The search for extraterrestrial life is the topic of many a science fiction novel and more than a few movies. The idea that we are not alone in this universe drives many to embrace a life of fantastical ideas and otherworldly exploits. Movies such as Carl Sagan novel and 1997 Jodie Foster vehicle Contact asked the question “What if we’re not alone in the universe?” Others such as Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Star Trek: First Contact, and Independence Day have simultaneously given us hope while they issued poignant warnings about alien contact.
Well, it looks like the search for alien life has received a pretty big shot in the arm from a somewhat unlikely source. Physicist Stephen Hawking and Russian billionaire Yuri Milner announced Monday that they would set aside $100 million to fund a new search. “Breakthrough Listen,” as it’s been called, will employ two telescopes to scan more of the radio wave spectrum per year than ever before. Scanning 5 times the normal searchable area that traditional searches cover, this project hopes that by listening to millions of star systems around earth they might come across a sign of intelligence.
What makes this project different is that they are asking for help from you and me. Well, to be specific, they want us to help them with our smartphones.
The Berkeley Open Infrastructure for Network Computing (BOINC) app, which is available for Android phones and computers, is a collaborative processing platform that has been used in a number of astrophysics, medical, and mathematical endeavors. In other words, BOINC allows scientists to tap into the spare processing power of personal devices all over the world to power their research.
Scientists are literally crowd sourcing the search for alien life. Why hasn’t anyone thought of this before? Smart phone are ubiquitous and Wi-Fi is rapidly materializing in even the most remote and unexpected of areas. Using their ever-increasing processing power to crunch numbers to expand the search seems like a no-brainer. Here’s hoping we find something. I know I will be waiting with great anticipation for any developments in this story.
Born and raised in Orange County, I’m Just your average guy with delusions of grandeur. Part time poet and full time geek, my interest run the gamut from video games and sci fi movies to newly emerging tech and various Cons.