Prof Stephen Hawking and Yuri Milner Announce $100 Million Breakthrough Listen to Search for Aliens

Prof.Hawking and Yuri Milner form $100 million Breakthrough Initiative to search for Aliens

One of the biggest venture in support of the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence (SETI) was launched by the Breakthrough Initiatives group at the Royal Society in London.

Russian entrepreneur, Yuri Milner along with physicist Stephen Hawking and other scientists, announced a remarkable $100m (£64m) global Breakthrough Initiatives to Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) beyond Earth.

Milner, the venture capitalist made this announcement today at a  press conference held at the Royal Society in London. The announcement was relayed live through a webcast.

The initiative, ‘Breakthrough Listen’, is a 10 year old project wherein researchers would scan the skies and “listen” for broadcast signals from the billions stars that are closest to Earth along with the 100 galaxies that are spread beyond the Milky Way.

During the conference, Prof Hawking said: “Somewhere in the cosmos, perhaps, intelligent life may be watching these lights of ours, aware of what they mean. Or do our lights wander a lifeless cosmos – unseen beacons, announcing that here, on one rock, the Universe discovered its existence. Either way, there is no bigger question. It’s time to commit to finding the answer – to search for life beyond Earth.”

He added: “We are alive. We are intelligent. We must know.”

When compared with previous projects this initiative would not only cover 10 times more of the sky, but will also scan the radio spectrum almost five times more than in earlier programs that too 100 times faster. Thus it is being claimed to be one of the biggest scientific search for extra-terrestrial intelligence undertaken till date for checking the alien life.

The project would use world’s best telescopes; the Green Bank Telescope in West Virginia and the Parkes Telescope in New South Wales, Australia.

Lord Martin Rees, a renowned cosmologist and astrophysicist, is one of the name involved in the project.

Rees said: “The search for extraterrestrial life is the most exciting quest in 21st-century science. The Breakthrough Initiatives aims to put it on the same level as the other ultimate scientific questions.”

Public too can participate in the program to find a signal from another world through the SETI@home project; which is a scientific experiment that involves using Internet-connected computers in the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI). Participants would need to run a free program that would download and analyze the radio telescope data.

Milner, a well known US based billionaire and founder of the initiative believes that by combining an appropriate scientific basis and advanced technology it is now possible to listen for signs of extraterrestrial intelligence.

He said:  “Current technology gives us a real chance to answer one of humanity’s biggest questions: Are we alone? With Breakthrough Listen, we’re committed to bringing the Silicon Valley approach to the search for intelligent life in the Universe. Our approach to data will be open and taking advantage of the problem-solving power of social networks.”

Prof Hawking, too, believes that the SETI would prove to be one of the most important scientific ventures undertaken by humanity.

He further said: “To understand the Universe, you must know about atoms – about the forces that bind them, the contours of space and time, the birth and death of stars, the dance of galaxies, the secrets of black holes. But that is not enough. These ideas cannot explain everything. They can explain the light of stars, but not the lights that shine from planet Earth.”

“To understand these lights, you must know about life. About minds.”

Milner and the scientists participating in the study would conduct a media teleconference to discuss Q&A regarding the Breakthrough Listen initiative.

The SETI program would begin its observations next year.

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