“In no other branch of mathematics is it so easy for experts to blunder as in probability theory”

Martin Gardener

"Charles Sanders Peirce once observed that in no other branch of mathematics is it so easy for experts to blunder as in probability theory." Thus began an article in the October 1959 Scientific American by the celebrated math columnist Martin Gardner.15 Apr 2011


The universe as we know it is fabulously unlikely. If the fine structure constant varied by an infinitesimal amount different when the hot big bang happened atoms and everything else we take for granted would be impossible. Atoms, if they existed, would have different sizes, chemistry would completely change and nuclear reactions would be altered. Life as we know could well be outright impossible.

So, taking the universe we live in as a highly improbably, but evidently extant thing, then we have the probability of our Earth orbiting in the goldilocks zone of a nondescript G2V star in a region of the galaxy not irradiated by over our short – cosmologically speaking – short human evolutionary period.

You being born is the unlikely result of your parents meeting, mating and one particular sperm out of  billions fertilizing an egg, then successfully developing into a baby, being successfully born into a nurturing and stimulating environment (and particularly well done if you are reading this as a survivor after being born in one of the world’s many conflict or similarly resource-starved zones and managed to thrive).

What we are trying to point out is that - like the famous Drake Equation showing the probability of extraterrestrial life in the cosmos - YOU too are a very improbable, if not unique, being! So, be your best confident YOU, you are amazingly unlikely!