During a recent appearance on Jonesy’s Jukebox, Queen guitarist and astrophysicist Dr. Brian May was asked if he thinks there is life on other places, to which he replied (transcribed by UG):
“This is a big question.
“I think that it is highly possible that there isn’t, and that’s not a normal view. There’s not many astronomers who would agree with me.
“But what sticks in my mind is… Think of the Drake equation – it’s a number of terms multiplied together, which is supposed to be the probability of life existing on other planets.
“It’s the probability of life evolving in the first place, multiplied by the probability of the planet being the right temperature, multiplied by the probability of it being the right distance from its sun… You multiply all these together and you get the probability.
“Now the trouble is – nobody knows the value of the most of the terms in that equation. [Laughs] The big thing is how probable it is that life can evolve spontaneously, and nobody knows that to this day.
“It could be like zero probability. If it’s even a small probability, you multiply it by the number of systems in the known universe, then there’s gonna be a life out there, for sure.
“Because there are hundreds of billions of stars systems out there, probably all with planets which might be suitable. But if the probability of life evolving is close enough to zero, we could be the only ones! It’s possible.”
“But I know that the gene research at the moment points to the fact that we all came from one event. And probably all mammals came from one event.
“This means that maybe it didn’t happen more than once. Maybe life just evolved, you know, plants as well – it all comes back to one event. How probable is that event? I don’t know.
“There is a big unknown, because an organism can’t evolve until it can reproduce. It adapts to certain amount in its lifetime, but to a very limited degree.
“What natural selection does is make sure that on aggregate the strongest characteristics survive. But as I say, that can only happen when things are reproducing.
“You have to have generations going on before these changes can take place. Now, a very primitive organic molecule cannot reproduce, it can’t evolve.
“So how does it happen? How do we get to that first organism that can reproduce itself and start adapting to its environment, and developing arms and legs and eyes.
“Even Einstein used to wake up having nightmares about how something so complex as an eye can evolve by natural selection. But most scientists think that it can.”
Asked on “what’s your theory of where it all came from,” May replied:
“I think it was from one event. But I have no idea how that event happened. There’s a great film called ‘Allegro Non Troppo‘ which I recommend to anyone who’s into this stuff.
“It’s a send-up of the Disney film ‘Fantasia‘ made by some Italians. And you know in ‘Fantasia’ life evolves from one little drop, and you have that whole sequence.
“And you have the dinosaurs, and then the dinosaurs died and it evolves. They do the spoof of that.
“But in their version it starts from one guy dropping a Coca-Cola bottle and it all going moldy inside, and the life evolves from the bottle. So I like that theory. [Laughs]
“So it’s another species, an alien life-form that gave birth to us maybe. I have no idea.”
Touching on the existence of God, Brian added:
“I don’t rule out the possibility of the existence of God.
“There are scientists who will say, ‘Oh, I can disprove the existence of God.’ But I don’t believe that. I don’t think science has anything to say about anything outside science.
“Science is very good for looking for patterns and relationships. But as to why things happen, science doesn’t really have anything to say.
“If there’s a Big Bang, and we come from one singularity, how did that singularity get there? Nobody knows.
“We have an idea that we understand what the universe is now. We think that it’s this thing that’s expanding. And it started from one point, and it’s getting bigger all the time.
“But the thing is, we have no idea how big it is at any point. So we have no way of measuring the size of the universe. We only know the size of the observeable universe, which is a little bubble, because of the limited speed the light has.
“We have no concept outside an observable universe. What’s outside that, nobody has the slightest clue. Seems to me like it goes on forever.
“If we go to the edge of the observable universe there’s no evidence to suggest that what we would see from that point would be any different from what we see here.
“Perhaps it is infinite. Now, if it’s infinite, there’s an infinite number of you’s and an infinite number of me’s.
“Even without the concept of different universes, maybe in our universe there’s an infinite number of possibilities. In which case, there has to be life out there.”
Asked on what his “concept of when we die” is, Brian replied:
“I don’t have any evidence either way. I think what we see in our lifetimes could be a very limited view of the universe.
“I think there could be a lot more. And there could be some place outside what we regard as existence. I think it’s possible. I hope so. It’d be nice to think there isn’t an end to it all.”