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What Australia’s Dr. Karl Learned From Joining Paranoid Preppers in the 70s

There’s wisdom in preparing for disaster. But it can still be done correctly. Australian scientist and TV personality Karl Kruszelnicki has recently remarked about his time joining a group of preppers, not realizing how paranoid they really were.

Folks from America might not recognize the game, but his accolades are abundant. Kruszelnicki, often referred to as Dr Karl, is an Australian science communicator known for his time in television promoting scientific endeavors. Think of him kind of like an Aussie Bill Nye.

According to a recent interview with Kruszelnicki for the Australian, he had once bunkered down with a group of preppers, only to learn that the disaster they were expecting never came. In the early 1970s, a group of friends had told Kruszelnicki about an incoming tidal wave set to hit Sydney. They convinced him to go with them into the Blue Mountains, where they hid away with nothing but rice, water, and fuel. Time passed, and Kruszelnicki realized that the group was wrong, having believed a conspiracy over scientific experts.

The account was eye-opening for the scientist. It made him realize how powerful of an influence the words from a trusted source like a friend can be.

“I believed simply because my friends told me about it. That was enough; because my friends were so convinced, I took that as a very high authority. I wasn’t thinking. Trusting information from a friend is a well-known factor in psychology. It’s why peer recommendations are more persuasive than advertising. It’s because we are social animals and we have to get along in order to survive.”

He continued to muse on how even people with a scientific mindset can fall victim to mental hypocrisies, which can be influenced by friends.

“I was a smoker back then too and I’d heard about the ­Surgeon General’s health warning but I didn’t accept the ­science until a friend advised me to quit.”

On the surface, this may feel like an insult to preppers, painting folks that prepare for disasters in a bad light. But it can serve as something better: an opportunity to center ourselves. There are paranoid preppers out there. Folks that take the idea of prepping and simply take it too far. They may not represent the majority of preppers, but we cannot deny their existence.

This story is a reminder that, if we aren’t mindful, we can unintentionally become like those people. When we trust the voices of friends over that of experts, we allow ourselves to be fooled into making wrong decisions, wasting time and resources for the wrong things. We mustn’t forget: the best people to trust are the ones who know the situation best. Jimmy at the lumberyard will never know human illnesses and injuries better than a licensed doctor. Frank from the gym will know more about fitness than unemployed teenagers on the internet. You can have friends without believing that they know everything.

Despite being over 70 years old, Kruszelnicki is still actively making content that brings scientific answers to common concepts. One of the best ways to get that right now is from his official TikTok channel, where he talks about everything from the best way to reduce a hangover to why you should always close the toilet lid when you flush. And since he has degrees in medicine and biomedical engineering, I trust he knows what he’s talking about.

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