“Are we alone in the universe?”
We ask ourselves this question in a million different forms every day. Are we alone? Is there life? No matter how human beings word this query, trying to come up with an answer continues to push our creative juices. Unfortunately due to the absolute volume of the universe, the answer to that question so far is… “maybe?” Up until the 21st century, mankind could only explore as far as technology allows. However in 2015, our scopes and telescopes are more powerful than ever, and Stephen Hawking plans on taking advantage of the human spirit to answer the age-old question. On Monday, Hawking along with Russian entrepreneur Yuri Milner announced that they will fund a project known as Breakthrough Listen. Breakthrough Listen will have a $100M budget supporting their cause.
“We believe that life arose spontaneously on Earth,” Hawking said at Monday’s news conference, “So in an infinite universe, there must be other occurrences of life.”
As it stands today, the resources for searching for extra life is woefully underfunded and undermanned. The Search for Extraterrestrial Intellgence, or SETI, has been active since 1960 but does not receive any form of government funding. Milner and the scientists on this project believe they will be able to gather a year’s worth of data in a single day.
“I think it’s a low probability but high impact event,” he said. “Irrespective of what the answer is, it’s a powerful answer. At any given time, we should apply the best technology and use the best instruments available to search for that answer.”
Scientists who are involved in the search for extra terrestrial life have shown their great excitement for the announced project:
“We would typically get 24 to 36 hours on a telescope per year, but now we’ll have thousands of hours per year on the best instruments.” It’s difficult to overstate how big this is. It’s a revolution.” Andrew Siemion, a member of the group’s formation.
As far as I am concerned, anything that gets us closer to finding life in space is a win for humanity. Godspeed to Breakthrough Listen!
(Thank you to Washington Post for story and quotes.)