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Douglas Adams: Parrots the Universe and Everything

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    It’s a very interesting, and unusual,
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    Thank you very much, ladies and gentlemen
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    and weird experience for me
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    to be talking in my home town. Which is…
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    Now, amongst the books
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    that Constance mentioned
    when she’s introducing me,
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    The Hitchhiker’s Guide,
    Dirk Gently and so on,
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    it was not my favourite book.
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    And my favourite book
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    is what I’m here to talk about tonight.
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    Virtually every author I know,
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    their own favourite book is the one
    that sold the least.
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    It’s somehow the runt of the litter,
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    it’s the one you’ve always
    just loved the most.
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    And I want to tell you about
    how this came about.
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    Sometime in about the mid 1980s,
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    the phone rang.
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    And the voice said,
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    “We want you to go to Madagascar.
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    We want you to look for
    a very rare form of lemur,
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    called the Aye-aye.
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    The plane leaves in two weeks,
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    we would like you to be on it.”
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    Now I—assuming they’ve got
    the wrong number—said “yes!”
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    before they could discover their mistake.
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    But in fact it turned out
    that they decided,
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    “Well, here is somebody who
    doesn’t know anything about lemurs,
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    anything about the Aye-aye,
    anything about Madagascar,
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    let’s send him.”
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    So I started to try
    and find out something about it,
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    and it turns out it’s very interesting.
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    Lemurs used to be
    the dominant primate in all the world.
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    And they were very,
    very gentle, pleasant creatures.
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    They were a little bit
    like sort of cat size,
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    and they used to hang around in the trees
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    having a nice time.
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    And then, Gondwanaland split up.
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    It always sounds like
    some sort of 70’s rock group
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    going their own way
    for reasons of musical differences.
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    But as you probably remember
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    Gondwanaland was that
    vast continental landmass
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    that consisted of what then became
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    South America, Africa, India
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    Southeast Asia, Australasia
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    —uh, no—Australia, Australia and not
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    —and this will turn out
    to be significant later—
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    not New Zealand
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    which turns out to be just a lot of gunk
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    that came out from under the ocean.
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    And as I say,
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    lemurs were the dominant primate
    around the world
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    and when all these landmasses split up,
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    and Madagascar was one of them,
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    Madagascar kind of sailed off
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    into the middle of what then
    suddenly became the Indian Ocean.
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    And took with it a representative sample
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    of the livestock of the period,
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    which included a lot of lemurs.
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    And they basically sort of sat there
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    for millions and millions of years
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    in glorious isolation.
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    While, in the rest of the world,
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    a new creature emerged.
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    A new creature arrived
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    that was much more intelligent
    than the lemurs
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    —according to it—
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    much more competitive,
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    much more aggressive,
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    and incredibly interested
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    in all of things you could do with twigs.
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    Twigs were absolutely wonderful.
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    There is so much you can do with twigs
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    you can dig in the ground
    for things with twigs,
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    you can burrow under
    the bark of trees for grubs,
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    you can hit each other with twigs.
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    If there had been copies of
    TwigUser Magazine around on those days,
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    these creatures would
    have been lining up for it.
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    And these creatures
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    —which, as you have probably guessed,
    are called the monkeys—
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    because they were more competitive
    and more aggressive,
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    and they lived in the
    same habitat as the lemurs,
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    they successfully supplanted the lemurs
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    everywhere in the world
    other than Madagascar.
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    Because Madagascar was right out
    in the middle of the Indian Ocean
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    and they couldn’t get there.
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    They couldn’t get there until
    about 1500 years ago,
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    when due to startling
    advances in twig technology
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    they were able to get there in boats,
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    and eventually planes.
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    And suddenly the lemurs,
    that have had this place for themselves
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    for millions and millions
    and millions of years,
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    were suddenly facing
    their old enemy: the monkey.
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    So, this is Madagascar,
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    and it turns out that
    the rarest of the lemurs
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    —and when I say the rarest of the lemurs,
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    at this particular point in the mid 80’s
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    they were thought to be
    the rarest of the lemurs;
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    we’ve now discovered and even rarer lemur
    called the Golden Bamboo Lemur,
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    which went straight to the number one
    of endangered lemurs—
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    but the Aye-aye is a very
    very peculiar animal.
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    It looks like the agglomeration
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    of all sorts of other different animals.
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    So, for instance,
    it has a sort of foxy ears,
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    and it has a little sort
    of bitty rabbit’s teeth,
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    and it has a kind of
    ostrich feathers as a tail,
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    and it has very weird eyes,
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    actually it has Marty Feldman’s eyes.
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    The kind of sort of looking
    slightly beyond you
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    into a sort of other dimension
    just over your left shoulder.
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    But it also has one very very
    very peculiar characteristic,
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    which is its middle finger on both hands
    is skeletally thin and very very long.
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    And it turns out there is
    only one other animal
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    in the entire world that has this feature.
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    And this is called
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    —I love zoologists;
    they have such vivid imaginations—
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    it’s called the Long-Fingered Possum.
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    And this is a creature
    that lives in New Guinea,
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    and in fact it is its fourth finger
    that is skeletally thin and elongated.
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    And this is the thing that tells us
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    that there is no relationship
    between these animals,
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    it’s pure convergent evolution,
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    because the common factor
    between Madagascar and the Aye-aye,
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    and New Guinea and
    the Long-Fingered Possum
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    is that in both habitats
    there are no woodpeckers.
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    And you see, the thing is
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    —life is very very opportunistic,
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    and it will take advantage of any
    food source it finds around the place.
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    And if there are no woodpeckers looking
    under the bark of trees for grubs,
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    then, in this case, it will be the mammals
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    that grow the skeletally thin long finger
    to burrow under the bark of the tree,
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    and get to this source of food
    which is the grubs under the bark.
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    So, the Aye-aye is this
    very very very strange creature.
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    And at this time it was thought there
    were only about fifteen of them left.
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    And they lived actually
    not on Madagascar itself,
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    but on a tiny little rainforest island
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    just off the coast of Madagascar,
    called Nosy Mangabe,
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    and it’s just off
    the northwest tip of Madagascar.
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    And now to get there, what you have to do,
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    is you have to fly in a 747 to Madagascar.
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    And then in a terrible
    old jalopy of an airplane
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    from Madagascar up to the northwest port.
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    And from there you have to go
    in a kind of decreasingly excellent
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    series of carts and trucks and so on,
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    to a little port where
    there was going to be a boat
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    that was going to take us to Nosy Mangabe.
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    So we arrived there,
    and arrived at the port,
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    and we were looking around for the boat
    that was going to take us to Nosy Mangabe,
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    and we couldn’t see it.
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    And we kept in turn asking people
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    –you know–“where is this boat?”,
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    and they would say
    “It’s there! It’s there!”,
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    and we couldn’t see
    what they were pointing at
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    because there was this terrible
    rotting old hulk in the way.
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    Well as you guessed,
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    this is the terrible rotting old hulk
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    in which we have to go to Nosy Mangabe.
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    And it didn’t fulfill what to my mind
    was the sort of basic criteria of a boat,
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    in that it was basically full of ocean.
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    And it seemed to me
    that the whole point of a boat
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    was to keep the ocean on the outside.
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    Anyway, so we crossed to Nosy Mangabe.
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    And it’s this tiny little, very very
    beautiful little rainforest island.
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    And we hit a major problem
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    which of course is that
    this animal not only lives in trees
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    —nobody has seen it for
    years and years and years—
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    lives in trees but
    it’s also a nocturnal animal.
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    And the quality of batteries
    in Madagascar is very very poor.
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    So, we spent night after night
    after night,
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    traipsing through the rainforest,
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    in what can only be described as:
    the rain.
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    Getting rather ratty,
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    and basically we’ve just spent
    night after night
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    sort of huddled under tarpaulins,
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    looking at us, saying “stop raining.”
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    And every now and then we would sort of,
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    “gah, I’ve been trying
    to find this damn animal.”
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    Actually, this is wonderful,
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    we found this hut that used
    to be this sort of game warden’s
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    —not game warden—a ranger’s hut.
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    And it’s a tiny little hut.
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    And it was actually full of wild life.
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    What happened, you see,
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    is you would open the door,
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    and you hear all this noise…
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    and you turn on the light
    and it would all stop.
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    And you would see these little
    giant spiders around the wall,
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    each with a sort of
    half-eaten bug in their mouth!
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    And say, “yes?”
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    And you turn the light out and…
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    So this is our shelter, you know,
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    we were having a great time.
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    But one night, one night,
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    we were all sort of—as I said—
    huddled under our tarpaulins,
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    and I sort of got out,
    and wandered around,
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    and suddenly, suddenly,
    I looked up and at a branch
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    at about that high above my head
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    this creature came out.
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    This creature came out along the branch,
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    looked down on me,
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    and I looked at it, and as it looked to me
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    —it obviously didn’t at all like
    to look at what it saw—
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    it turned around and went away again.
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    Whole encounter about ten seconds.
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    And that’s what we’ve come for.
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    I had actually seen, we all saw
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    —just managed to get a quick
    photograph of it when it appeared—
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    but I suddenly realized
    we’ve seen an Aye-aye.
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    Now, I was absolutely
    transfixed by that moment,
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    for reasons that I couldn’t entirely
    explain to myself immediately.
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    Because a month earlier
    I’ve never even heard of this animal
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    and now here I was, staring at it,
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    thinking that something
    extraordinary happening here.
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    So I began to sort of
    think about it a little bit,
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    and the thought I put together was this.
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    In traveling here,
    in traveling on a 747 to Tananarive,
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    which is the capital of Madagascar,
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    and this terrible old jalopy
    of an airplane
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    that took us out to the northwest corner,
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    and then in the decreasingly excellent
    series of carts and trucks,
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    and then in the rotting old hulk
    that took us to the rainforest
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    where we basically walked through
    the rainforest night after night,
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    it was as if we were taking
    a kind of time journey
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    —a time travel journey—
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    back through the history
    of twig technology.
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    And what this encounter had been,
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    what this encounter had been was:
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    I was a monkey looking at a lemur.
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    And you suddenly think,
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    there is a huge amount of history
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    to this moment that we don’t think
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    —we don’t realise—we carry around with us.
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    Our roots in this planet go back
    an awfully awfully awfully long way,
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    and we don’t tend to
    think about that very much.
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    And it takes a confrontation like this
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    to suddenly realise how sort of
    broad and deep your family goes.
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    So I thought,
    well this is terribly interesting.
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    And I talked to the guy who had been
    kind of my guide out there,
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    who was a zoologist
    who had been sent along
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    to make sure I didn’t sort of
    fall out of the trees and so on.
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    And his name was Mark Carwardine,
    and I said to him,
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    “I would love it if we could …,
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    do you fancy the idea of
    sort of going around the world
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    and looking for other rare
    and endangered species of animals,
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    maybe doing a book about this?”
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    He said,
    “well, that’s what I do for a living!”
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    “So yeah, OK.”
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    And so we did.
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    Now, there was a pause at that moment
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    because I had a couple of novels
    I’ve just been contracted to write.
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    So I wrote Dirk Gently’s
    Holistic Detective Agency
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    and The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul,
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    and then it was time to go.
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    And the first place we went,
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    we went to look for a particular animal
    which is the Komodo Dragon Lizard.
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    Now you know what
    lizards are like, don’t you?
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    I mean they’re sort of…
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    The Komodo Dragon Lizard
    is a little bit bigger than that.
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    The biggest one we saw actually
    it was about 13 feet long,
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    and its head came out to about here
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    fucking huge
    I think is the technical term.
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    It’s thought to be the origin
    of the chinese dragon myth
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    —because they are well huge,
    giant giant lizards,
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    they’re scaly, they’re man eaters,
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    literally they’re man eaters,
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    and they don’t actually breathe fire,
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    but they do have the worst breath
    of any creature known to man.
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    And they live on this island
    called Komodo.
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    Now, it’s not enough—it turns out—
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    that this island has fifteen hundred,
    fifteen hundred man-eating dragons on it.
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    It turns our that actually that
    the most endangered animal on the island
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    is anything other than the dragons.
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    In fact—as I said—they’re man eaters.
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    They don’t actually eat you
    sort of straight out,
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    they don’t sort of lunge at you
    and just gobble you up.
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    They sort of sneak around
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    and they come
    and give you a bit of a bite.
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    Because their saliva is so virulent
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    that your wound would not heal
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    and after a while you will die.
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    And so one of the dragons
    will get to eat you
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    —it doesn’t matter if it’s
    the same one that bit you—
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    they just have a strategy
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    of having as many dead and dying
    creatures lying around the island
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    as they can manage
    and that kind of keeps them going.
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    But it turns out it’s not enough
    that the island
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    has fifteen hundred
    man-eating dragons on it.
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    Just to make it a little bit
    more interesting,
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    it also has more poisonous snakes on it
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    —per square meter of land—
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    than any equivalent
    area of land anywhere on earth.
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    So, we approach Komodo
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    —I have to say—slightly nervously,
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    and in a slightly roundabout way.
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    In fact we approached
    in such a roundabout way
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    that we went by Melbourne in Australia.
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    And the reason we went by Melbourne
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    was somebody who
    we wanted to go and see there,
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    a man called Dr. Struan Sutherland.
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    Actually I want to read you
    a little bit about him,
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    he was a great expert in snake venom.
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    I should apologise
    before I read this, actually,
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    for the fact that
    my australian accent isn’t very good.
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    But then, what the hell,
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    you’re all americans
    you won’t know the difference anyway.
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    There is in Melbourne a man
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    who probably knows more
    about poisonous snakes
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    than anyone else on earth.
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    His name is Dr. Struan Sutherland,
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    and he has devoted his entire life
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    to a study of venom.
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    “And I’m bored at talking about it”,
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    he said when we went along
    to see him the next morning
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    laden with tape recorders and notebooks.
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    “Can’t stand all these
    poisonous creatures,
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    all these snakes and
    insects and fish and things.
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    Wretched things, biting everybody.
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    And then people expect me
    to tell them what to do about it.
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    I’ll tell them what to do.
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    Don’t get bitten in the first place.
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    That’s the answer.
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    I’ve had enough of
    telling people all the time.
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    Hydroponics, now that’s interesting.
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    Talk to you all you like
    about hydroponics.
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    Fascinating stuff,
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    growing plants artificially in water,
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    very interesting technique.
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    We’ll need to know all about it
    if we’re going to go to Mars and places.
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    Where did you say you were going?”
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    “Komodo.”
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    “Well don’t get bitten,
    that’s all I can say.
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    And don’t come running to me if you do
    because you won’t get here in time,
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    and anyway I’ve got enough on my plate.
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    Look at this office, full of
    poisonous animals all over the place.
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    See this tank, it’s full of fire ants.
    Venomous little creatures.
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    What are we going to do about them?
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    Anyway, I got some little fairy cakes
    in case you were hungry.
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    Would you like some little cakes?
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    I can’t remember where I put them.
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    There’s some tea but it’s not very good.
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    Anyway, sit down for heaven’s sake.
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    So, you’re going to Komodo.
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    Well, I don’t know why you want to do that
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    but I suppose you have your reasons.
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    There are fifteen different
    types of snake on Komodo,
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    and half of them are poisonous.
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    The only potentially deadly ones
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    are the Russell’s Viper,
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    the Bamboo Viper and the Indian Cobra.
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    The Indian cobra is the fifteenth
    deadliest snake in the world,
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    and all the other fourteen
    are here in Australia.
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    That’s why it’s so hard
    for me to find time
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    to get on with my hydroponics,
    with all these snakes all over the place.
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    And spiders. The most poisonous spider
    is the Sydney funnel-web,
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    we get about five hundred people
    a year bitten by spiders.
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    A lot of them used to die,
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    so I had to develop an antidote to stop
    people bothering me with it all the time.
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    Took us years. Then we developed
    this snake bite detector kit.
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    Not that you need a kit to tell you
    when you’ve been bitten by a snake,
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    you usually know, but the kit is
    something that will detect
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    what type you’ve been bitten by
    so you can treat it properly.
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    Would you like to see a kit? I’ve got a
    couple here in the venom fridge.
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    Let’s have a look. Ah look,
    the cakes are in here too.
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    Quick, have one while they’re still fresh.
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    Fairy cakes, I baked ’em myself”
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    He handed round the snake venom
    detection kits
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    and these home baked fairy cakes
    and retreated back to his desk,
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    where he beamed at us cheerfully
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    from behind his curly beard and bow tie.
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    We admired the kits
    which were small efficient boxes
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    neatly packed with tiny bottles,
    a pipette, a syringe,
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    and a complicated set of instructions
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    that I wouldn’t want to have
    to read for the first time in a panic.
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    And then we asked him how many of
    the snakes he had been bitten by himself.
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    “None of ’em,” he said.
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    “Another area of expertise I’ve developed
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    is that of getting other people
    to handle the dangerous animals.
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    Won’t do it myself.
    Don’t want to get bitten, do I?
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    You know what it says on my book jackets?
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    ‘Hobbies: gardening, with gloves;
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    fishing, with boots;
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    travelling, with care.’
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    That’s the answer. What else?
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    Well in addition to the boots
    wear thick baggy trousers.
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    And preferably have half a dozen people
    trampling along in front of you
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    making as much noise as possible.
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    The snakes pick up the vibrations
    and get out of your way.
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    Unless it’s a Death Adder,
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    otherwise known as the Deaf Adder,
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    which just lies there.
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    People can walk right past it
    and over it and nothing happens.
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    I’ve heard of twelve people in a line
    walking over a Death Adder
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    and the twelfth person
    accidentally trod on it and got bitten.
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    Normally it’s quite safe
    to get twelve in line.
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    You’re not eating your cakes.
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    Come on, get them down you,
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    there’s plenty more in the venom fridge.”
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    We asked, tentatively, if we could perhaps
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    take a snake bite detector kit
    with us to Komodo.
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    “Course you can, course you can.
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    Take as many as you like.
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    Won’t do you a blind bit of good because
    they’re only for Australian snakes.”
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    “So what do we do if we get bitten by
    something deadly, then?” I asked.
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    He blinked at me as if I were stupid.
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    "Well what do you think you do?” he said.
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    “You die of course.
    That’s what deadly means.”
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    “But what about cutting open the wound
    and sucking out the poison?” I asked.
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    “Rather you than me,” he said.
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    “I wouldn’t want a mouthful of poison.
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    Shouldn’t do you any harm, though,
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    snake toxins are of high molecular weight
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    so they wont penetrate
    the blood vessels in the mouth
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    the way that alcohol or some drugs do.
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    And then the poison gets destroyed
    by the acids in your stomach.
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    But it’s not necessarily going
    to do much good either.
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    I mean, you’re not likely to be able
    to get much of the poison out,
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    but you’re probably going to make
    the wound a lot worse trying.
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    And in a place like Komodo it means you’d
    quickly have a seriously infected wound
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    to contend with as well as
    a leg full of poison.
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    Septicaemia, gangrene,
    you name it, it’ll kill you.”
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    “What about a tourniquet?” I asked.
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    “Well, fine if you don’t mind having
    your leg cut off afterwards.
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    You’d have to because if you cut off
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    the blood supply to it completely
    it will just die.
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    And if you can find anyone
    in that part of Indonesia
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    who you’d trust to take your leg off
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    then you’re a braver man than me.
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    No, I’ll tell you,
    the only thing you can do
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    is apply a pressure bandage
    direct to the wound
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    and wrap the whole leg up tightly,
    but not too tightly.
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    Slow the blood flow but don’t cut it off
    or you’ll lose the leg.
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    Hold your leg,
    or whatever bit you’ve been bitten in,
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    lower than your heart and your head.
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    Keep very, very still, breathe slowly
    and get to a doctor immediately.
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    If you’re on Komodo
    that means a couple of days,
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    by which time you’ll be well dead.
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    Now, the only answer,
    and I mean this quite seriously,
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    is don’t get bitten.
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    There’s no reason why you should.
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    Any of the snakes there
    will get out of your way
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    well before you even see them.
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    You don’t really need to worry
    about the snakes if you’re careful.
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    No, the things you really need to
    worry about are the marine creatures.”
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    “What?”
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    “Scorpion fish, stonefish, sea snakes.
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    Much more poisonous than anything on land.
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    Get stung by a stonefish
    and the pain alone will kill you.
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    People drown themselves
    just to stop the pain.”
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    “Where are all these things?”
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    “Oh, just in the sea. Tons of them.
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    I wouldn’t go near it if I were you.
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    Full of poisonous animals. Hate them.”
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    “Is there anything you do like?”
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    “Yes. Hydroponics.”
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    “No”, I said, “I mean are there any
    poisonous creatures
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    you’re particularly fond of?”
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    He looked out of the window for a moment.
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    “There was,” he said, “but she left me.”
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    Anyway, in fact my favourite
    of all the animals we went to see,
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    my favourite, was an animal
    called the Kakapo.
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    And the Kakapo is a kind of parrot.
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    It lives in New Zealand.
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    It’s a flightless parrot,
    it has forgotten how to fly.
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    Sadly, it has also forgotten
    that it has forgotten how to fly.
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    So a seriously worried Kakapo has been
    known to run up a tree and jump out of it.
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    Opinion divides as to what next happens:
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    some people said it has developed
    a kind of rudimentary parachuting ability,
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    other people say
    it flies a bit like a brick.
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    But the thing is
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    —I might talk about a
    seriously worried Kakapo—
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    the fact is you’re not likely to find
    a seriously worried Kakapo
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    because Kakapos have not learned to worry.
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    It seems an extraordinary thing to say
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    because worrying is something
    we’re all so terribly good at,
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    and which comes so
    absolutely naturally to us,
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    we think it must be
    as natural as breathing.
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    But it turns out that worrying
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    is simply an acquired
    habit like anything else.
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    It’s something you’re genetically
    disposed to do or not to do.
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    And the thing is that the Kakapo
    grew up in New Zealand
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    which was, until man arrived,
    a country which had no predators.
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    And it’s predators that,
    over a series of generations,
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    will teach you to worry.
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    And if you don’t have predators then the
    need to worry will never occur to you.
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    Now I said earlier, that New Zealand
    turns out to be
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    just a load of gunk that
    came out from under the ocean.
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    And this is why, when it emerged,
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    it didn’t have any life on it at all
    —maybe a few dead fish.
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    So the only animals that
    inhabited New Zealand
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    were the animals
    that could fly there, i.e. birds.
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    There were are also
    a couple of species of bats
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    which are mammals, but you get the point.
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    So it was only birds
    that lived on New Zealand.
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    And, in an absence of predators,
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    there was nothing
    for them to worry about.
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    Now it’s very very peculiar for us
    to try and understand this
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    because we have never ever encountered
    an environment with no predators in it.
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    Why not?
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    Because we are predators and because,
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    therefore, if we are in that environment
    it is a predated environment.
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    For the europeans who
    originally arrived in New Zealand,
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    … sorry, that was
    an extraordinary thing to say.
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    Of course the Māoris before them
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    and before then the Morioris,
    the Māoris ate the Morioris
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    and then the europeans came along.
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    But before all of that happened—as I said—
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    the island had no predators, and the
    birds basically lived a worry-free life.
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    Now you can actually see another example
    of this if you go to Galápagos,
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    there is a type of animal,
    there is a bird on the Galápagos Islands
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    called the Blue-footed Booby.
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    And the Blue-footed Booby is so called
    —I believe—for two reasons:
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    one of which has to do
    with the colour of his feet,
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    and the other has to do with this
    piece of behaviour I’m about to describe.
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    Because, apparently you can
    walk up to a Blue-footed Booby
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    —it will be sitting there on
    the beach or on a branch—
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    and you can walk up and
    you can sort of pick him up.
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    And what the Booby will be thinking is
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    that once you finish with him
    you’ll put him back.
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    And if you haven’t lived
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    through generation after generation
    of people trying to eat you,
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    it’s very easy to come to that conclusion.
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    So the Kakapo, as I say,
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    had grown up in an environment
    without predators.
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    And because they were all birds,
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    and because nature has a way—as I say—
    very opportunistic
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    and life will flow into any niche
    where it’s possible to make a living,
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    so—if I can be very naughty and
    anthropomorphise for a moment—
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    it’s as if some of the birds figured out,
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    “Well, this flying stuff
    is very very expensive.
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    It takes a lot of energy,
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    you have to eat a bit, fly a bit,
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    eat a bit, fly a bit,
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    because every time you
    eat something—you know—
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    you weight down and it’s heavier to fly,
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    so eat a bit, fly a bit—I mean—
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    there are other ways of life available.”
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    And so it’s as if some of the birds said,
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    “Well, actually what we could do is we
    could settle in for a rather larger meal,
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    and go for a waddle afterwards!”
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    And so gradually over many
    many generations
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    a lot of the birds lost
    the ability to fly,
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    they took up life on the ground.
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    The Kiwi, the most famous bird
    —I guess—of New Zealand,
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    and the Weka, and the old night parrot
    —as it was called—the Kakapo.
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    Which is this sort of big, fat,
    soft, fluffy, lugubrious bird.
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    And because it has never learned to worry,
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    when man arrived and brought with him
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    his deadly menagerie of
    dogs, and cats, and stoats,
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    and the most destructive of all animals
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    –other than man—which is
    Rattus rattus, the ship’s rat.
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    Suddenly, suddenly these birds
    were waddling for their lives.
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    Except in fact they
    didn’t know how to do that
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    because they were confronted
    with an animal which was a predator,
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    they didn’t know what to do,
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    they didn’t know what the social form was,
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    they just waited for the other
    animal to make the next move,
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    and of course—as usually—
    a fairly swift and deadly one.
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    So, suddenly from there
    being a population of
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    —we don’t know exactly of how many—
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    probably not as many as a million,
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    but hundreds of thousands of these birds,
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    their population plunged at an incredible
    rate down into the low forties.
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    Which is roughly where it is
    at the moment.
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    And, so there are groups of people
    who dedicated their entire lives
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    to try to save these animals,
    trying to conserve them.
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    And one of the problems
    they’ve come across
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    is that it’s all very well
    just to protect them
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    —from predators—which is
    very very very hard to do.
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    But the next problem they come across
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    is the mating habits of the Kakapo.
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    Because it turns out that
    the mating habits of the Kakapo
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    are incredibly long drawn-out,
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    fantastically complicated,
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    and almost entirely ineffective.
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    Some people would tell you
    that the mating call of the male Kakapo
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    actively repels the female Kakapo,
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    which is the sort of behaviour
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    you would otherwise only find
    really in discotheques.
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    The people who’ve heard the
    mating call of the male Kakapo
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    will tell you, you can hardly
    even hear it,
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    it’s like a sort of …
    I’ll tell you what they do.
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    This animal every—for about a hundred
    nights of the year—
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    it goes through its mating ritual.
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    And what it does is it finds
    some great rocky outcrop
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    looking out over the great
    rolling valleys of New Zealand,
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    because acoustics are very important
    for what's about to happen.
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    It carves out this kind
    of bowl that it sits in.
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    And it sits there,
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    and it puffs out this great sort
    of air-sacks around his chest.
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    And it sits there
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    —and these are reverberation chambers,
    this is a kind of reverberation chamber—
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    and it sits there and for
    night after night after night
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    for a hundred nights of the year,
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    for eight hours of the night,
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    it performs the opening bars
    of The Dark Side of the Moon.
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    Now, I see some grey hairs here
    so you’ll know the album I’m referring to.
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    Which as you remember starts with
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    this great sort of boom, boom, boom,
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    it’s a heartbeat sound.
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    And this is the noise,
    that the Kakapo makes.
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    But it’s so, it’s so deep,
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    that you more kind of feel it like a
    wobble in the pit of your stomach.
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    You can only just sort of
    tune your hearing in to it.
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    Now I never managed to get to hear it,
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    but those who do say they feel
    it’s a very eerie sound
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    because you don’t really hear it,
    you more kind of feel it.
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    And, it’s bass sound.
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    It’s very very deep bass sound,
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    just below our level of our hearing.
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    Now it turns out that bass sound
    has two important characteristics to it.
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    One of which is that
    these great long waves,
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    these great long sound waves
    travel great distances,
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    and they fill these great valleys
    of the south island of New Zealand.
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    And that’s good. That’s good.
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    But there is another characteristic
    of bass sounds,
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    which you may be familiar with,
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    if you’ve got this kind of—you know—
    the kind of stereo speakers you can get.
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    Where you have two tiny little ones
    that give you your treble sound,
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    and you have to put them
    very carefully in the room,
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    because they’re going to
    define the stereo image.
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    And then you have
    what’s known as a subwoofer
  • Not Synced
    which is the bass box,
    and that’s going to produce
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    just the bass sound and you can
    put that anywhere in the room you like.
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    You can put it behind the sofa
    if you like,
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    because the other
    characteristic of bass sound
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    —and remember we’re talking about
    the mating call of the male Kakapo—
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    is that you can’t tell
    where it’s coming from!
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    So just imagine if you will,
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    this male Kakapo sitting up here,
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    making all this booming noise which,
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    if there’s a female out there
    —which there probably isn’t—
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    and if she likes the sound of this booming
    —which she probably doesn’t—
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    then she can’t find the person who’s making it!
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    But supposing she does,
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    supposing she’s out there
    —but she probably isn’t—
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    she likes the sound of this booming
    —she probably doesn’t—
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    supposing that she can find him
    —which she probably can’t—
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    she will then only consent to mate
    if the Podocarp tree is in fruit!
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    Now we’ve all had
    relationships like that …
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    But supposing they get through
    all those obstacles,
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    supposing she manages to find him,
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    she will then lay one egg
    every two or three years
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    which will promptly get eaten
    by a stoat or rat.
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    And you think, well so far
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    —before trying to sort of
    save them and conserve them—
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    how on earth has it managed
    to survive for this long!
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    And the answer is terribly interesting,
    which is this:
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    it seems like absurd behaviour to us,
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    but it’s only because its environment has
    changed in one particular and dramatic way
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    that is completely invisible to us.
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    And its behaviour is perfectly attuned
    to the environment it developed in,
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    and completely out of tune with
    the environment it now finds itself in.
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    Because in an environment
    when nothing is trying to predate you,
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    you don’t want to reproduce too fast.
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    And it turns out you can actually
    sort of graph this in a computer.
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    That if you take a given
    reproduction rate,
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    and you take the ability of
    any given environment
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    to sustain any particular
    level of population.
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    And you start say with
    a fairly low reproduction rate,
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    and you just plot it
    over several generations
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    and you find that the population
    goes up and up and up
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    and then sort of steadies out
    and achieves a nice plateau.
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    Tweak the reproduction rate up a bit,
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    and it goes up a little bit higher,
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    and then maybe settles down,
    and levels out.
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    Tweak the reproduction rate
    a little bit higher yet,
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    and it goes up, and it goes too high,
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    and it drops down, it goes too low,
  • Not Synced
    goes up, too high, and settles
    into an oscillating sine wave.
  • Not Synced
    Tweak it a bit more, and it starts to
    oscillate between four different values.
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    Tweak it more and more and more
  • Not Synced
    and you suddenly hit this terribly
    fashionable condition called chaos.
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    Where the population of the animal just
    swings wildly from one year to another,
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    and will just hit zero at one point
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    just out of the sheer mathematics
    of the situation.
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    And once you’ve hit zero,
    there is kind of no coming back.
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    And so, because because nature
    tends to be very parsimonious
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    and is not going to expend
    energy and resources
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    on something for which there is no return.
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    So the reproduction rate of an animal
    in an environment with no predators
  • Not Synced
    will tune itself to an
    appropriate level of reproduction.
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    Now, if there is nothing trying
    to eat you—particularly—
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    then that reproduction rate
    will be very low.
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    And that is the rate at which
    the Kakapo used to reproduce,
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    and continues to reproduce
    despite the fact that it’s being predated,
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    because it doesn’t know any better.
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    Because nothing has managed to teach it
    anything different along the way,
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    because the change that occurred
    happened so suddenly,
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    that there is no kind of slope,
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    there is no slope of gradual
    evolutionary pressure,
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    which is the thing that tends
    to bring about change.
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    If you have a sudden dramatic change
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    then there is no direction to go
    and you just have disaster.
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    So, again if I can anthropomorphize
    for a moment,
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    what seems to have happened
    is that the animal
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    suddenly reaching a crisis
    in his population thinks,
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    “Whoa, whoa! I better just do, do,
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    what I do fantastically well,
    do what is my main thing,
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    which is I reproduce
    really really slowly!”
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    And its population goes down.
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    “Well, I’d better really do what I do,
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    and reproduce really really really
    really slowly!”
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    And it seems absurd to us because
    we can see a larger picture than they can.
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    But if that is the type of behaviour that
    you’ve evolved successfully to produce,
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    then to do anything else would be
    against kakapo-nature,
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    would be an inkakapo thing to do.
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    And it has nothing to teach it any other
    than to just do what it’s always done,
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    to follow its successful strategy,
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    and because times have changed around it,
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    it’s no longer a successful strategy,
    and the animal is in terrible trouble.
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    There is another animal we went to find,
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    it is in even worse trouble now.
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    And this is the Baiji,
    the Yangtze River Dolphin,
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    which is an almost blind river dolphin.
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    The reason it’s almost blind,
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    is that there is nothing to see
    in the Yangtze River.
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    Thousands and thousands
    of years of agriculture
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    along the banks of the Yangtze River
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    have washed so much mud
    and silt and so on into it,
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    that the river has become
    completely turbid.
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    Which is a word I didn’t even
    know the meaning of
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    until I saw the Yangtze River,
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    and basically
    you can’t see anything in it.
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    So these animals, dolphins as I said,
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    gradually they abandoned the use of sight.
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    Now—as we all know—marine mammals also
    have this other faculty available to them,
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    which they can develop,
    which is that of sound.
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    And so what the Yangtze River Dolphins did
    was over thousands of years,
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    as their eye sight deteriorated,
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    so their sonar abilities became
    more and more and more sophisticated,
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    and more powerful and more complex.
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    And it’s very interesting, you can
    actually watch—if you feel like it—
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    the development of a Baiji foetus,
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    and you’ll see that right at
    —as you may or may not know—
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    there is a certain amount
    of truth in the idea
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    that the development of the foetus
    recapitulates stages
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    in the evolutionary development
    of an animal.
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    And you see, right at the beginning of
    the development of the foetus,
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    its eyes are in the normal
    dolphin position,
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    which are kind of relatively far down
    on the side of the head.
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    And gradually,
    as the generations have gone by,
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    its eyes have kind of migrated
    up the side of the head,
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    and you see this happening
    as the foetus develops.
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    Because gradually, over the generations,
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    its only light is coming
    directly from up above
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    and there is no ambient light and then,
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    as that too dies out, so
    the eyes gradually atrophied.
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    And, instead, the sonar abilities
    take over.
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    And these animals developed
    incredibly sensitive,
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    and incredibly precise abilities
    to navigate themselves around
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    in the water just using sonar.
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    And all is well and good.
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    Until the twentieth century
    when man invents the diesel engine.
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    And suddenly all hell breaks loose
    beneath the surface of the Yangtze,
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    because it’s suddenly full of noise.
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    And so, suddenly these animals find
    themselves trapped by something that they
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    —that nobody had any means of foreseeing—
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    that the thing they now rely on
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    has been completely overwhelmed
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    by the noise pollution
    that we put in the oceans.
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    So suddenly these animals
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    that used to be so sophisticated
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    in their ability to find
    their way around,
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    are sort of bumping into things,
    bumping into boats,
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    bumping into ships’ propellers,
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    finding themselves ensnared
    in fishermen’s nets and so on,
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    because we basically screwed up
    the next of their faculties.
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    And it’s a very curious feeling,
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    I remember sort of sitting on a boat
    on the Yangtze River and looking,
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    well trying to look into
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    —you couldn’t look into cause it’s turbid
    and you remember what turbid means—
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    and realising that all this noise
    down there means that …
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    It’s very curious to think that
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    there may have been a
    dolphin somewhere near me
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    —I didn’t know, I mean by this stage,
    this was ten years ago,
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    there were only two hundred left
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    in a structure of water of about
    two hundred miles long,
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    so you had no idea if
    there was one anywhere near you—
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    but it’s curious because you
    think if you and another person,
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    another creature,
    are kind of in the same world,
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    then you must be feeling roughly similar.
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    But one of the things you begin to
    realize when you look at different animals
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    is that because of their
    evolutionary history,
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    and because of the forms
    they have developed into,
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    and the ways they have developed
    of perceiving the world,
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    they may be inhabiting the same world
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    but actually a completely
    different universe.
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    But actually a completely different
    universe because you create
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    your only own universe from what you do
    with the sensory data coming in.
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    So, you realise that you’re here,
    and there is a dolphin there,
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    and you’re comfortable, and the dolphin
    may be actually in a species of hell.
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    But has no means of communicating that
    with you
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    because we’ve kind of taken charge,
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    and there is no way of kind of
    communicating with the management,
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    there’s a problem.
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    So, I suddenly became very interested in
    what it must actually sound like
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    in the Yangtze River.
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    Now, we’ve gone to record some
    BBC Radio programmes while we are there,
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    so as well as Mark Carwardine
    the zoologist,
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    we also had a sound recordist
    from the BBC.
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    So I said to him,
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    “Could we actually drop
    a microphone into the Yangtze
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    so that we can see what
    it actually sounds like in the river?”
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    And he said,
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    “Well you should have said that
    before we left London.”
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    And I said, “Why?”
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    And he said, “Well, cause I just could
    have checked out
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    a waterproof microphone but, you know,
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    you didn’t mention anything
    about recording under water.”
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    And I said, “No, I didn’t.
    Is there anything we could do about it?”
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    And he said, “Well there is, there is
    actually one technique
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    they teach us at the BBC for recording
    under water in an emergency.
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    Do either of you have condoms with you?”
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    And we didn’t. Wasn’t that kind of trip.
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    But we decided we’d better
    go and buy some.
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    And so we went into the streets of
    Shanghai trying to buy some condoms,
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    and I just want to read you
    a little passage about this.
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    The Friendship Store seemed like
    a promising place to buy condoms,
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    but we had a certain amount of
    difficulty in getting the idea across.
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    We passed from one counter to another
    in the large open-plan department store,
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    which consists of many
    different individual booths,
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    stalls and counters,
    but no one was able to help us.
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    We first started at the stalls which
    looked as if they sold medical supplies,
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    but had no luck.
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    By the time we had got to the stalls
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    which sold bookends and chopsticks
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    we knew we were on to a loser,
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    but at least we found a young
    shop assistant who spoke English.
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    We tried to explain to her
    what it was we wanted,
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    but seemed to reach the limit
    of her vocabulary pretty quickly.
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    So, I got out my notebook
    and drew a condom very carefully,
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    including the little
    extra balloon on the end.
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    She frowned at it,
    but still didn’t get the idea.
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    She brought us a wooden spoon,
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    a candle, a sort of paper knife and,
    surprisingly enough,
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    a small porcelain model
    of the Eiffel Tower
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    and then at last lapsed
    into a posture of defeat.
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    Some other girls from the stall
    gathered round to help,
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    but they were also defeated
    by our picture.
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    At last I plucked up the bravado
    to perform a delicate little mime,
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    and at last the penny dropped.
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    “Ah!” the first girl said, suddenly
    wreathed in smiles. “Ah yes!”
  • Not Synced
    They all beamed delightedly
    at us as they got the idea.
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    “You do understand?” l asked.
  • Not Synced
    “Yes! Yes, I understand.”
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    “Do you have any?”
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    “No,” she said. “Not have.”
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    “Oh.”
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    “But, but, but …”
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    “Yes?”
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    “I say you where you go, OK?”
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    “Thank you, thank you very much. Yes.”
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    “You go 616 Nanjing Road. OK.
    They have there.
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    You ask ‘rubberover’. OK?”
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    “Rubberover?”
  • Not Synced
    “Rubberover. You ask.
    They have. OK. Have nice day.”
  • Not Synced
    She giggled happily about this
    with her hand over her mouth.
  • Not Synced
    We thanked them again, profusely,
    and left with much waving and smiling.
  • Not Synced
    The news seemed to have spread
    very quickly around the store,
  • Not Synced
    and everybody waved at us.
  • Not Synced
    They seemed terribly pleased
    to have been asked.
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    When we reached 616 Nanjing Road,
    which turned out to be another,
  • Not Synced
    smaller department store, and not a
    knocking shop
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    as we had been half-suspecting,
  • Not Synced
    our pronunciation of ‘rubberover’
    seemed to let us down
  • Not Synced
    and produce another wave
    of baffled incomprehension.
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    This time I went straight for the mime
    that had served us so well before,
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    and it seemed to do the trick at once.
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    The shop assistant, a slightly more
    middle-aged lady with severe hair,
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    marched straight to a cabinet of drawers,
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    brought us back a packet and placed it
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    triumphantly on the counter
    in front of us.
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    Success, we thought, opened the packet
  • Not Synced
    and found it to contain
    a bubble sheet of pills.
  • Not Synced
    “Right idea,” said Mark,
    with a sigh. “Wrong method.”
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    We were quickly floundering again
  • Not Synced
    as we tried to explain to
    the now slightly affronted lady
  • Not Synced
    that it wasn’t precisely
    what we were after.
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    By this time a crowd of about fifteen
    onlookers had gathered round us,
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    some of whom, I was convinced,
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    had followed us all the way
    from the Friendship Store.
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    One of the things that
    you quickly discover in China,
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    is that we are all at the zoo.
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    If you stand still for a moment,
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    people will gather round and stare at you.
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    The unnerving thing is that they
    don’t stare intently or inquisitively,
  • Not Synced
    they just stand there,
    often right in front of you,
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    and watch you as blankly
    as if you were a dog food commercial.
  • Not Synced
    At last one young and
    pasty-faced man with glasses
  • Not Synced
    pushed through the crowd and said he
    spoke a little English and could he help?
  • Not Synced
    We thanked him and said, yes,
    we wanted to buy some condoms,
  • Not Synced
    some rubberovers, and we would be very
    grateful if he could explain that for us.
  • Not Synced
    He looked puzzled,
  • Not Synced
    picked up the rejected packet
    lying on the counter
  • Not Synced
    in front of the affronted
    shop assistant and said,
  • Not Synced
    “Not want rubberover. This better.”
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    “No,” Mark said.
  • Not Synced
    “We definitely want rubberover,
    not pills.”
  • Not Synced
    “Why want rubberover? Pill better.”
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    “You tell him,” said Mark.
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    “It’s to record dolphins,” I said.
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    “Or not the actual dolphins in fact.
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    What we want to record is
    the noise in the Yangtze that …
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    it’s to go over the microphone,
    you see, and …”
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    “Oh, just tell him you want
    to fuck someone,”
  • Not Synced
    said the sound recordist.
  • Not Synced
    “And you can’t wait.”
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    But by now the young man was edging
    nervously away from us,
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    suddenly realising that
    we were dangerously insane,
  • Not Synced
    and should simply be humoured
    and escaped from.
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    He said something hurriedly
    to the shop assistant
  • Not Synced
    and backed away into the crowd.
  • Not Synced
    The shop assistant shrugged,
    scooped up the pills,
  • Not Synced
    opened another drawer
    and pulled out a packet of condoms.
  • Not Synced
    We bought nine, just to be safe.
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    So a couple of days later
  • Not Synced
    we were standing
    on the banks of the Yangtze,
  • Not Synced
    on a very desperate drizzly grey day.
  • Not Synced
    And we put the microphone
    in this little sort of pink thing,
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    and dropped it into the water.
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    And, I don’t usually do impressions
  • Not Synced
    but I’m going to do for you an impression
  • Not Synced
    of what it sounds like
    under the surface of the Yangtze River.
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    And it’s something like this
  • Not Synced
    The Yangtze River ladies and gentleman.
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    And, I suddenly realized
    what an appalling thing
  • Not Synced
    we’ve inflicted on these poor animals,
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    that live in a world of super
    sensitive sound and hearing.
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    And this was why these animals
    were now desperately endangered
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    because having removed
    one way of life from them
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    we were now removing a second.
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    The problem is
    we’re about to remove a third,
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    I said that when I was
    there it was ten years ago,
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    there were two hundred of these left,
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    today there are twenty.
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    And because the Chinese
    are building these giant dams
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    to dam the Yangtze at one
  • Not Synced
    of the most beautiful and most
    spectacular sites in all world,
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    the Three Gorges,
    and they’re damming it there
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    which means that the Yangtze Dolphin
    will at that point definitely go extinct.
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    And it’s terribly sad.
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    The peculiar thing about dams
  • Not Synced
    is that we keep on building them
  • Not Synced
    and none of them ever do any good.
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    It’s not quite true,
  • Not Synced
    because unfortunately there are
  • Not Synced
    —in the history of dam-making—
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    two that did work, one is the Hoover
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    and the other is the one up in the
    pacific northwest, the Coulee Dam.
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    And every other one doesn’t work.
  • Not Synced
    And for some reason we never
    manage to be able to quite stop us …
  • Not Synced
    we always think we just build one more.
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    I think must have some sort
    of beaver genes deep in our …
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    But the sad thing as I say is that
    the Yangtze River dolphin
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    is definitely and without doubt
    bound for extinction.
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    And, it’s very peculiar to me
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    that we are living at the moment
    in an extraordinary age,
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    an extraordinary renaissance,
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    because we’ve got to the point
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    when we suddenly understand
    the value of information,
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    as we never have before.
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    We call the age we live in
    that of information.
  • Not Synced
    And we’ve discovered that information is
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    the most valuable resource we have.
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    And as you’d know
    we’ve just spent billions of dollars
  • Not Synced
    —quite rightly—in trying to
    understand the human genome,
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    and that’s just one species,
    that’s just us.
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    And we’ve come to understand and
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    realize how incredibly valuable
    this information is.
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    And we’ve never understood kind of
  • Not Synced
    how it all worked together before,
  • Not Synced
    because before we had …
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    let me put it this way.
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    In the past we’ve done science
  • Not Synced
    by taking things apart
  • Not Synced
    to see how they work.
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    And it’s led to extraordinary discoveries,
  • Not Synced
    extraordinary degrees of understanding,
  • Not Synced
    but the problem with taking things apart
    to see how they work
  • Not Synced
    is even though it gets you
    down to the sort of fundamental particles,
  • Not Synced
    the fundamental principles,
    the fundamental forces at work,
  • Not Synced
    we still don’t really understand
    how they work
  • Not Synced
    until we see them in motion.
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    One of the things that came about
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    as a result of our understanding
    of these fundamental principles,
  • Not Synced
    is that we came to invent
    this thing called the computer.
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    And the great thing
    about the computer is that,
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    unlike every previous analytical tool
  • Not Synced
    —and there are a bit …
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    it’s funny how many of these
    have to do with glass,
  • Not Synced
    when we first came across glass,
    which is a form of sand,
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    and we invented lenses,
    and we looked up into the sky,
  • Not Synced
    and by studying the sky
  • Not Synced
    we began to discover fundamental
    things about gravity,
  • Not Synced
    and we also discovered that
    the universe seems to consist
  • Not Synced
    —terrifyingly enough—
    almost entirely of nothing.
  • Not Synced
    The next thing we did with glass
    was we put them in microscopes,
  • Not Synced
    and we looked down into this very
    very very solid world around us,
  • Not Synced
    and we see the fundamental
    particles there, the atoms
  • Not Synced
    —made up of protons and neutrons
    with electrons spinning around them—
  • Not Synced
    and we also discover that
    they seem to consist
  • Not Synced
    frighteningly almost entirely of nothing.
  • Not Synced
    And that even when you do find something
  • Not Synced
    it turns out that it isn’t actually there,
  • Not Synced
    it isn’t actually a thing there,
  • Not Synced
    merely the possibility that
    there may be something there.
  • Not Synced
    It kind of doesn’t feel as real as this
  • Not Synced
    So the next thing
    we do with sand was silicon,
  • Not Synced
    as we create the computer.
  • Not Synced
    And this finally enables us
    to start putting things together
  • Not Synced
    to see how they work.
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    And it allows us to see
    actual processes at work,
  • Not Synced
    and we begin to see how very
    very simple things lead inexorably
  • Not Synced
    —by iteration after iteration—
  • Not Synced
    to enormously complex processes
    emerging and blossoming.
  • Not Synced
    And to my mind one of the
    most extraordinary things of our age
  • Not Synced
    —I mean those of us who
    were around will remember,
  • Not Synced
    you know, seeing man walking
    on the moon for the first time—
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    but I think the most dramatic
    and extraordinary thing
  • Not Synced
    that we have seen in our time
  • Not Synced
    is being able to see, on computer screens,
  • Not Synced
    the process by which enormously
    simple primitive things,
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    processes, instructions,
    repeated many many times over,
  • Not Synced
    very very fast, and iterated over
    generations of instructions,
  • Not Synced
    produce enormously complex results.
  • Not Synced
    So that we can suddenly start to create,
  • Not Synced
    just out of fundamentally
    simple primitive instructions,
  • Not Synced
    we can create the way in
    which wind behaves in a wind tunnel,
  • Not Synced
    a turbulence of wind,
  • Not Synced
    we can see how light might dance
    in an imaginary dinosaur’s eye.
  • Not Synced
    And we do it all out of
    fundamentally simple instructions.
  • Not Synced
    And as a result of that
    we have finally come
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    to an understanding of the way
    in which life has actually emerged.
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    Now, there are an awful lot of things
    we don’t know about life.
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    But any life scientist will tell you that,
  • Not Synced
    although there is an awful lot
    we don’t know,
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    there is no longer a deep mystery.
  • Not Synced
    There is no longer a deep mystery
  • Not Synced
    because we have actually seen
    with our own eyes
  • Not Synced
    the way in which simplicity
    gives rise to complexity.
  • Not Synced
    When I say there is no mystery
  • Not Synced
    it is rather as if you imagine
  • Not Synced
    taking a detective from the 19th century,
  • Not Synced
    teaming him up with a detective
    from the late 20th century,
  • Not Synced
    and giving them this problem to work on:
  • Not Synced
    that a suspect in a crime
  • Not Synced
    was seen one day to be
    walking down the street
  • Not Synced
    in the middle of London,
  • Not Synced
    and the next day
  • Not Synced
    was seen somewhere out in the desert
  • Not Synced
    in the middle of New Mexico.
  • Not Synced
    Now the 19th century detective will say,
  • Not Synced
    “Well, I haven’t the faintest idea.
  • Not Synced
    I mean it must be some species
    of magic has happened.”
  • Not Synced
    And he would have no idea
  • Not Synced
    about how to begin to solve
  • Not Synced
    what has happened here.
  • Not Synced
    For the 20th century detective,
  • Not Synced
    now he may never know whether the guy
  • Not Synced
    went on British Airways or United or American
  • Not Synced
    or where he hired his car from,
    or all that kind of stuff,
  • Not Synced
    he may never find those details,
  • Not Synced
    but there wont be any fundamental mystery
    about what has happened.
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    So for us there is no longer
    a fundamental mystery about life.
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    It is all the process of extraordinary
    eruptions of information.
  • Not Synced
    And it's information that gives us
  • Not Synced
    this fantastically rich
    complex world in which we live.
  • Not Synced
    But at the same time
    that we’ve discovered that,
  • Not Synced
    we are destroying it at a rate
  • Not Synced
    that has no precedent in history,
  • Not Synced
    unless you go back to the point
    that we’re hit by an asteroid.
  • Not Synced
    So there is a kind of terrible irony
  • Not Synced
    that at the point that
    we are best able to understand,
  • Not Synced
    and appreciate, and value
    the richness of life around us,
  • Not Synced
    we are destroying it at a higher rate
    that it has even been destroyed before.
  • Not Synced
    And we are losing species
    after species after species,
  • Not Synced
    day after day, just because
  • Not Synced
    we’re burning the stuff down for firewood.
  • Not Synced
    And this is a kind of terrible
    indictment of our understanding.
  • Not Synced
    But, you see, we make another mistake,
  • Not Synced
    because we think somehow,
  • Not Synced
    this is all right in some
    fundamental kind of way,
  • Not Synced
    because we think that this is all
    sort of “meant to happen.”
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    Now let me explain how
    we get into that kind of mindset,
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    because it’s exactly
    the same kind of mindset
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    that the Kakapo gets trapped in.
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    Because, what has been
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    a very successful strategy for the Kakapo
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    over generation after generation
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    for thousands and thousands of years,
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    suddenly is the wrong strategy,
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    and he has no means of knowing
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    because he is just doing what
    has been successful up till then.
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    And we have always been,
    because we’re toolmakers,
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    because we take from our environment
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    the stuff that we need to do
    what we want to do
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    and it’s always been
    very successful for us …
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    I’ll tell you what’s happened.
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    It’s as if we’ve actually
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    kind of put the sort of “pause” button
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    on our own process of evolution,
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    because we have put a buffer around us,
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    which consists of—you know—
    medicine and education and buildings,
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    and all these kinds of things
    that protect us
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    from the normal environmental pressures.
Title:
Douglas Adams: Parrots the Universe and Everything
Description:

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Video Language:
English
Duration:
01:27:37

English subtitles

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