JIM LADD: Can I ask a astronomy question?
BRIAN MAY: Oh God.
CYNTHIA FOX: Yes, but at some point we’ve gotta get Brian to tell the story about C-lebrity
too – the new song.
CF: Well, go ahead, ask him astronomy.
JL: Okay – can I?
CF: Go ahead.
JL: Right, I have two, and so please bear with me ‘cos I’m dying to ask you these questions. First
off, the title of your book is Bang! The Complete History of the Universe.
JL: The Complete…
BM: Yeah, yeah.
JL: … History of the…
BM: There’s no arrogance involved in it at all, is there?
(CF and BM laugh)
JL: Well yet I notice that my name wasn’t mentioned in there.
BM: Ahh, well, you’re in there some place.
JL: The entire history…
BM: If you looked hard enough, you’d find yourself in there. We’re all in
JL: Let me ask you a serious question, that is, do you agree with the theory that Frank Drake developed, known
as the Drake Equation? Do you agree with that? Do you think he’s on the money?
BM: You know, I don’t know if it is a theory as much as just a formulation of a question.
The Drake Equation – we had long discussions. It’s a very interesting question that you’ve asked.
You’ll notice it doesn’t appear in the book.
BM: And that was deliberate because we felt that a lot of people had drawn a lot of false
conclusions from it, and that’s not Drake’s fault. Drake actually didn’t draw the conclusions.
He just said the prob…. - just to fill people in – the probability of life existing elsewhere in the universe
is the function of a number of multiplied variables…
BM: … one being what’s the possibility of life evolving in a certain situation. I don’t
know if I, off the top of my head I don’t know them all. What, two, is how many planets are there where this could
happen, and three is how many …
JL: Developed life and how many developed intelligent life.
BM: That’s right.
JL: … and then made it all the way.
BM: Yeah, and how many of those would be able to communicate with us so we would know they
were there. So there’s this whole list of factors and it’s a very simple idea, like all great ideas are
simple ideas. But he didn’t actually draw the conclusion that there must be life out there. It was other
people who did that, you know, and I, we don’t agree. Patrick actually feels that there probably is life out there
like ours, and I think it’s fair to say that neither Chris nor I do.
JL: When you say “like ours” you mean, do you mean sentient life or do you mean just …?
You don’t even believe…
BM: Well I’m not going to say intelligent life. I don’t know if there’s
intelligent life on this planet. You know, I’m not going to say that. (laughs)
JL: Well I mean would you go that there might be bacteria, under a rock somewhere?
BM: Well I think life as we know it is, the more we discover about it, the more we realise
that it’s utterly, totally inter-dependent and our existence depends on the existence of every other kind of life, you
know. We are such a tiny, tiny little corner of, of, of you know, our little piece of evolution, but if bacteria didn’t
exist, we couldn’t exist.
BM: If plankton didn’t exist, we couldn’t exist, you know. So…
The North American Indians seem to understand this instinctively. For some reason we lost that bit of wisdom,
but every piece of nature that we trample upon, we trample upon ourselves, and I think astronomers, and astro-biologists as
there are now, would all agree with that. Ah now, as to, you’re asking me whether there’s life out there.
BM: No, I don’t know.
JL: I’m asking you, ‘cause it’s interesting and you seem to say that unequivocally…
JL: … and I don’t mean that there’s, you know, humanoid life, but are you ruling out all life.
BM: I couldn’t rule. No, I couldn’t rule out. I’m just saying
that, personally, I think there’s a high possibility that we are the only occurrence of what we are. I think it’s
JL: In the entire universe?
BM: I believe that’s possible. Yeah, because nobody yet, and I think if you’re
gonna locate which part of the Drake Equation I’m basing that on, I would say the part which deals with the probability
of live evolving out of a bunch of molecules…. random molecules. And, unfortunately I didn’t do biology
at school. I really, really wish I had. My daughter is now doing it at Imperial College, London – my old
college – and she talks to me a lot about this, ‘cause I’m fascinated to know, but I do know that the gulf
between what we would call an ‘organic’ molecule being able to be formed by itself and life evolving, is just
universes apart. No-one’s been – there used to be this sort of notion abroad that if you got a lot of organic
stuff and stuck it in a test tube and put a bolt of lightning through it, you’d probably get some life.
JL: But it doesn’t happen.
BM: (chuckles) No way is that true.
JL: The soup happens, but the life doesn’t.
BM: Yeah, there ain’t no…. it’s..
JL: Let me say this though – there have been studies, because people who are looking to try to go to Mars,
and what should we look for if we get there? Any humans walking around?
JL: That we have found that life is way more tenacious than we ever believed possible, and that it can live on
this planet in extremes of, you know, 40 degrees below zero…
JL: … under a rock … It can also live in temperatures that are hundreds of degrees, you know,
above, so the range of life, it just here seems to be, it’s pretty tenacious. So I’m thinking that somewhere…
BM: Once it exists, it holds on.
JL: Once it exists.
BM: We don’t know yet if there was one event, which caused the whole of life on earth,
or if it was many.
JL: Right. Well, no, we don’t, we don’t.
BM: No, and that’s a crucial question to answer.
JL: Answer me one quick question and then I’ll play a song.
JL: I’m sorry, Cynthia, but I, you know. How is it – and this really blew my mind – you’re
explaining that Science can trace the history and development of the Universe, back to a nanosecond after the Big Bang. You
have the Big Bang, and then you have…
JL: … this incredibly small fraction of a second, where apparently we can, or you can, explain what’s
BM: Mmmmmmmmmm – yeah. (thoughtfully)
BM: I can’t, personally. (laughs)
JL: Well, what, what am I reading in this book?
JL: What’s going on?
BM: There’s all sorts of domains we touch, you know, and that’s the domain of
fundamental particles, you know, which is really not my area.
JL: Okay. But let me ask you… but then, but then, you tell me, and I’ll let you answer this…
JL: … then you tell me that the entire – all of the matter. ALL of the matter in the ENTIRE
Universe, at that moment, is contained in a space smaller than a pin prick.
BM: That’s what we believe, yeah.
JL: And you don’t, okay, and this guy does believe this - how can you, how can that possibly be?
That’s my question.
BM: You mean why? Or how?
JL: How does ALL the matter in the Universe…
BM: Well, it’s beyond the range of our experience, but that doesn’t mean that
it’s, that it’s anyway unlikely or impossible. We just haven’t seen it happen. I mean, I think
that’s the case with so many – we were talking about this, Cynthia, earlier – so many concepts, which we
are, which we believe are difficult, like the concept of relativity, WE, as grown-ups, all think it’s hard, because
we were told it’s hard, but if you – I’ve talked to lots of pretty young kids about relativity and you just
tell ‘em that if they run very, very fast, it’s supposing they could run near the speed of light, they would get
shorter, and heavier. They don’t find that such a hard concept. We do, don’t we?...
BM: … because we haven’t seen it and we haven’t been told it as kids, and,
you know, we don’t run around at the speed of light normally, or close to the speed of light. But a lot of these
concepts are not actually hard to understand. They’re just hard to believe, because that’s not what we grew
up with and I think it’s the same with the Big Bang. I don’t think it’s such a difficult thing to
believe. It’s just that we haven’t, we haven’t anything like it in our, in the world around us to
compare with it.
JL: Well, it also happened, according to you, 13.7…
BM: Well we think so.
JL: … billion years ago. That’s a long, long time.
BM: 13.7 billion, yeah.
JL: Right. 95.5 KLOS.
Plays "LONG AWAY"
JL: It’s hard to have a favourite, but that, that’s mine of all the Queen songs. I don’t
know why it is, but that song has always spoken to me.
BM: That’s amazing. Yeah…. Ah…. Thank you for making me listen to
that. (laughs) Hey, maybe it’s my favourite too. I feel very proud of that. That had a big effect
on me, listening to that just now. Yeah, I hope they play that when I’m gone. (laughs)
JL: You know, that song really is, has something very, very human and very spiritual about it and it’s
always, I tell you, many late nights alone in the studio where I’ve been blasting that song…
JL: … because I needed to hear that. You know it’s worked for me, so thank you.
BM: Well thank you. Oh my God, I think I just rediscovered who I am.
BM: Well, sometimes you don’t know. Sometimes you do lose that, don’t you?
Thank you, Jim.
JL: My pleasure …
JL: … my pleasure.
I’m talking with Brian May and Cynthia Fox. It’s a wonderful night here at 95.5 KLOS and we will be back
right after this. Don’t