lewis dartnell

Lewis Dartnell – The Knowledge Transcript

Lewis Dartnell - The Knowledge

Note: This transcript was automatically generated by artificial intelligence (AI) and therefore typos may be present.

Rob McNealy
This podcast is sponsored by Tusk, an open source non Ico crypto project powered by community. Check them out on the web at task dot network. That’s TUSC dot network. The Rob McNealy program is the nexus of cryptocurrency, blockchain technology and entrepreneurship. Now, welcome to the program. Today, folks, we’re gonna have a really good show. We are talking to Professor Lewis Darnell. He is professor of astrobiology at the University of Westminster in the UK. And he is a best selling author and his latest book is called the knowledge how to rebuild civilization in the aftermath of a cataclysm, and I can’t think of a better topic, or that’s more prescient than that is right now. So, Louis, welcome to the show. How are you today?

Lewis Dartnell – The Knowledge
That Rob I’m doing well. I’m self isolating in my flat in West London at the moment. I’m not getting outdoors. Nearly As much as I’d like to at the moment,

Rob McNealy
So that means you get less sun than you normally would I’m guessing and..

Lewis Dartnell – The Knowledge
less less less vitamin D. Yeah, well we’ve so we live in London we don’t have anything even remotely approaches a garden or a backyard. But we have got a little bit of terrorists on the roof. So we have about a 20 square foot of outside space that we’ve been taking our lunch on, just to get just get a little bit of the sunlight.

Rob McNealy
Well, I think that’s really important because we personally in my household, we’ve been self isolating for approximately two weeks now. And but even at night, my wife and I are still going for walks in the neighborhood. And if there’s somebody else we see we walk way around them and give them a wide berth. But

Lewis Dartnell – The Knowledge
Basically, yeah, so I’ve been I’ve been taking runs along the river running along the River Thames between the two bridges, but it’s just getting like busier and busier. I think people are starting to get a bit Cabin Fever cooped up at home and going out again, which you know, as you all know, is The last thing you want to be doing in terms of social distance, and you want to be kidding apart from people not congregating. Even if you’re hungry eating outside,

Rob McNealy
I couldn’t imagine what it would be like for people in major cities like New York and London to have to self isolate like that. I think it would be really hard if I have a pretty big lot for my yard. And if I couldn’t get out there and the sun and work around the garden, we’re getting ready for the year, it would be really, really hard. If I couldn’t leave the house. That would be I would go nuts. I absolutely would. So tell us a little bit about your background.

Lewis Dartnell – The Knowledge
Yeah, so I’m a research professor and summit University of Westminster here in London. And my research field, as you mentioned, is in a very new field of science called Astro biology, which is all about looking at the possibility of there being life beyond the earth. So my actual background in science is in biology. I was at Oxford. We in biological sciences, my PhD University College London and What we’re trying to do with astrobiology is extend our understanding or knowledge of life on Earth of hardy bacteria, and the conditions they can survive under. And extending that knowledge to see if there could be the possibility of material life microbial life beyond the earth. So in particular, I spend my time thinking about our next door neighbor planets, which is Mars, and could they be highly bacteria in the dusty desert surface soil of Mars? And if is there, and importantly, how could you detect it? How could you design some kind of experiment or instrument you strapped to the front of the Mars rover to look for signs of life while it’s there? So NASA is launching this summer. It’s Mars 2020 rover, and the European Space Agency was due to launch this summer as well. It’s ExoMars rover, but that’s had to be pushed back two years to the next launch window. But that’s that’s the bread and butter of what I do. I’m a scientist. I Help and hunt for aliens, if you like in terms of Heidi bacteria, fossilized life forms and bio signatures, we call it on Mars. But alongside that research and having PhD students working with me and running a laboratory, I do a lot of science communication. I write books about things I think are of interest or of interest to the general public. And my last book, in fact, I’ve had a new one out since but my last book is one we’re talking about, which is called the knowledge and as you said, it’s it’s becoming, unfortunately, particularly pertinent right now with this coronavirus global pandemic. But what the knowledge does as a science book is it’s not really a prepper book or survival manual. It’s a science book that uses the conceit uses the premise of some kind of global catastrophe, some kind of Apocalypse, that pushes the reset button. And you are now part of a post apocalyptic survival community, trying to work out how to make and do things, everything from scratch yourself, how? How does our civilization run behind the scenes providing stuff for us making things appear magically on the shelves of the supermarket? How does that work? by imagining that it stops working tomorrow, and then therefore trying to explore all the science and technology through the pages of the knowledge this book?

Rob McNealy
You know, it’s weird. I actually think about weird things like that, because I’m just built experiments. Yeah. You know, I do a lot of that a little bit back to your, you know, study of microbiology, and then in foreign places, do you look at things like on Earth, like in Antarctica or sea floor vents are those places to kind of get an idea of the kinds of biological agents or, you know, microbes that live in harsh environments?

Lewis Dartnell – The Knowledge
Yeah, absolutely. So a lot of my work is focused on what we call extremophiles. So extreme tolerant, extremely loving microorganisms on earth. And these are kinda like survival superheroes, there are bacteria growing at 120 degrees Celsius. So beyond the normal boiling point of water, there are bugs that can still survive those incredibly hot temperatures around hydrothermal vents on the sea floor, or what’s particularly relevant to my studies. And the possibility of life on Mars is by going to the most Mars like places here on Earth. So very cold places very dry places, like Antarctica, you mentioned and in particular, the Antarctic dry valleys, the McMurdo dry valleys, which is one of the driest spots anywhere on the planet is in Antarctica. It’s night by the South Pole, but it’s not covered in ice and snow. It is incredibly dry. So it’s got a Martian like environment. So I’ve got samples From those Antarctic sites by studying, analyze and lab, finding how the life survives that environment, and importantly, what signs of its existence, it betrays itself with what bio signatures we can detect. It’s not just based like Antarctica, the Atacama Desert in Chile in South America is also exceedingly dry as a high powered core looking, we can also look at life that comes from, you know, top of mountains, over acidic places, very alkaline places, like the soda lakes in Kenya, or I grew up, I grew up in Nairobi. So a lot of astrobiology is trying to understand as much as we can about the survival limits of life on earth. And what is what is the total range of climactic conditions and environmental conditions that biology can tolerate?

Rob McNealy
But I’d love to have a show just on that because I’m going to come back. Well, my my undergrad degree was in geography. So I was really into earth science. Anyway, just kind You know, as a hobby kind of thing, and

Lewis Dartnell – The Knowledge
we know what we can come back to this in another episode, but the new book that came out in paperback a few weeks ago. It’s called origins, how the earth shaped human history. And that is right up your streets. There’s very much a geography book about how things like plate tectonics, or continental drift or atmospheric circulation, or the distribution of metals and resources have deeply influenced the human story from from our very evolution, across thousands of years of the development of civilization and current affairs and modern politics. today. That’s very much geography.

Rob McNealy
We call that’s another topic of population geography. And I took that course in uni.

Lewis Dartnell – The Knowledge
So yeah, it looks like Guns, Germs, steel by Jared Diamond or tuck ins by Yuval. Noah Harare, it’s along similar lines. It’s kind of big history, kind of human geography type crossover interdisciplinary.

Rob McNealy
It’s a good stuff and I actually fascinated that you know, you’ve got back from A lot of academics have a hard time, kind of going from the theoretical, really, really narrow and specified niches of their, their topic and then being able to extrapolate how that affects the bigger picture. I think a lot of people miss that in academia. So you actually are kind of cool,

Lewis Dartnell – The Knowledge
right? Yeah. So like that I’m cool. But like that it’s important to do that.

Rob McNealy
I do think you’re cool. So. So the book at hand, the the knowledge tell us about the things that we need to know about to rebuild civilization.

Lewis Dartnell – The Knowledge
Yeah. So this thought experiment of imagine everything has disappeared, everything you take for granted? And how do you start pulling yourself back up by your own bootstraps? How’d you get the resources and the materials and the substances that you need to support your lifestyle and that of your society, you’re rebooting from scratch, you’re recovering. So in a sense, what I’m talking about in the knowledge is Could you do Minecraft for real? assuming you’re not a prepper, you notice a survivalist. You haven’t stockpiled things to keep you going for for several years. And even if you are a prepper, things are going to run out in your own stockpile sooner or later. And when that happens, you’re going to have to ask yourself a question and know the answer, which is, how do I do that myself? How do I make that myself? Where do I go to to extract what I need from the natural environment to meet these things. So in each of the chapters of the knowledge, I’ve looked at the different sector, different areas of our everyday lives, whether that is the basic chemistry that supports us, or technology for communication, or for transport, or agriculture and where food comes from so you starve to death. And the beginning of every chapter is absolute. Back to Basics, fundamental type stuff. This is what you most need to know in a company. densed boil it down to its essence kind of way. And then over the course of every chapter, we allow that fundamental knowledge to expand and kind of unfurl again. It’s almost like an acorn, growing over time to an entire tree. So that over the chapters of this book, we’ve reestablished the entire network of capability of scientific discoveries, and technological inventions and how they connect to each other, and enable each other to coexist. And we develop that network over the course of the book.

Rob McNealy
So I’ve always wondered about weird things in my thought experiments and I think people listening to this will think I’m really nuts but like, I think like, if I was, you know, in that whole Naked and Afraid kind of environment having to start over, how do you make wire? How do you get to making wire? How do you make things precise? That was one of the things that I always was wondering about, like, you know, how do we make things super level just basically precision, where does it start? Yeah,

Lewis Dartnell – The Knowledge
it is a cracking question. And I think what most people overlook or misunderstands is that yes, the Industrial Revolution was about steam engines and coal. And that kind of fossil energy was important for pulling us out of, you know, basically agrarian society into an industrialized manufacturing, mass producing, dripping with energy type society we live in today. But it was all the prerequisite technology and knowledge you needed that enabled the industrial revolution in the first place. And one of those things that we just overlook, it kind of seems boring into understand why it’s phenomenally fascinating is that idea of precision, and exactitude. There was no point trying to make a cast iron or steel, cylinder and a piston for steam engine, or internal combustion engine. If you can’t make it to Within, you know the range of tolerances that allow the piston to smoothly move up and down within, within the cylinder so it’s not just having the material of steel, or the coal is the fuel, you’ve got to have the basic button standing and knowledge of how to make things accurately. You’ve got to understand the science as well about you know, expansive power of steam science and technology, interacting history, which one of the things I explore.

Rob McNealy
One of the things that I do as a hobby as welding and and when you start looking at how well if I’m so I know how to make things with metal. And yeah, it’s kind of weird. I got an MBA but I’m also a certified welder one through a full Walden course and everything for a year and a half just because I really liked my hobbies and now now the funny thing is I said okay, well how would you make a welder to join metal because joining metal is critical for building and and so then you go back well what did they do before welding and they’ve had rivets before welding right is for Joining metal and that’s back into the steam, you know, days back the Industrial Revolution, you know, metal that’s, you know, the Titanic was riveted together for instance. Yeah. And welding processes are only like 100 years old. And people don’t understand that that it’s like how do you get to welding? And if you just ask that question, wow, that’s that’s, that’s complicated.

Lewis Dartnell – The Knowledge
Yeah, well welding is a very interesting topic to brought up and is something I explained in the knowledge about how you can do welding from scratch Could you do like caveman welding? Because you’re right, it’s a relatively recent invention and our technological development and in our history, and what you need for welding fundamentally, is either a gas fuel that burns exceedingly hot, so you’ve been probably using something like oxy acetylene gas mixture, and to explain that the actually really basic chemistry that you can use to make an oximeter Clean gas mixture for yourself, which you can then ignite with a spark. And as long as you’ve got kind of a metal tube to feed it through that does melt, you can then start using that chemistry of combustion to get to very high temperatures to melt metals and fuses and sticks together. Your welding is basically the trick of gluing metal together by melting the metal itself. But actually, one of the ideas I play with throughout the whole of the knowledge throughout the whole of the book is this idea of technological leap frogging. Just because we did something in a particular sequence in a particular order in our history, doesn’t necessarily mean that’s the only order you could do it. And you could probably like, you don’t need to go to rivets than welding, you can jump right to welding.

Exactly Could you go right back from primitive beginnings and leapfrog back to welding directly going via rivets but they’re not a necessary prerequisite. And electricity is a really interesting example of this. And you mentioned wires earlier because There’s no real reason that electricity was discovered in our history kind of around about 1850 it’s halfway through the 19th century. And in fact, I took in the knowledge that there’s a little bit of I can illogical evidence of the being electrochemistry. So the basic chemistry behind a battery existing in some area, you know, 2000 years ago a long, long time before Michael Faraday and kind of worn institution and people and voltar electrocuting frogs legs and trying to understand this weird phenomenon of electricity that the chemistry behind a battery is actually pretty simple. If you’ve got two different kinds of metal and something like vinegar, you put between them, and you can generate your own electricity. If you’ve got something as simple as a coil of wire, and a magnet. And the ancient Greeks knew about magnets and load stones they knew about these kind of weird rocks, you could dig out of the ground and they kind of dangle them through a piece of string Lee pointing the same direction. You know, the basic understanding behind the compass and they attract each other. And so one of the could have other ways of framing this thought experiment isn’t just how could you reboot civilization as quickly as possible, often Apocalypse, if only you’ve got the most useful things written down in a manual, as this knowledge book is, could you jump into a time machine? Go back, let’s say 2000 years into the past, whisper in the air of one of the leading thinkers of the time whisper into one of the philosophers in ancient Rome, ancient Greece, and and tell them something so that they go hard course. I never thought that I had access to all the basic war ingredients and materials and substances that I needed. I had the basic understanding, but I’ve not made that small conceptual leap. So could you teach an ancient Greek philosopher who had bronze they had a conductive metal, how to beat that or draw that out and wire, I think coil that wire and create an electromagnet or use it to create a primitive telegraph system. So they didn’t need physical runners or, you know, messengers on horses. If the Battle of mouth and they didn’t have to send a runner, sprinting 10s of miles to take the message back, we’ve had a primitive telegraph system. Would that work? Could you take technology out of its own time and our history and neatly implanted 500 years earlier or thousand years earlier, we’ve had the basic understanding, to know what you’re talking about, and how to put it to good effect.

Rob McNealy
I mean, I think you have some examples of that. If you look at the Dark Ages, for instance, and a lot of your own history, even in the dark ages, they forgot a lot of the technology that the Romans actually were actively using, even in What’s now the UK?

Lewis Dartnell – The Knowledge
Well, concrete for example, concrete was a lost technology. It was lost a history through the through the dark ages, architecture, arches and the architecture behind it. Exactly. Yeah.

Rob McNealy
So what would you say would be some of the most fundamental basic principles that people can learn from your book? What would you what would be the things that people should be thinking of?

Lewis Dartnell – The Knowledge
So let’s let’s pick two examples. We can talk about them in more detail, we can we can pick up on things later as well. But if I were to my argument for what is the most useful piece of knowledge, piece of understanding you would hope would never be lost again to history but never be forgotten, after some kind of Apocalypse, some kind of break in the historical record. And I would argue the most useful piece of knowledge for humanity would be the idea of germ theory, that this notion this understanding, that the reason people get sick For L, and can pass that plague from one person to the next isn’t because of bad air. It’s not because of mouth area, which is the original talion translating translation of why people think they got sick. It’s not because of some fractious God who is punishing you for your sins. There’s a very simple mechanism for why people get sick of contagious diseases. And that’s because there are living organisms which are so unimaginably tiny that they are invisible to your eye, but it gets inside your body, and they reproduce and grow and make you sick, and they get out of your body and you can transfer them to someone else if you cough or sneeze or touch them, and then that person gets sick as well. And, in fact, you can prove that for someone as well rather than just writing it down or chiseling into a piece of granite as a new commandment to leave the post apocalyptic society. You can do something even more important which is explained to them How you can demonstrate this for yourself. It’s the very essence of science. It’s not just accepting something that an authority has told you, you don’t just receive things, you demonstrate them for yourself. And you can demonstrate germ theory really easy by creating by constructing a simple primitive microscope. And all you need to make a microscope that is capable of seeing micro organisms, microscopic organisms is a rod of clear glass, which you then melt in a flame, you know, using your oxy acetylene torch or using a candle. And that glass drips and cools as it falls and two sets as a almost perfect sphere, which which can be used as a tiny lens. So this is basically what leeuwenhoek was doing. The early 17th century was creating primitive microscopes and discovering the microscopic world never been seen before. But if you use this kind of thought experiment about jumping in your time machine back into the past, the ancient Romans had everything they needed for making a primitive microscope. They had very high quality pure glass. They were expert glass makers. And they’d even noticed, if you have a vase, made of glass and full of water, that things behind it appear to be bigger. They appear to be magnified somehow. But he never made that next conceptual step of how about we try to deliberately mold glass into that particular curved shape to make a lens so that we can see small things we can design a microscope from scratch, but they had everything they needed to do that. And one of the things that I wanted to do that I was keen to pull off when I was researching and writing the book, The knowledge was not just treated as an academic exercise as a labor project. Act of speaking to hundreds of people and then condensing down their background and their expertise and reading lots of books. But I want to get hands on practical experience myself, I wanted to make and do things from scratch myself. And I wanted in particular, to do the ultimate Robinson Crusoe experiment, because it turns out that all of the raw ingredients you need to make glass from absolute scratch, you can get on the same beach, you can get silica from sand, you can get soda ash, which you need is a flux unit to help melt that silica at lower temperatures. And you can get that from seaweed. And you need some line which you can get from coral or seashells or chalk. And you grind those up, you melt them together in a kill using the heat of fire and you produce a very good quality glass of that recipe. And I did that I made glass from scratch in the course of a weekend on a single beach, that kind of ultimate Robinson Crusoe experiment and how you could make a microscope for yourself if you’d washed up on a desert island. But the beach clay went to more than a particularly pleasant one. It wasn’t the sort of beach you might find in California or some other sunkissed part of the world. This was a beach in Britain. This was a beach in Norfolk, which on the East of England, and it pissed with rain for the entire weekend, I was trying to do this experiment. But I was able to make glass from scratch and therefore in principle, create a simple microscope that could prove the existence of germs and bacteria, which can then prove the importance of germ theory and why you need to keep your drinking water separate from your human waste from excrement about why you should wash your hands during a plague or in general before touching food or touching yourself, incidentally, but the chemistry behind making soap is Also phenomenally simple. Once you know how, and you just boil some animal fat or some plant oil with an alkaline and you can get the alkali from soda ash, which the same compound you need to make the glass or potash, which you get out of. It’s just normal word.

Rob McNealy
So the germ theory is basically to prove Well, that would then increase human lifespan. And so, so let me I’m just, I’m just doing my own brain exercise here. Right? So I’m trying to figure out, why would you think that’s the most important thing? Let me ask you first.

Lewis Dartnell – The Knowledge
Well, if if you’ve only got like 30 seconds to explain something, or you’ve got a very limited paragraph of text, you want to get something which is absolutely true, but it’s also a practical use. It’ll actually change your life will help you out. You We’ll explain how to make a steam engine in a paragraph. And for the reasons we’ve talked about, there’s a whole network, you know, there’s a whole iceberg below the surface you can’t see, you actually need to make a steam engine from scratch or a car engine and then talk about an engine. But you can condense down to the very nuggets, three kernel of understanding the idea of germ theory, it’s very simple idea that this invisibly small things get inside your body, you can also very, very simply explain to someone how to prove that for themselves. And the practical aspect, the application of that is an owl tells you why and keeping your drinking water and your excrement apart from each other important why should always dig you know, well or borehole, at least 20 foot uphill if possible, from where your cesspit is, for basic germ theory. It explains why you should wash your hands. It gives you the reason behind things that we take for granted not in our modern lives because we’re Hold them as a child, but we don’t really know why, what what’s the fundamental reason behind the existence of soap or a flushable? toilet?

Rob McNealy
Wow, that’s actually pretty deep. So but it’s there. And we still don’t wash our hands. So, go figure. So, what would be the next thing what would the so germ theory is number one, what would be like your number two most important thing that people should be looking at.

Lewis Dartnell – The Knowledge
So Gen Z was was was an example of a nugget of condensed knowledge that you would you would preserve you put that in your apocalypse bunker and hope it was never lost history that the survivors community could could put that to effect and, and kind of run with it and it would expand afterwards like this, this oak tree idea idea. And the other example I had was of a physical object, an artifact of a tool that I think is the most useful tool you would hope for Never be lost again. And this tool is the lave. Now if you don’t know if you’re not already, someone who’s conversant the kind of workshops in carpentry or metalworking, Aleve is the simplest machine tool. It is a tool that you use to make other tools that use to mass producing, manufacture things. It’s one of these fundamental tools that enable Industrial Revolution. And that sits visibly behind the scenes in basically every piece of technology or object you ever touch your day to day lives right now. And the leave fundamentally, is just a flatbed. So kind of a rail you lay down on the work surface. And on one end, let’s say on the left hand side, there is a headstock and a spindle and an chalk that holds your workpiece but the thing you want to work on and you spin that work piece And then from the other side, along that rail, you bring in a tool, maybe a cutting piece, maybe a drill, maybe a boring instrument. Or you can bring stuff along the side of that workpiece as it spins on your legs. So everything from candlesticks to table legs to baseball bats are turned on a leaf, but also much more fundamental technology for the running of society, like the cylinders and pistons of a steam engine, are turned on a lathe. That’s the fundamental tool that you need to make a steam engine, and indeed our own history. The cylinder of the steam engine is direct descendant from basically a cannon, you make a cannon for fighting wars. In the same way you make a steam engine for replacing human labor or the horse for moving things around. And what blew my mind when I found out this when I was researching The knowledge is lay there’s not only required to make all other machine tools in the modern workshop that the drill press that the pillar drill or the milling machine, a lathe is also able to make other leads. That leave is like a machine that can reproduce like an organism. It’s almost like a metallic organism that can replicate itself. And there’s a phenomenal example of a machinist of a metal workshop guy called Dave gingery, who in the 1980s, made himself a lave from absolute scratch and then use his leave to make each of the other machine tools you need. And I’m not in a modern workshop and workshops and industry revolution. So a drill press and a milling machine. And in order to make his leave, all he started with was a pile of clay. Basically rhythm and a pile of sand you can get from a beach Dig underground and a pile of trash, tin cans. So basically scrap aluminum, and then just some fuel, some charcoal or you just make your own charcoal by heating wood and turning timber and into charcoal. And using his clay which is a refractory material, he lined trashcan to make a very simple Forge, which had burnt the charcoal in that forge to melt the elementium and then pour that Molten Aluminum into casts the made in the sand. So he had a very simple way of casting new metal components to make his leave out of and then once he’d got a half finished leave, he could then use that half completed leave to turn the remaining components needed to complete that first leave. So I cannot think in the whole of the modern world that a better example of someone bootstrapping of someone pulling themselves up by their own bootstraps from apps Scratch, starting with basic raw materials like sand and clay, making one machine tool blade, then making all the other machine tools in a workshop and then using those to make pretty much any piece of technology any piece of machinery Do you would you would use in an in an industrialized world. But that to me that’s still you know sends tingles down my spine thinking about that phenomenal idea of deep gingers project.

Rob McNealy
I think I want to party with you.

Lewis Dartnell – The Knowledge
Know, I’m quite I’m, I’m one of the things that saddens me about researching writing knowledge is I got to talk to a huge amount of fascinating people of preppers and survivalists, and SAS survival guys and historians and technologists and scientists, but I missed a gingery by about six years. He sadly died in 2007. And I missed in my couple of years and myself researching and writing this book. I’ve loved to have sat down on a beer with this guy, or at least have a chat over Skype before passed away.

Rob McNealy
You know, it’s kind of interesting. I grew up in the Metro Detroit area in the 80s. When I was kid, I was in high school in the 80s. And back then, that was when Detroit was that was B. I grew up before Detroit started outsourcing. So, I grew up and and so I’m in my late 40s now, but when I was growing up, there was still a ton of that Detroit Auto worker machinists were everywhere. In the Metro Detroit area, everybody, you know, had a hands on skill. And so I knew a lot of those old timers that were like the machinists for the auto industry for decades, and that generational knowledge is gone now. I was fortunate, though it’d be illegal today but I worked when I was 16 and a starter in generator rebuilding store or shop. And so I mean, when I was a kid, and so I was working on machines and and rebuilding starters and alternators and things like that, and that would never be allowed to From OSHA, I mean, a kid would not be allowed in an industrial setting like that. But it was still, there was still lots of these like little plating shops like these little two to five to 10 man shops all over the Detroit area that provided just they made one part for like the auto industry,

Lewis Dartnell – The Knowledge
kind of specialized knowledge that we want to make it very, very well. And very exact, and very quickly, and then someone else makes something else and you combine it in one column.

Rob McNealy
And so I grew up in that environment, and that environments gone now. And it just just doesn’t really exist anymore. And it’s unfortunate because I think that knowledge that you’re talking about is something that’s vital for society to have that and I think we’re seeing that now with people are people are all of a sudden starting to care about their supply chain being completely everything being manufactured abroad in China right now. And then I think as the week’s go on here, that’s going to become ever more important. topic of conversation. I

Unknown Speaker
think you’re absolutely right. So I as I said, I am I am not a prepper myself. I’m a scientist, I live in a tiny flat in West London. I’ve only got more than a week’s worth of food now because of this current crisis. But I think all of us are now starting to ask these questions like the things they just took for granted. It isn’t magically appearing on the supermarket shelves anymore, but there are breaks and strains showing in the supply chains. And people now starting to see these questions and think about where does actually come from in the first place? Is it made 10 yards 10 miles down the road? Is it made in the US? I mean, the same country as me, or has it been shipped 5000 miles across the greatest ocean on the planet from the other side of the world from China, and therefore we’re gonna start having supply problems. And I think this is what I wrote the knowledge for x and the knowledge isn’t really about the apocalypse is just using that as a thought experiment to peer behind the scenes and ask where things come from. And how it works. Bless you. I’m glad you raised your child in Detroit, Rob, because clearly that the very heart of the Detroit economy used to be based around the internal combustion engine, but based on the the automobile industry. And one the other stories I tell in the knowledge is the idea of where inventions come from. And on the whole, you know, it’s the whole Shakespearean quote about that there’s nothing new under the sun. And even something like an internal combustion engine wasn’t really invented from scratch. It was just a new arrangement, a new configuration of tried and tested components that the inventor literally picked off the shelf of history’s workshop of mechanical components and parts. And so if you look at internal combustion engine, the car engine and dissect it in the way you would dissect an organism on animals understand what you actually find is just a mess of components, each of which has got a really long history, a thread stretching back across the centuries and millennia of time. And so something like the piston the beating heart of the combustion engine, is based directly on an ancient Chinese water pump is designed for getting water out of the river and into the paddy field to irrigate or to drink. The flywheel is descend directly from ancient Sumerian Potter’s wheels for making clay pots 3000 years ago that is now embedded, and under the hood of your car, and the crank and the camshaft and all these other bits and pieces that make the car engine and made Detroit what is today of each got these long histories stretching back that have only been recently combined into a particular pattern and a particular arrangement. And again, I think that that’s a fascinating idea to kind of play around. With your head.

Rob McNealy
I think that’s all really, really good stuff. So the people listening today, to this, this podcast, they’re they’re really freaked out about what’s going on today with the pandemic. So, is there anything that you can do to recommend people at least even just to keep their minds occupied? What would be the things that you would recommend people to do now to make as a little as a whole, how they might be able to contribute to society to make society a little more resilient?

Lewis Dartnell – The Knowledge
Yeah, so I think you know, you and your listeners, Rob, you’ve already got a very good idea of how to protect yourselves, and what sort of things are useful to make sure we’ve got enough of to be resilient to breaks the supply chain, so make sure you’ve got enough drinking water or means of purifying water. Make sure you’ve got enough preserved food cans of food or food stored in dry condition on a mason jar or whatever. I think what is a golden opportunity right now, with people self isolating, and nation after nation around the world is now going into almost complete lockdown. And people have been cooped up at home is take this opportunity to learn some things to try something out that you haven’t tried before. Even if it’s just, you know, looking through Google or YouTube, watch some videos about how something is made. Maybe go out with your kids in the backyard if you’re lucky enough to have some outside space, and try and making something as a family. On the knowledge is websites, I talked about how you can make a gasifier stove, which is a really simple bit of technology that illustrates the principle of gasification how you turn wood timber into a combustible gas, which you can then burn very cleanly and efficiently. And you can interestingly therefore, run a car, run an auto using wood as fuel Rather than diesel or gas or gasoline or petrol, as we call it in the UK, and indeed in Scandinavia, because they’ve got large areas and natural forest, they have entire modern power stations, burning wood, burning timber, to generate electricity and heating the entire community. And you can demonstrate that process of gasification with a really simple and fun maker project of using your own hands with your kids in the backyard. And just make something as a family. Learn learn something new, try new craft, maybe try doing some knitting or weaving or stitching or something, you know, to keep your mind active. But also I think you’ll find it incredibly satisfying and fulfilling, making something yourself rather than just ordering off Amazon having delivered and it magically teleports to your front door. When the delivery guy turns up.

Rob McNealy
You know, I couldn’t agree with that. That advice anymore? I think making things is not only good for the mind, but I think it’s good for the soul. I think it builds confidence. And Louis, where can people find out more and get the book The knowledge?

Lewis Dartnell – The Knowledge
Yes. So the the US subtitle of the book is the knowledge, how to rebuild civilization in the aftermath of capitalism. So you can get that on any good bookshop or online, but completely for free. You can explore a whole lot of stuff and all the things we’ve been talking about in this podcast on the books website, which is www dot the hyphen, knowledge. org. So the dash knowledge.org. And you can order the book through the website, but you can also watch lots of videos of how to make things from scratch fun maker projects, craft projects, you can do at home with your family, with your kids, your local community. There’s lots of recommended reading lists. So, books that deal with the same idea of being resilient, and working out how to make and do things from scratch yourself. So there’s a lot of nonfiction books, a lot of kind of practical books, but also a lot of novels. books like Robinson Crusoe, or Swiss Family Robinson, or the Martian, which was made into film much more recently with Matt Damon. And if you’ve seen the Martian is basically Swiss Family Robinson, but not a shipwrecked, maroon sailor on a desert island. But the 21st century equivalent, which is an astronaut, marooned alone on Mars and having to work out how to make things from scratch to keep himself alive. So there’s a huge area of fascinating literature, and stories and novels of these sort of post apocalyptic scenarios of people picking themselves up, brushing off the dust, pulling together into community of people, who then work together. To recover, and rebuild, and learn how to make things from scratch themselves. So was all of that to explore on the books website, which is the hyphen, knowledge. org.

Rob McNealy
Lewis Dartness, thank you so much for coming on the show today.

Lewis Dartnell – The Knowledge
Well, this has been a fun chat. Thank you so much for having me. And we should, we should chat again about astrobiology and geography in the course of human history, and origins, the new podcast and other time.

Rob McNealy
We absolutely will do that. Thank you very much.

Lewis Dartnell – The Knowledge
Cheers and take care.

Rob McNealy
Thank you for listening to the Rob McNealy program. Make sure you check us out on the web at Rob McNealy calm and subscribe to our podcast at YouTube, iTunes and on the Google Play Store.

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Lewis Dartnell – The Knowledge

Lewis Dartnell, author of The Knowledge, talks with Rob McNealy about how primitive technology could be used jump start civilization from scratch.