I have been watching Brian Cox’s The Planetson ABC iview this last week, gazing at the delicious visual effects of the solar system coming into being, planets formed and deformed, torn apart by gravity.

Guy Noble Guy Noble

Mars’s atmosphere leached into space, the hell of Venus’s 460 degree greenhouse atmosphere gone wrong, Jupiter’s gaseous clouds hovering at minus 145 degrees. Yet I grumble because Melbourne was a miserable 12 degrees last week, it poured with rain and I got a bad cold. I am happy this week because I am in Brisbane, the sun is shining and it’s 24 degrees, even though Brisbane people like to wear their ski jackets in the early morning and pretend to have a winter.

What am I trying to say? I’m not sure, except that we have the astounding luck to live on a stable planet that has not snuffed us out yet. Brian is constantly wondering in his pleasant Lancashire accent about whether any other planet in the Solar System harbours life. Is there a microbe still hiding at the bottom of a Martian crater, or could there be organic molecules coming together in the...