Martin Barlow is Professor Emeritus of Mathematics at the University of British Columbia. He took a BA in mathematics at Cambridge University, and a PhD in probability theory at the University of Wales. He then returned to Cambridge for 12 years, before moving to the University of British Columbia. The main theme of his research has been the behaviour of random walks and diffusion in irregular, random and fractal environments. Since his retirement he has renewed an early interest in existence of aliens, the ‘Fermi paradox’, and in the history of Western thought on this topic.