to on the side or on the top so that we can have binocular vision to judge distance, right. So, yeah, they're very cool. So he, yeah, was likening them to kittens because they pounce on their prey. The interesting thing that I found in the article, they said that in 2013, so only seven years ago, there were only 10 recorded species in Australia. And since then it's gotten to 85 now.

Yeah. I think it's one of those ones where they're... Because they're small and they're secretive you have to actually go looking for them and you need to know what you're doing in order to look for them. But we've got plenty of jumping spiders in our garden, but they're not the peacock variety of them. They're just a little common brown ones. But you really don't see them until you come across them and they move. Because even if they're not moving... And they tend not to panic with, you know, a thing the size of a human coming near them. If a bird flies passed, I'm sure they do. But for us they just sort of sit there, sit there, and then you might disrupt them if you are digging up under the garden or something, you disrupt them, then they'll jump and you go, "Oh, what was that?"

Well they're very, very funny sort of creatures, right. A lot of the time, especially with these small animals, if they're not very mobile, they tend to have incredibly tiny distributions, right. Very small areas. So you have to kind of go into the thick of it. Into forest in order to find some of these species.

I used to have the biggest envy of entomologists, right?


I always screw this up.

Etymology is words, entomology is insects.

I always screw that up. Anyway, so entomologist, I used to have envy of them at the museum because when we would go out and do our field trips, we would quite often put out traps and try and find our respective animals. So for instance, you know, my group would be the mammals group because we were studying rats. We'd try and capture all the mammals in an area and then just record which ones we found. There'd be people doing reptiles, snakes, lizards, you know, and then there'd be people doing moths and people doing insects and other invertebrates. And almost every single time we went out, all of the guys studying things like mammals and even, generally any vertebrates, would come across the same old stuff that's already been described, the conspicuous, larger animals.

And you'd come across five of them.

Yeah, exactly. Bugger all. Whereas these guys doing the entomology stuff, so the insects or the arthropods or arachnids or whatever, they would put up nets at night. Shine a light on it and there'd be thousands of moths and insects attracted to it. And that's probably the rest of their career. They could spend the rest of their career with a microscope describing species from just one area in the bush where they've done that. So if you guys want to get into finding new species, study insects or invertebrates. Don't study vertebrates.


Although it was interesting, my supervisor I think... I don't know what he's up to now in terms of numbers, but when I was a student, had described three different genera of rats and I think at least 15 new species that were found in the forests of Indonesia. So there are still some mammals that can crop up and probably other vertebrates as well.

Oh, there'll be plenty of little reptiles in particular and amphibians that, you know, we just don't come across.

Yeah, I usually used to think that, right, when I was in the bush somewhere and you'd just be sitting there and a little insect or something would fly past you, especially those minute ones, you know, you're reading a book and some tiny fly lands on it. You're like, "I wonder if anyone's actually ever described this animal, or even noticed it before." You just wonder... It's so tiny and insignificant. Has anyone paid attention to it? The next story I had was the teenager pleading guilty to a fatal punch that killed academic Stewart Williams. Did you see that story?

No, I didn't see that one.

There's some 18 year old kid drank four hundred dollars' worth of spirits in a night and then fatally punched a university academic from Tasmania. So this was in Hobart. Happened last year in February. And he's just been found guilty. The guy fell down some stairs, hit his head. Died six days later and six weeks before the offence this offender was already due in court for another attack at the same nightclub. I guess I wanted to bring it up because we see this in the news quite a bit in Australia, where we have people, especially young men, with these sorts of crimes of alcohol fuelled violence. Is this something that's unique to Australia? Why is it sort of shown in Australia as such a big thing?

Well, I think it's shown in Australia as a big thing because it's not common.


So, yeah. And it's less common now than it has been in the past. So I think that's one of the things where we are shocked, and rightly so, if somebody has been injured or in this case killed. We should be shocked but I think we're shocked just generally in our community when we, "Oh, how did that happen?" Because we just don't have that level of violence in our community that many other communities have. And it's not that they accept it, but they expect it. You know, they don't say it's the right thing or it's a good thing, but they just expect that it's going to happen. Whereas in our case, we don't expect it's going to happen. So we make a big deal of it.

And because we had a lot of issues, the lockout laws came through in Sydney, right, because there was a lot of violence when people would be out drinking late at night, especially men obviously going out into the streets and ending up in fights.

In Melbourne.

Melbourne as well.

And look, that was obviously a common practice. I was never a night club person. And yeah, back in my days when I was a teenager and early twenties, the pubs closed 10 o'clock.


And then a bit later some of them stayed up until midnight. But yeah, that thing... Particularly in Melbourne and Sydney where there are... There're just areas with plenty of clubs and pubs in them that are open until three or four in the morning and some of them are open 24 hours. But you're right, that lockout happened where you couldn't get into a club after 2 o'clock in the morning, even though it was still going to be 4 or something. Yeah. So it stopped people from bar hopping.

And from being incredibly drunk on the streets whilst doing that. Yeah.

Because you can... If you're a club owner or a pub owner, you can control what people are drinking in there, but you can't control what they've drunk before they get there.

And quite often, if they're a problem inside the pub or the buy, your solution is to throw them on the street.

You toss them out and they go to the next one, so...

So what happened, though? We had quite a lot of king hits, right? In fact, we changed the way we refer to it.

Yeah, because King hit with sort of somehow seen as sort of macho and not a good thing necessarily. But it was giving it some credence and credibility.

What is a king hit? You want to explain that? From boxing, right?

It's the one punch. It's just taking a swing at somebody, usually unexpectedly when they can't defend themselves.

That was the shocking thing.

And that's called a one punch crime.

Well it's called a coward punch, right?


And you see some of these videos and quite often people would have like a verbal altercation and then it would end. Person turns around to walk away and then the other person runs up behind them and smacks them in the side of the face and knocks them out on the concrete. And that's the biggest problem. The biggest problem is that they're falling onto concrete quite often, right? It's the secondary...

It's not the punch that kills them. It's the landing. There was a famous occurrence some time ago in in Australia when David Hookes, who was a national cricketer, he'd retired from cricket at the time. But... And he got into a, you know, a verbal altercation. And then that exactly that thing happened that, you know, he walked away and then got whacked, knocked down, hit his head and died from injuries to his head.

And that was with the bouncer, I think, of the actual nightclub, because it was like a 19 year old guy. But it always seems weird to me reading this story. The kid who had drunk four hundred dollars of spirits in a night, like first and foremost, Jesus Christ.

Like, where does he get the $400? Either that or it was a very expensive bottle of whisky.

Yeah, that's what I was thinking. I'm like, "So that's either a lot of really cheap spirits, which it was probably, or it was a bugger all of some really expensive stuff."

I don't know. I actually don't know what four hundred dollars with means. That to me is just sensationalising the story, like why do we need to know how much he spent on it? I don't know how much he actually drank. Because if he was... If he had drunk, let's say, your average bottle of whisky. And if you walked into a supermarket or a bottle shop to buy your average bottle of whisky, say 45, 50 dollars. There is no chance that somebody could drink eight bottles of whisky. Three would kill you in a session. So clearly he was buying them over the counter and probably paying 20, 30 dollars a shot.

Now, if you're buying whisky or whatever, vodka or whatever at 20 or 30 dollars a shot, you're only going to drink a bottle of it and it's going to cost you four hundred dollars. And a bottle of whisky, you're going to be seriously drunk. But yeah, you're probably still going to be, you know, not sensible, but you're still going to be able to function. And clearly, if you're going to punch somebody, you need to be at least functional. You're not going to be paralytic.

Well, it was just bizarre because he had ended up going home, blacking out, or at least waking up and not remembering what had happened during the night.

Oh you would if you'd drunk that much.

Yeah. Having a shower and seeing on his hand that he had grazes there and thinking, "Oh no, what have I done?" And you know, apparently he wrote a letter saying he was heartbroken about what happened. The weird thing with some of these stories and just people in general is the difference between sober versus drunk personalities and I never got it. I remember growing up and I didn't drink until I was probably 23. I was very extroverted when I was younger and a bit crazy. And so I was always sort of afraid to get drunk because I was like, "Jesus, I'm crazy as it is. If I get drunk, it's going to be that on alcohol." So I never did. But a lot of my friends would completely change, where they would be these very quiet people and they would drink and they would either become violent or just crazy. What do you think that is? Why do you think that happens? Is it just people... The inhibition goes and people who are violent..?

Oh, I think alcohol is one of those things that does it does reduce your natural inhibition. And if you're already a, you know, a loud, gregarious, extrovert then you have no inhibition to that anyway, so you're not really going to change. Whereas if you are quieter and more introverted, then you have that inhibition to violence, to loud and obnoxious, potentially. And the alcohol will take that inhibition away. So I think it is one of those things that... You're a bit like me when you drink. You just go to sleep.

Yeah, well, that's what I was thinking. And it's the same with cannabis. Anytime I've had that like people will be like, "Yeah, let's go out and party," and I'll be like, "Man, I just want to kick up and, you know, go to sleep. Don't talk. Leave me alone." And it's the same with alcohol.

I think that's typical with cannabis. There's not too many people running around, you know, jumping out windows on cannabis. They're more likely to roll up in the corner and go to sleep.

Yeah, it is funny with alcohol, it puts me to sleep. And so I was annoyed to find that out after five years of legal age drinking and being like, "Oh, I would have been fine the whole time."

You're probably going to live five years longer.

So a quick question here I wanted on a side was drinking culture in Australia and how it's changed and why it's such a stereotype with Australia. I guess let me frame this. We're seen by ourselves as big drinkers, and I would love to know why that is. And also, if you can talk about what it was like when you were younger and how there was a different kind of pub culture. Because I remember seeing films and news reports where people are being interviewed in pubs and it seemed like people finished work at five. They went straight to the pub until six or seven or whatever it was, and then they went home. And it seemed like a completely different kind of culture than today. So can you talk about that? Can you talk about our drinking culture and the rest of the world?

Well, I'll do the pub culture stuff first. And I think that part of that is just social history. When I was a child, pubs closed six o'clock. And so there used to be that, as you say, people left work at five. They didn't go home. They went to the nearest pub, had a couple of drinks and then went home. And if they want to keep drinking, they would buy alcohol and take it home with them because there just weren't open drinking establishments at night. You could go out to a restaurant and you could pay for a bottle of wine. And in fact, Australia invented the idea of BYO wine and in restaurants. But there was no pubs and clubs and things open.

Why was that? Was there no pressure for them to stay open to make more money? Or was it just a cultural thing where..?

I don't know. I don't know where it had come from, because I don't think that was the case in in Europe where, you know, our... Typically our social culture comes from. But I think it's probably an overhang from that sort of wowzer period of the 1930s and 40s of, you know, "Alcohol's bad. So if we have to have it, then we're going to limit it."

But there weren't specific laws saying that these places needed to shut at six o'clock, it was just..?

Oh yeah. Six o'clock closing was the law and then the law changed to ten o'clock. So by the time I was going to pubs when I was a late teenager, it was ten o'clock closing. And there used to be at 9:45 the bell would ring in the bar, which was last drinks. And people would go and get their last drink and then yeah sit down, drink it. Then by ten o'clock the security was coming around saying, "Right, move on." And there was nowhere else to go. So it was the same thing. If you want to keep drinking, you had to actually get out of the pub by quarter two to go to the bottle shop, which most pubs had a bottle shop next to them and buy it and take it home or go wherever you want to go.

And the bottle-O's would stay..?

No. Those closed at 10 o'clock as well.

Yeah. Yeah. You have to race out five minutes early.

Partying on was your own responsibility. You couldn't just bar hop and go to clubs and stay there and get drunk and do whatever all night.


That changed probably in the sort of late 1980s, I suspect, where mid to late 80s, where some clubs, particularly pubs and clubs, particularly in the city of Melbourne and other cities around Australia, got licences to stay open until midnight and then midnight got to 1 and 2 and 4 and so on. So those just sort of kept extending the opening hours.

So do you miss those times? Because they seem so romantic. Whenever I see films or videos of people then, it seems like you had everyone was working hard and then all of a sudden, you know, work finishes and they race to the pub. They're all there with their mates having fun. And it was something that happened... It was almost like going to school, right? It seems like in the videos...

Well, when I was a university student. We'd go to the pub probably once a week, usually on a Friday.

Friday night drinks.

Friday night drinks. And you'd go and have a couple of drinks and then go home. Now, I lived 20 or 30 kilometres away from the university and I was studying and if I was drinking, I wasn't driving, and so I'd have to catch public transport, so it took me ages to get home so you wouldn't stay there late anyway. And by then, you know, places were open past 10 o'clock. But there was a culture of you'd go and have a couple of drinks, maybe grab something to eat, and then you'd go. Then there was this... At the same time, some pubs started to develop live music venues, and so people would go to a pub to listen to music. And that meant you stayed a lot longer. And yes, certainly the local hotel that I went, I used to go to down in Beaumaris, where I live, Beaumaris Hotel. Rest in peace, it no longer exists. There was a fantastic bar on the side of that that would hold probably sensibly 500 people seated, but they'd squeeze a thousand people in there on a sort of Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday night. They'd have live music. And that became a real culture in Melbourne.

In fact, Melbourne, I read the other day is just ahead, I think of Austin, Texas, of cities in the world where there are live music venues. And we have more than 500 live music venues where you can see music on a weekly basis. And I mean, you know yourself back in your past of playing in pubs and as a musician and yeah, that isn't a common thing.

It's funny. You grow up. You think, "This is just what it's like everywhere. You know, the pubs are places where you can go and have a pub meal, you can get some alcoholic drinks and you watch music generally, whether it's live or you listen to it on the radio and you'll also watch football or, you know, the UFC or some sort of sport as well."

Those sort of sporting bars are very common in many places in the world as well. In fact, I don't think we invented them. I think we'd pick them up from America and Britain, tend to have a lot of them. But yeah, so that was that sort of the pub culture. I think the drinking culture, though, is different. And certainly from my 60 years, not 60 years of drinking, but 60 years of being aware of people drinking.

Been drinking since you were two!

Exactly. Then I think the binge drinking is something that is new among young people. We as kids, yes, we would drink and we'd drink a lot on the odd occasion. But it wasn't that you went out to get drunk. Getting drunk was a consequence of staying out for a long time. Whereas I think now, and certainly from your age onward and you know, people younger than you. There seems... Certainly when you were a teenager and as you say, you didn't drink, but I know you can probably speak about a lot of your friends and acquaintances who, you know, the purpose of going out was to get drunk as quickly as you could.

Yeah. And that was pretty much a weekly thing on the weekend. You would get, you know, I think probably from the age of about fifteen, sixteen, they were starting to get together and somehow end up with alcoholic drinks. And the goal was pretty much just to get fucked up.

Yeah. And that was just never part of the culture that I was in. And I don't think it was that I was in a secluded little bit of the world. I just don't think it was a thing. Yes, there are a few people who would do it, but it was... They were always looked on as being sort of anti-social idiots. "Don't go out with Fred because what he's going to do is just, you know, drink cheap vodka and then fall over."

And we didn't drink spirits back in those days.

Is that because they were harder to come by? More expensive?

They were more expensive. Relatively, they were more expensive. And again, it was just one of those things that people didn't drink it. So you didn't grow up watching people drinking it. So you didn't drink it. I drank beer and wine and then spirits, as in mixed drinks were common. People would drink whisky and coke or vodka and orange used to be a thing, or... Yeah, those sort of things.

Lolly drinks.

Yeah, lolly drinks. Exactly. Where you wouldn't just go and and go, "Give me a double vodka."

That's James Bond, man. "Shaken, not stirred."

never know the distinction between those.

It's how they prepare it, when they've got the martini in the thing.

I know, but I don't know what the distinction is when it appears in the glass. I don't know how you can tell.

It's probably the ice being smashed up in it, right?

Yeah, I think so. He's probably making it colder.

Do you want to talk about shouting, and how that's an Australian culture in pubs?

I think it's a hangover from Britain and Ireland because they certainly have the same culture of a shout. And shout is a... In this case is a noun, a collective noun for a group of drinkers who have a mutual understanding that they all share the responsibility of each person buying a drink in order.

Well it can be a verb, too. You shout someone.

Oh, yeah. Yeah. And then and then it becomes 'to shout.' And that was obviously a verb, you know, 'who's shout is it' became the thing rather than 'I will shout the next round,' and I have no idea where the word came from. I would suggest that it was, "I'd shout at the bar, going '5 more beers, thanks, mate.'"

Yeah, because they tend to be noisy places.

And look, Australia and Britain have certainly got that culture of you go to a bar when you're in a pub, you go to the bar, you buy your drinks, you come back to your table and you drink them.

It's a dick move. If you go up normally and there's a group of you and you come back with just one drink for you, right.

Oh, it's not just a dick move. You'll be completely...

You get a jug. You'll get ostracised.

Or you get very... Before we would... They would commonly serve jugs in pubs, you would get very good at carrying six glasses of beer like this.


And sort of putting them down gently.

It used to drive me nuts when we would go out in my mid 20s and there'd be... There's always one of my friends who would decide one night, when he would come out with us he just wouldn't be drinking and so... Or he would stop early and he'd come back with a glass of water instead of getting us a round. He wouldn't shout us and you'd just be like, "Dude. Dick move."


Other cultures don't necessarily do that, though, right?

No. And yeah... And I think it's that... Certainly my experience in North America, most bars in North America, you cannot as a customer walk up to the bar and buy a drink. You go and sit down at a table and you will have a wait-person, a waiter or a waitress, come to you and say, "What would you like?" And you order the drinks. And then they either put it on a tab or they just take the money at the time. And I think that culture of, you know, particularly putting something on a tab. So at the end of the night, you've got five people and you've all had two or three drinks. So you're going to pay for fifteen or twenty drinks or whatever it happens to be and the bar bill comes out at $300 dollars. "Oh, we'll split it up in sixty bucks each," and you sort of share it out that way.

Whereas in the culture that we grew up in was probably my father and my grandfather's culture of... Yeah, there were no such thing as tabs and there weren't credit cards or anything like that you... Now if you go to a bar, you just put your credit card over the over the counter and you pick it up at the end of the night. And you pay for whatever you've eaten or drank. But back in those days, it was everybody was paying by cash and rather than every person, you know, and you're round to five or six people, every person payed back in those days it was a a dollar, a beer. You know, "here's my dollar." "Here's my dollar." "Here's my dollar." Yeah. I would go to the bar and I'd buy six and I'd bring it back and then the next person would go and do the same thing. So it was...

I think it was just that difference in our culture of not having wait staff in pubs, and even to the point where, you know, back in the days where they used to call them bar meals, you would... Counter meals. You would have to go and sit at the counter and eat it because they would serve it on the counter and you'd have to take it back to your table if you wanted to, you wouldn't have a waiter or somebody come and hand you your food. Now that's disappeared now. Well you might go an order at the bar, but you will get it delivered to your table. But yeah, just a different sort of culture.

Well it's funny, tipping culture in Australia, right?

What culture of tipping? We don't have one.

Well we do, but they're trying to do. It's kind of like where they're pushing Halloween on kids these days. They're trying to make this American culture a kind of practice here where it doesn't really work the same way because of cultural differences like the minimum wage.

Yeah, well the fact that... And I'll go... I'll tell you that story about the young woman I met in a bar who was a... She was a waitress in a bar I was at a conference in San Diego. And she was... It was one waitress, two barman in a very large hotel. And you'd have five hundred people in this bar and she would be serving those five hundred people, you know, circulating in and out all night. And we were there for a few days. So we got to know her because there was nowhere else to go and drink or eat because you had to get a taxi into town because it was out near the airport, the hotel we're at. And after a couple of nights, I said to her, "So how much do you make in a night?" She said, "You mean how much do I make or how much do I earn?" And I said, "Well, give me the earn." And she said, "I work ten hour shift. I earn $2 an hour. I take home $20."


I said, "How much do you make?" And she said, "Between two hundred and two thousand dollars a night because everything else is tips."

And then minimum is usually 18%? Is that the polite amount.

It used to be 15%. Now it's 18% and now they sort of start at 20% and you can haggle them down. And that's just part of the culture. And look in the end it doesn't cost the punter any more. You know your average customer, it doesn't cost you any more. It's just a different distribution scheme for who picks up the money. Whereas in Australia. We've never had that culture, and it's sort of ironic that the Americans picked it up because tipping was invented in British teahouses in the 18th century when tea started to become popular and it was too expensive and too rare for people to have it and make it at home, like people do now. It was a big thing to go out to a teahouse and have a cup of tea, but they became very popular. And so they used to... A few of them, a few of the tea houses used to put little boxes next to the tables and they would have 'T.I.P.' written on them. And it was 'to improve promptness,' was what it stood for.

Yeah. I didn't realise that.

If you put money in the box, and it had a little glass front on it so that the waiters could see how much money was in the box. And then the table that had the most money in it got served first! So it became a thing there. And I have no idea how that translated into the Americans, and North Americans; Canadians are the same. North Americans picking it up as the standard way of paying waiting staff.

I guess it's just because they don't have the minimum wage like we do in Australia, because the you know, for reference, when I was working in a restaurant, I was getting paid $25 an hour, which is, you know, more than enough to survive. On top of that sometimes people would tip that. Yeah.

Yes. I think... Other than travelling in North America where it's just an expectation to tip, in Australia I will very rarely tip. And usually it would be because the waiter or waitress, or the chef, had done such an exceptional job that I felt like they deserve more reward than they were getting paid. And to me, that's what it means and it's what it started with. But I'm not sure whether it's a chicken or an egg thing with tipping in America. I don't know that tipping came in because the minimum wage was so small. I suspect that tipping was already around. And by the time minimum wages became a thing, then people said, "Well, we don't need to pay, you know, we have to pay them something, but we don't need to pay them very much because they're going to make a lot of money just by people handing the money." So it's a... I'm not sure where it came from in that regard, but it's a weird sort of practice.

And you do get these weird things of... I've been out many times where, you know, you've got a large group of people going out for dinner and they will automatically put a tip on the bill. And that tip is... They usually use that as, "Oh, if you've got more than ten people we'll add 18% by default," and then they'll argue for a tip as well. And you sort of just go, "I'm sorry, you've just added the tip." "Oh, no, no. That's a charge for having more than 10 people at the table." And you go "Surely serving more than 10 people at one table is easier than serving 10 people at 8 different tables." But no, it doesn't work. So I've had a few arguments with bar managers and restaurant managers over that. And you just play the dumb foreigner and usually get away with it.

The next story I had here was 'Sympathy for the Devils. Why April is the cruellest month for newborn Tasmanian devils,' and this is a pretty cool eye-opening article because although I am a biologist by trade, I don't know that much about the lifecycle of devils. So the first week of April is apparently their special time when all of the joeys are born and it's immediately life and death. So these... The devils have this regimented and extremely aggressive breeding season that occurs from February to March where they're biting the crap out of each other. They're fighting like crazy. But they, despite mating in February or March, they have the babies in April. So I thought I would ask before I sort of continue on, why the marsupials have such short gestation times?

Well, the young are born effectively as foetuses. Born in the sense of, you know, the mother giving birth. But then they will crawl up through the hair of the mother into a pouch where the teats are. Attach themselves semi-permanently to a teat and then drink for the next few weeks or months, depending on which species we're talking about. So the idea of a marsupial birth is a bit of a misnomer. It's obviously... It's biologically accurate in the sense of a baby being passed out of the mother's body, but it then immediately goes and attaches itself to continue its growth up to the point where it can then come out into the world and at least half function as a as a functional organism.

Well, it's pretty interesting how that sort of stuff happens, right, with especially mammals giving birth to live young and the different stages at which we do that, because usually the larger the mammal, the longer the gestation, particularly if they're eutherian mammals like humans or rats or elephants. But say with humans, the gestation time is much shorter because the evolution has selected for earlier births, because the head gets too big for the women's hips, right, to come out and for the women to survive birth.


So yeah, the devils. Yeah, they give birth. The babies, the young climb up into the pouch. They stay in the pouch until the end of winter and it's a great time to emerge because it's not too cold and they get, you know, a good start to the rest of the year, which is only warming up. But the interesting thing was that the selection process for young is incredibly brutal. I had no idea. The mother only has 4 teats inside the pouch that 4 young can attach to. And when they're born this undeveloped, they effectively just have their eyes closed. They got no fur. They're pink.

Little pink babies and they just attach their mouths to the teats and stay there, right. Sucking the milk up, permanently fixed there for months. The mothers give birth to 30 to 40 young. I had no idea. That's how many. Yeah. So apparently they give birth of 30 to 40 young. And the first 4 to get onto the teats are the only ones that survive. So they have to climb out of the...

So it's a race.

Yeah, exactly. They climb through the hair, get in the pouch, get on there and then they stay in there for four to five months inside the pouch. The mum starts then leaving them in the den. They stay in the den for another four to five months whilst mum's sort of running back and forward, lactating and feeding them and then they get kicked out in December, January to sort of do their own thing. The interesting thing that I was reading in this article was about the effect that facial tumours have had on the life cycle of devils in populations where the facial tumours are big issues. So these are a big issue because the males and females often fight over food and these tumours transmissible between individuals so they get them on the face.

It's contagious cancer.

Yeah. And they starve to death. But in populations where they have it, quite often the tumours kill all the older animals. And so the younger devils, which usually breed after 2 years of age with less competition and more resources, they're breeding a lot younger, at one year of age. And the interesting thing is that even though some populations have been reduced by 83% from the facial tumours, there have been no population entire extinctions in Tasmania. So no single population in an area has completely been wiped out. And some animals recently have been found to show the development of small tumours on their face when they're caught. They have these tumours. They get caught again a few months later and the tumours are gone. So there may be selection going on there to...

Have some form of immunity to it.

Yeah. So it is really interesting. But I had no idea how brutal the poor lives of these...

No, no, that's a fair competition, isn't it?

Yeah. Do you want to talk about antechinus? Because they're another marsupial that have an incredibly brutal life cycle, right?

Yeah, particularly if you're a male. So again, these are little, you know, often called incorrectly 'marsupial mice' because they, you know, they resemble rodents, but they're not eutherian mammals. They're marsupials.

Oxymoron, right?

It is an oxymoron. You can't be a marsupial and a mouse, but yeah. So they look a bit like a mouse. They breed quite rapidly and grow very quickly. But the males won't live beyond their first year because they will grow up and they will start fighting each other to get access to females. They will mate, and they usually have to fight the females to mate as well, because obviously that's another selection strategy that females can use is the strongest male is not necessarily the one who can beat the other males, "They've got to beat the other males then they're going to take me on."

And the females tend to be bigger because they've lived longer.

Because they live longer. Yeah, exactly.

Tough life!

So and the males simply die of stress after a year. Stress and starvation because they're just driven to be fighting and mating. And apparently there have been some studies, and I haven't looked at the references for them, but of looking at stress hormones in male antechinus and I think they're higher than just about any other recorded things in mammals.

Well, you would imagine that's the selection pressure there, right? You're selecting for animals that can deal with high stress, low food and still manage to mate with females as well as fight off all these other males. Yeah, they die after I think it's 12 days because they go without food for literally 12 days. But they're really cool because I remember catching the females, especially after the breeding period.

And it is a very weird thing where you think, "Okay. So all of these very young males under a year get to maturity. They then have sex with females that are probably older than a year or, you know, the generation of their mother, right? Yes. And then all the males die before the babies are mature or even probably born. And there's no males in the population until the mothers, like raise the next generation." So you would capture these guys. They seem to be so cute. And you would quite often have the females there and you'd have this little pocket. And inside the pocket was, you know, a whole bunch of little babies. And I think they even carry them around on their backs, don't they, once they get too big to stay in the pouch.

Yes. They're cute little animals.

You want to talk about... Oh, one story before we get into covid. '500 year old manuscript contains one of the earliest uses of the F-word.' So I was very surprised...

To what was it referring? Not which word, but in what context?

Well, I looked it up. And so it's from the Bannatyne manuscript, which is an anthology of about 400 medieval Scottish poems. And of course, it's the Scots, right?

Of course it is!

So it appears in a poem recorded by a bored student in Edinburgh who was under lock-down during the time of the plague that was ravaging Europe. So how ironic is that, right? That we're kind of experiencing that similar sort of thing right now? And it got renewed attention recently because there's a documentary coming out about Scotland. 'Contains Strong Language,' it's called. So the guy was called George Bannatyne and he compiled these 400 poems whilst he was stuck inside in late 1568. And the poem that has it in there is called "The Flighting of Dumbar and Kennedie." And now 'flighting' apparently is where you have effectively a rap battle. So it was two poets would effectively throw insults at one another, phrases, you know, one after the other to make fun of one another. And it would become a poem.

And the line was, "One fukkit foundling that nature made an earl." And apparently it is, "A misbegotten fuck that nature made a midget." So that's one of the first uses. The other one that's apparently from the 14th century was a guy whose name was 'Roger Fucked by the Navel.' So I wanted to read this to you. It seems hilarious.

I got nothing. I got nothing for that one.

I don't know why these people ended up with such weird surnames back then too, right? There must be reasons for why they get like kind of descriptors that become their surnames?

Well, what's that old gag about, "You screw one goat?"

I don't know. But he had...

But surnames weren't a common thing back then. Yeah. And so your surname sort of derived as a way of distinguishing people once you got beyond a village. Everybody in a village knew each other so you didn't need... There was there was John and he might have a son called John, but then you go, "Oh, there go the Johns."


And then there was Peter and Betty and Wilma and whoever. Everybody knew each other. You didn't need a surname.

And so surnames that they did starting to get had 'son' on the end quite often, right?

Yeah, they did. And some cultures still do that. Scandinavian culture, for instance.

The Icelandic.

You're named after your father or your mother. So you would be 'Peter Ianson,' and Noah would be 'Noah Peterson.'

You get the sur... Yeah, kind of like it's like a frog overlapping one another, right. Like hopscotching, you know...

So it's not a family name. It is literally a sentence. You are Peter, the son of Ian.


Noah is the son of Peter. And so, you know, that became a thing. So, you know, we got, you know, Peter Ianson or Johnson...

And it's in many languages, right. You'll have it in Dutch, 'van de,' and we get Fitzpatrick from 'fils de,' which is 'son of' in French.

'Son of.' Exactly. So it' a commonly used thing. And then the next thing was people were called by where they came from. If they came from another village. Yeah. "Oh, you're Peter from Kallista." So your name would be 'Peter Kallista.'


And then people got called by the job or profession that they had. So blacksmiths was called 'Peter Smith' or if you're a carter, your name would be 'Peter Carter.' Carter as in somebody who's got a horse and cart and carries goods around. And so... And it wasn't that you were called 'Peter Carter' originally. You would have been Peter the Carter, so it was a descriptor. And then 'the' that got dropped, and the 'de' in in French is 'of.' And so that was the same thing. You were 'Peter of a place.' So surnames had those derivations, but I think for some poor souls who had no father, no a job, didn't come from somewhere else, then you had to be, "Oh, Peter, who kicked the dog." Because you kicked the dog.

If you've watched Game of Thrones, I wonder how true that is in terms of giving bastards different surnames like 'Snow' and whatever the other ones were. John Snow was a bastard, so he got 'Snow' as his surname. I wonder if that has been a thing in our history, but...

I don't know.

Because this would've been in times where either you lived in a village that had so few people that you didn't need that many surnames or middle names to differentiate between people, but also in a time when people were illiterate, right.

Yes, exactly. Now, the only people for whom that was not the case were the wealthy, the aristocracy, because having a family name was a way of demonstrating and ensuring that there was an inheritance line. And so... And they were usually people who were, you know, titled so and their titles were often the location that they were from. So the Duke of Winchester was just referred to by the surname 'Winchester.' And so all of that person's children would have been called 'Winchester' because that made sure that they knew that then they are entitled to an inheritance from that person and so on. So wealthy people always had surnames, but they didn't... They weren't just family tags. They were there for, you know, political and legal reasons to make sure that people knew what the inheritance lines were.

Did you want to move on to covid? What were your funny stories regarding covid?

Oh, they weren't funny stories so much, but...

Not 'haha' funny.

Not 'haha' funny. Just different stories of... And there was a lot of it going around, particularly on YouTube, of people talking about how they're surviving the lock-downs and people changing their behaviours and doing different things and trying to find ways, particularly people who can't work from home but are being forced to stay at home, so they're effectively unemployed and unemployable. It's not like can go out and look for another job because they just aren't any at the moment. Other than the ones that have been created by supermarkets and I noticed the Victorian government created some new jobs recently. But the... It's just some weird things that people are doing of, you know, obviously I'm a photographer with a YouTube channel and a few other YouTube channels that I follow.

People are putting up sort of instead of "Today, I went out and photographed such and such." They're doing, "Well today I didn't photograph anything, but I sat at home and thought about blah, blah, blah." And they'll tell you a little story about their life. So there's a bit of that stuff going on, which is mildly entertaining. I think if this goes on for another month or more, it's going to be a little less entertaining to hear, you know, the 'lock-down diaries day 57' is not going to be quite as entertaining as day 3, I don't think.

Well, is this where we get the expression 'cabin fever?'

Yeah, well, that's a northern hemisphere winter thing of people where you... And if certainly if you've been to Europe or North America, particularly Canada in winter, where it's minus 30 degrees or colder, that's 30 Celsius. Minus 40 is the same in both Celsius and Fahrenheit so it doesn't matter too much, but minus 30 degrees, you've got snow banked up to the roof of your cabin. You cannot get out. And so you just have to survive with whatever you've got. And so people used to have these... They called them root cellars, often under their house where they... And they were root cellars because they kept root vegetables in them.

Actually there were roots growing down from the roof or something.

Potatoes and turnips and stuff like that because they would last winter. This is pretty refrigeration. But fortunately, if it's minus 30 degrees outside, you don't need refrigeration.

You're in the fridge!

You're in the fridge and you're just trying to keep warm. So that's the cabin fever is that you just couldn't get out. And I don't really remember your... One of the primary school teachers at your primary school who did an exchange program in Alaska.

Hello, Mr. Cunningham.

Hey, Jeff. I remember Jeff sending us back this message because he went there on... He left Australia on Christmas Eve, and so he arrived in Fairbanks, Alaska, which is north of the Arctic Circle.

And so that's summer. That's the middle of summer here and the middle of winter there.

... And he's gone into the middle of winter there. And it's 24 hour darkness at that time of the year. And I remember getting an email back at the time. Might have been... I think it was an email, might have been a letter because it was probably pre-email. But we certainly got some correspondence back from him that was dated early February and saying, "Hey, the sun came up today. It just bounced off the horizon." So that whole winter thing, it's not just cold, but it's dark. And so there's nothing you can do. The irony though, is that, as he mentioned in summer, he was shocked to find as summer appeared in Alaska that he was driving around and the signs on the golf course, the Fairbanks golf course, changed, saying, "Green fees half price after midnight." And it was not a joke. People were out there at 2 o'clock in the morning playing golf because it's light.

And he swore, he said he was only there for a year. And he said he just could not get used to those changes...

I can't imagine...

In winter he was going nuts with, and in summer he said, "These people do not sleep for three months. They'll have a little nap for an hour during the day. But they spend their entire years' worth of outdoor activity in about three months."

That's what I was going to say. It must be so weird for the circadian rhythm, for people getting used to sleeping and having a usual routine, especially when it's still bright outside. Daytime outside in the middle of the night. And 2, like what happens with work because you can imagine 9:00 to 5:00 doesn't really make much sense if it's daylight all the time.

You go working for 9:00 to 5:00 and then you go out and party or you play golf or do whatever, and then you go back to sleep for an hour and then you get up and go to work again. And I'm sure that's not everybody. But yeah, it's sort of weird. I've never been that far north to experience that. I've been far enough north to experience very long days or short days.

Is that cut off at the Arctic Circle? Is that where...

The Arctic Circle is that. That's the definition of the Arctic Circle is where you get periods where the sun never rises or never sets on the end of the year.

Far out. There was one story here on covid where influencers are among key distributors of coronavirus misinformation and conspiracy theories. So we have celebrities...

You're going to wind me up now, aren't you?

I am. So these celebrities and politicians have these large social media followings now and they're being blamed for providing some of the key dist... For handing out a lot of disinformation about covid whilst fact checker websites and mainstream media news struggle to compete with their reach.

Of course they do.

And so we have famous people like Woody Harrelson, apparently, and the singer M.I.A. have been sharing around baseless claims that a 5G phone signals are spreading the pandemic.

That one is going everywhere.

What the hell is going on? So I was trying to find out what it's...

Antivaxxers. It's the same thing.

Yeah, well, I was sort of surprised because I was expecting covid to kind of bring people together and to knock the silly out of them, to get rid of these sort of conspiracy theories.

There's nothing a conspiracy theorist likes more than a drama, because then they can explain the drama, because people are interested. Yeah, a conspiracy theory about whether UFOs are real or not, nobody cares. But when covid comes around, everybody, "Oh, what's caused this?" And somebody goes, "Oh, the 5G telecommunications networks cause that." "Oh, really? Who said that?"

That's the first person who asked, "Who said that?" And then... Who knows? Some idiot would have made it up. And then it just literally, and I really hate to use this, It goes viral.

Yeah. Yeah, I know. It seems so, so frustrating and I know that Kel is finding it with the Brazilian president, Jair Bolsonaro. He's, you know, a very, very religious man and is sort of...

Religious enough to be not a criminal.

He's a massive fan of Trump. And so he's sharing all this information that seems to be in the face of scientific evidence and but apparently...

Never let science get in the way.

Apparently, these guys, like these celebrities and politicians, are only spreading 20% of the false information, or at least they're only responsible for spreading 20% out of all the people spreading it, but they reach up to 70% of the social media engagement. And so this is the problem. YouTube's cracking down on these 5G covid videos, but there was a conspiracy theorist, David Hick, or David 'Hick,' 'Hick,' that was interviewed on YouTube and they got rid of his video. And he was saying that if 5G continues and reaches where they want to take it, human life as we know it is over. People need to make a decision. And users after that were calling for 5G towers in Britain to be destroyed.

And then he also went on to say that the coronavirus vaccine is going to include nanotechnology, microchips that will allow humans to be controlled. And that Bill Gates, who's donating all this money to the covid-19 vaccine development, should be put in jail. Why do people gravitate towards conspiracy theories?

Well, there's two things. One: Why do people invent conspiracy theories? Because it's instant fame and fortune. Which is one of the reasons that YouTube, although they've just relented now, but YouTube for a couple of weeks automatically demonetised anything on YouTube that mentioned covid virus. Coronavirus. Because people were getting a million hits for just making some shit up and people would go click, click, click. And YouTube just said, "No, we're not going to allow you to make money out of these sort of conspiracies." And now they're fact checking I think, before they do that, but...

So that's the first thing, is that people can make money out of it. And the second thing is that people like to be seduced by salacious or interesting stories. It's much more interesting for a person who has very limited scientific background or a scientific understanding to go, "Oh, this is 5G, it's new. And I don't have it yet. If I had it, I'd be less interested in this. But I don't have a 5G phone yet. So those, you know, the few people are out there. They're polluting the world with these magic radio waves that are going to give us all cancer." That used to be the other thing, is that mobile phones will give you cancer. They might, but it has never been proved.

I think it was people working in mobile phone towers tended to be the ones who ended up getting cancer, more so than any just individual with a mobile phone.

Exactly. So I think that's it. It's just, yeah, people like being seduced by the salacious or the out of the ordinary. And I just... I mean, the reason I said at the beginning; You're just going to wind me up, because I can't stand this whole, you know, social media influencer because as soon as I read, "Oh, I'm a social media influencer," I just go, "So you're a nut job conspiracy theorist who is offering nothing to the world." Because there is some genuine influences who, ironically, don't refer to themselves as the influencers, of people who are... They're making a lot of money out of social media, but they are providing something. And I'll use the common example of there are lots of women, and they're almost exclusively women, who do makeup videos.


And there are hundreds of them on YouTube that are turning out... They got half a million or a million followers and they are churning through thousands of dollars a day, sometimes, by people clicking on it. But what they're doing is they're providing interesting content. They're actually useful. If you want to know, "How does this woman make herself up in the morning?" And if I wanted to learn how to do makeup, for me, because I'm seeing it in first person, that's useful. Someone getting on YouTube and ranting about 5G causing cancer or covid virus, and you just go, "Really? What are you providing for the universe?"

The equivalent for men that I've seen is people who tend to review technical objects.

Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.

Gizmos and games and stuff like that, and then sell them because, you know, there's always something new to come out and do that. But it is interesting that we're kind of in a post-truth period, right. Where...

Oh, absolutely. Never let truth get in the way of a story.

Yeah. Well it seems that way right. Don't let truth get in the way of a good story where the stuff that pays based on social media and the internet is now not the stuff that's the most accurate or truthful, but the stuff that will spread the fastest.

Which is clickbait.

More often than not untruthful. But yeah, who do you think has the responsibility for conspiracy theorists? Like should they be held responsible? Should it be the social media platforms like Facebook and YouTube?

Well, Facebook and YouTube are free. They're free to use and they are free for content providers, which does one thing, and that is that it enables the owners of Facebook and YouTube to make up their own rules. You choose not to... "You don't like the way where you want to do something? Then get off our platform." And so I'm perfectly happy if Facebook and YouTube say we don't like this, so get lost. If, on the other hand, they are providing a fee-for-service thing and you are then paying, then that's a very different story. But while their free platforms, and all social media platforms are free, unless you value your time and, you know, you're being...

Going brain dead by watching advertising, then I don't think the platforms themselves are A responsible, But B, they do have the opportunity of saying, "Look, we don't want to put up with this shit." Like YouTube did with people making money out of putting up just random stuff. All you had to do was mentioned coronavirus and people would click on it. And so they just dropped anything that mentioned coronavirus. They just dropped the monetisation. You can put that rubbish up, but you're not going to make any money out of it. On the other hand, if you look at it and say, "Well, if it's not the owner of the platform, then does government have some responsibility?" Every government in the world would like to say that they want to control what people put up. And unless you're China and you have your own Internet, then you're not going to be able to do that because in Australia, we can't control what somebody in another country puts up and makes is made available in Australia.

Yes, we can have this collaborative arrangement that most countries around the world are not going to put up with this stuff and they're going to get rid of it, but then you come up with freedom of speech. And what's the difference between a conspiracy theorist and somebody who's a whistle-blower? Both of them are telling stories that other people don't want to hear.

It probably comes down to personalities because I looked this up. Looking at conspiracy theories have always been around through history and they're much more visible lately. But research that came out only two years ago showed that people with certain personality traits are the ones that likely believe conspiracy theories or propagate them. So they tend to be people who are more suspicious, untrusting, eccentric, needing to feel special and with a tendency to regard the world as an inherently dangerous place. And also, they're more likely to detect meaningful patterns where none exist. And people who don't believe in conspiracies tend to have the opposite traits.

Oh yeah.

It makes sense when you see that a lot of people who are conspiracy theorists, they're that. They're not just, "This person doesn't believe in the moon landing," they tend to have a whole suite of different conspiracy theories that they believe in.

They're not one trick ponies, that's for sure.

That's the weird thing that I always found, is it's like, "Do you not see that you're kind of latching onto any of these things, that it's obviously deeper than any individual story. It's more that there's a personality trait there that I would be looking at if it were me and thinking, 'why do I always assume the government's up to something? Why do I always assume that it's something behind know pulling the strings behind?'"

It's that lack of understanding of evidence as well, because they invariably use anecdote as evidence.


I heard about somebody that this happened to. Well, that might have actually happened, but that does not mean that the claim you are making is true.

Well that comes back to people who saw UFOs. It's kind of like, "Look, I'm not debating with you that you thought you saw a UFO, that you saw something that you're thinking is a UFO..."

By definition, it is an unidentified flying object, which means you see an object in the sky flying and you can't identify it. It is a UFO.

I think that's a big thing. Don't just assume. Yeah. Okay. All right. We may not the answers...

It is not necessarily an alien that's come to spy on us, or worse...

Anyway, guys, thanks for joining us. Hopefully you got a lot out of this episode.

Thanks, everyone.

And we'll see you next week.

Thanks, Pete. We'll shoot the breeze next week. See you guys.

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