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|Yuri Milner; Stephen Hawking; Martin Rees; Frank Drake; Ann Druyan. (Credit: Stuart C. Wilson)|
A Russian entrepreneur has launched the biggest and most expensive search for alien life ever, backed by famous scientists including Stephen Hawking and Frank Drake.
Yuri Milner, who funds a range of science prizes, has launched a $100 million project called Breakthrough Listen that will give scientists some of the most promising chances to find human life in the universe.
He will also launch another project called Breakthrough Message, which will work together to create a message that can be sent to aliens. The best messages will share a reward of $1 million.
The mission to decide exactly what to say has been a difficult one — some cosmologists have worried that plans to beam messages could spell doom for humanity.
The project will give those scientists that are looking for life elsewhere in the universe better access than ever to telescopes and computing power, which will be used to try and find life elsewhere in the universe.
Hawking said that it differentiated itself from previous initiatives because of its increased resources — including extra time with telescopes and more data processing capabilities.
He also warned against getting in touch with any extraterrestrial life that is found. Confrontations between more and less advanced civilisations have often gone wrong, and aliens could be billions of years ahead of us and so see us as no more valuable than we see bacteria.
Other members of the group of high-profile scientists backing the mission said that they didn't want to send a message for fear of upsetting people who worry that aliens might become enraged by our doing so. Using funds to send messages would also be a waste of limited funds, said Frank Drake.
But Ann Druyan, who is leading the work on Breakthrough Message, said that the work to decide what to say to aliens is valuable even if it doesn't actually get sent. It will help humanity think about itself and work out its place in the universe, she said.
Milner said his motivation is his belief that other civilizations could teach us how to handle challenges such as allocating natural resources — and that we might learn from finding that there is no other life.
Source: The Independent