Some of these studies were ornithological. When do apostlebirds first appear on the Newell Highway? How far north do white-winged choughs extend? Where does the white-backed form of the Australian magpie give way to the black-backed form.
I'd like to be able to provide answers, but on all trips so far I've usually driven a couple of hundred kilometres past the crucial location before I remember that I was supposed to make notes. Although I try again on the way back, my attention is often taken up in designing limpet mines that will attach to the corrugated sides of slow-moving caravans. It is not a simple task, you know. How do you slap a mine onto a target that's ahead of you? How do you set a delayed fuze? Are fridge magnets strong enough to do the job? You can see why I might miss the odd apostlebird, chough or magpie.
Anyway, I've applied the same scientific methodology (and all its flaws) to social history as well as natural history. Many years ago (ie the 80s), I developed the concept of the Patsycline. It is loosely based on the thermocline.
A thermocline … is a thin but distinct layer in a large body of fluid (e.g. water, such as an ocean or lake, or air, such as an atmosphere), in which temperature changes more rapidly with depth than it does in the layers above or below.
The Patsycline is the location where the proportion of country music on the radio suddenly becomes 100%. It is measured as the distance from the nearest state capital.
In the late 1980s, the Patsycline was on the Newell Highway somewhere south of Dubbo. Unfortunately, the proliferation of local FM stations combined with the existence of Lee Kernaghan has rendered this methodology unworkable. The Patsycline has been retired.
But it has been replaced by another measure of Australian rurality — the Darlocline. This is the geographical spot at which people in service stations call you 'Darl'. Although pinpointing it does depend on how often you stop for petrol, I am happy to report that the north – south Darlocline seems to be located in Biloela in central Queensland.
Now who says science isn't relevant?