The search for intelligent aliens recently received a huge upgrade thanks to a space-loving rich guy.
Last month, billionaire technology investor Yuri Milner announced at the Royal Society in London that he is investing $100 million in the search for intelligent extraterrestrial life. Famed theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking, a Royal Society fellow, joined Milner on stage to announce the Breakthrough Listen initiative—the “most powerful, comprehensive and intensive scientific search ever undertaken for signs of intelligent life beyond Earth.”
Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) initiatives have been underway for more than fifty years as scientists scan the skies with radio telescopes searching for potential alien communication. But previous efforts have only managed to search two percent of the radio spectrum.
Breakthrough Listen promises to scan the entire electromagnetic spectrum.
A big chunk of Milner’s money will buy time on the world’s most powerful telescopes—the Green Bank Telescope in West Virginia and the Parkes Telescope in Australia. Just so you understand the power of these telescopes, the Breakthrough Listen initiative will be able to collect as much data in one day as SETI’s previous search gathered in an entire year.
Green Bank Telescope
SETI critics love to rip on the “listening for alien radio signals” efforts. Because, obviously, extraterrestrials use rad advanced communication systems like on Star Trek, not antiquated radio waves. Well, for the poopooers, Breakthrough Listen will also carry out the “deepest and broadest ever search for optical laser transmissions.”
At the announcement on July 20, former Royal Society president Lord Martin Rees acknowledged, “It’s a huge gamble, but the payoff would be so colossal in recognizing there’s life out there that this investment is hugely worthwhile.”
Hawking, who will serve as an advisor on the project, believes it’s time to search for life beyond Earth. But, as he’s stated multiple times, he thinks it’s a bad idea to attempt contacting an extraterrestrial civilization because it will alert others to our presence. Hawking has a pretty grim view of extraterrestrials. He believes that, if/when aliens visit Earth, they’ll kill humans and plunder the planet’s resources.
The project’s time on the super telescopes will reportedly begin in January 2016.But Lord Rees believes advanced extraterrestrials would already be aware of our existence.
What are your thoughts about this new SETI effort? If you had $100 million to throw at some alien research, would you mirror Milner’s investment, or would you spend the money elsewhere? Let us know in the comments below.