The hunt for extra-terrestrial life has been revived by an unlikely duo this Monday at the Royal Society of Science in London. World-known physicist Stephen Hawking and tech investor Yuri Milner have announced they will team in order to search for alien lifeforms.
Their project will be named Breakthrough Listen. It has already received $100 million funding from the duo, money which will be mainly used in the development of new advanced transmitting equipment and paying the research team.
The program will be split around two main goals: searching for signals from extra-terrestrial beings and transmitting our own signals out into the cosmos for them to potentially be picked up. For the latter part, only a contest for the messages that would best represent our planet has been announced.
An agreement on whether these messages should be sent into outer space has yet to be reached. Hawking fears such a transmission might be taken as a sign of aggression by potential alien civilizations. He believes it would be wiser to wait until we discover them first.
But for the first goal, there are plenty of measures already in place. The project will make use of the Robert Green Bank Telescope in West Virginia and the Parkes Telescope in Australia, both enormous but highly accurate tools.
California’s Lick Observatory also plans to help by probing the galaxy for optical laser transmissions. [email protected] is a project started by the University of California through which 9 million powers contribute with their computer power to searching through already existing astronomical data for signs of aliens. The project will also be used by Breakthrough Listen.
The team has announced that the entire process will be widely available to the public, so that anyone could contribute. Any findings are also going to be made public immediately. Milner hopes that this project will bring people together from across the world.
Hawking is confident in the program, mostly due to the amount of resources at its disposal. With the current advancements in technology, the same data could be processed in a single day that would have previously taken an entire year to gather.
The project will have Milner’s financial backing for at least 10 years, though other investors are likely to join it down the road. Hawking believes that the pursuit is worth regardless of the results. Even if we find there is no one else out there, he claims, it will be more than enough to justify the search.
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