It's not just students that seem to spend their time blogging - some lecturers do it too. Andrew Jaffe, an astrophysicist at Imperial College London, also has a blog. On Friday he wrote about this comment piece in the Guardian by Paul Davies, a physicist at the Australian Centre for Astrobiology (ACA) at Macquarie University in Sydney. I missed this one altogether as it was in the main paper which I rarely read. Unfortunately, this was the last time I will bother with the Guardian anyway, as they have decided to get rid of the excellent Life section, the only science supplement I know of.
In his article, Prof. Davies talks about the chances of life evolving which, even when all the required ingredients are present, are very small. But he phrases it as being "virtually zero" and then goes on: some sort of “life principle” is envisaged to be at work in the universe, coaxing matter along the road to life against the raw odds. Um, right. The thing is, as Andrew Jaffe points out, virtually zero does not mean zero! The universe is a very big place. If life managed to develop here, then why shouldn't it have developed somewhere else? The chances may be vanishingly small, but there are a lot of planets out there, and we can only see them in our own tiny corner of the Universe. A very small number multiplied by a very big number may still be small, but it's most definitely not zero.