Space

The Breakthrough Initiatives: Galvanizing the search for life in our Universe

The Breakthrough Initiatives: ...
The Parkes Telescope located in Australia is just one of the assets that will be brought to bear in the ambitious new program
The Parkes Telescope located in Australia is just one of the assets that will be brought to bear in the ambitious new program
View 1 Image
The Parkes Telescope located in Australia is just one of the assets that will be brought to bear in the ambitious new program
1/1
The Parkes Telescope located in Australia is just one of the assets that will be brought to bear in the ambitious new program

At a Royal Society event in London earlier this week, Professor Stephen Hawking, Astronomer Royal Lord Martin Rees, and entrepreneur Yuri Milner announced an ambitious 100 million dollar initiative aimed at galvanizing the search for extraterrestrial life. The initiative would seek to make use of a blend of cutting edge telescopes and crowd sourcing to bring the hunt for life in line with present day technological capabilities.

Monday's event saw theannouncement of two key programs – Breakthrough Listen (BL), andBreakthrough Message (BM). BL is unquestionably the most ambitious ofthe two endeavors, a 10 year mission seeking to scour the closest1,000,000 stars on the galactic plane for signals that may constitutesigns of intelligent life. What's more, the project's aspirations arenot limited to the Milky Way. BL will strain to listen beyond ourgalaxy for signals from advanced alien races in 100 neighboringgalaxies.

The lofty goals laidout in the address will be achieved by employing the project'simpressive war chest to fund access to some of the world's premierspace observatories such as the 64-meter Parkes radio telescopelocated in the Parkes Observatory, and the Automated Planet FinderTelescope at the Lick Observatory, California, and the 100-meterGreen Bank Telescope in West Virginia.

The telescopes willscan the sky for radio signals as well as carry out the most indepth search to date for optical laser transmissions. According toBreakthrough Initiatives, the survey will cover 10 times more skythan any previous program of its kind, covering 5 times more of theradio spectrum with a sensitivity 50 times greater than the radiotelescopes currently used to hunt extraterrestrial life, and workingat 100 times the speed.

The capabilities of theproject are such that Breakthrough Initiatives states that it willbe able to detect a radio signal no more powerful than that used in acommercial aircraft coming from any of the thousand closest stars toEarth, or a laser with the equivalent energy of a standard householdlight bulb at a distance of 25 trillion miles.

To handle the vastamount of data generated by the observatories, BL intends toinnovate powerful open source software that will enable members ofthe general public to make a material contribution to the project bycreating their own search tools, and donating unused CPU space toboost the projects computing prowess.

Alongside BL, Breakthrough Initiatives intend to run an open competition, BM, whichwould open a dialogue regarding how and what the message should be ifBL is actually successful in identifying the markers of intelligentlife out in the stars.

The BM competitioncarries a US$1,000,000 prize pool. Submissions are required to be indigital format, and must constitute a representation of humanity andplanet Earth. The challenge of the message lies with the task ofrelating information to a life form with no shared culture orexperiences with humanity. Breakthrough Initiatives has pledged notto unilaterally transmit any message until a global debate has takenplace.

Professor StephenHawking summed up the ethos and drive behind the project perfectlywhen he simply stated regarding humanity, "We are alive. We areintelligent. We must know."

Have a look at video presentation below, courtesy of Breakthrough Initiatives.

Source: BreakthroughInitiatives

Breakthrough Initiatives Introduced by Seth MacFarlane

13 comments
mike65401
Why not look for smoke signals too? Why do we think they will be communicating via radio signals. Why not laser? Or gravity waves? Or quantum entanglement? Or something that would be as unguessable to us as laser communication would have been to Ben Franklin?
Bob Flint
Wasn't it Hawking's who also warned us against finding out that the other side is not friendly, but hostile. Listen before you speak, of course it, or they could also be listening, & or watching already.
mathcpat
They are pointing in the right direction. The least likely place to find intelligent life is in DC.
Douglas Bennett Rogers
A thorough and independent analysis of UFO data is needed.
Wolf0579
I second Mr. Rogers. There is overwhelming evidence that we are the subject of surveillance being conducted by at least two non-human species. Until science gets on board with the UFO issue in a serious way, they'll just be wasting money.
michael_dowling
If you think about it,what are the odds another civilization is roughly the same level as us technologically? That would mean they evolved in parallel with us,which is,to put it mildly,highly unlikely,except in a Star Trek universe.Much more likely they are thousands/millions of years ahead of us,and use some unfathomable means of communication,or else they are still swinging from tree to tree,and haven't discovered fire yet.
andrewk77
Bob Flint - Your right, he did, he must have done a u-turn on the issue. I personally agree with Wolf0579, but if governments are in denial and the scientific community looks down on those that believe - it isolates those that want to do as Wolf0579 said, ruining their career at the least, those who believe in UFOS really need one to crash land in front of live television broadcasts by several stations in the middle of a city or something before governments would change their stance ( assuming it is true, they know more than they lead on and are denying it ). To me its sad funding for this exists while we have world hunger, environmental and medical issues etc, there should be a UN stance on what projects should take precedence.
Bob809
I agree with a lot of the comments on here, about the uselessness of searching for radio waves. What is wrong with looking for more advanced forms of communication? Some have been mentioned here. It's time for these people to think -and research- out of the 'box.' They are scientists after all, can they not think of a better way to carry communication waves through the vastness of space? I'm sure they already have.
Fosh
The problem is that if we do detect life, unless it is in our solar system or near neighboring stars, it may no longer exist. Communication would then be impossible due to the time delay. However it would be nice to know that we are not or were not unique.
Grunt
How embarrassing! These so-called scientists are apparently hell-bent on discovering alien life, seemingly unaware that not only has alien life - for want of a better description - already found us, but is probably responsible for our experimental "evolution" in the first place. We are aliens too, and, as I understand it, the experiment ends very soon. Good 'ere, init?