Episode 2- Silicon Valley
So during “Search for Alien Life Part 1”here, we explored Ocean Worlds, which seems like a logical spot to look for life considering the Oceans here on earth are home to countless species of life. So where do we look next!?
Specifically, Silicon Valley, ie arguably the world’s capital for human ingenuity and new technologies in the 21st Century.
Who is Yuri Milner?
Yuri Milner says he has been fascinated with space since he was a child. He is named after Yuri Gagarin, who became the first human to leave Earth back in 1961, the year Milner was born.
Image of Yuri Gagarin:
Yuri Milner’s 100 Million Reasons to Listen to Space: “The Breakthrough Initiatives”
It was recently announced that $100 Million US is to be invested by Yuri (and Julia) Milner (who made a lot of their money by being an early backer of Silicon Valley successes such as Facebook) over 10 years to fund the unprecedented project that continues the ambitious quest started by Carl Sagan and Frank Drake of S.E.T.I (Search for ExtraTerrestrial Intelligence) in the 1960’s to search the stars for intelligent life and advanced civilizations.
Milner says he was motivated to fund a large-scale search for extraterrestrial life by the knowledge that no one else was.
The Breakthrough Intitatives
1) Breakthrough Listen
Milner said this new search would cover more than 10 times as much of the sky as any previous search. He said it would process five times as much of the radio spectrum as has ever been scanned before and will do so 100 times as quickly.
It will survey the 1 million closest stars to Earth and the center of the Milky Way. Beyond that, it will listen to 100 galaxies farther afield.
2) Breakthrough Message
Milner’s Letter to the World:
“Are we alone? Now is the time to find out
Who are we?
A mature civilization, like a mature individual, must ask itself this question. Is humanity defined by its divisions, its problems, its passing needs and trends? Or do we have a shared face, turned outward to the Universe?
Yet millions are inspired by these ideas, whether they meet them in science or science fiction. Because the biggest questions of our existence are at stake. Are we the Universe’s only child — our thoughts its only thoughts? Or do we have cosmic siblings — an interstellar family of intelligence? As Arthur C. Clarke said, “In either case the idea is quite staggering.”
That means the search for life is the ultimate ‘win-win’ endeavor. All we have to do is take part.
Today we have search tools far surpassing those of previous generations. Telescopes can pick out planets across thousands of light years. The magic of Moore’s law lets our computers sift data orders of magnitude faster than older mainframes — and ever quicker each year.
These tools are now reaping a harvest of discoveries. In the last few years, astronomers and the Kepler Mission have discovered thousands of planets beyond our solar system. It now appears that most stars host a planetary system. Many of them have a planet similar in size to our own, basking in the ‘habitable zone’ where the temperature permits liquid water. There are likely billions of earth-like worlds in our galaxy alone. And with instruments now or soon available, we have a chance of finding out if any of these planets are true Pale Blue Dots – home to water, life, even minds.
There has never been a better moment for a large-scale international effort to find life in the Universe. As a civilization, we owe it to ourselves to commit time, resources, and passion to this quest.
But as well as a call to action, this is a call to thought. When we find the nearest exo-Earth, should we send a probe? Do we try to make contact with advanced civilizations? Who decides? Individuals, institutions, corporations, or states? Or can we as species — as a planet — think together?
Three years ago, Voyager 1 broke the sun’s embrace and entered interstellar space. The 20th century will be remembered for our travels within the solar system. With cooperation and commitment, the present century will be the time when we graduate to the galactic scale, seek other forms of life, and so know more deeply who we are.”
Taking A Closer Look at the Two Initiatives
“By far the most comprehensive, intensive and sensitive search ever undertaken for artificial radio and optical signals. A complete survey of the 1,000,000 nearest stars, the plane and center of our galaxy, and the 100 nearest galaxies. All data will be open to the public.”
The most ambitious search for life ever attempted, Breakthrough Listen will employ 25 people, rent two humongous radio telescopes, and rent a third telescope sensitive to laser communication coming from the galaxy around us.
For further and updated information on Breakthrough Listen, see the official site here: http://www.breakthroughinitiatives.org./Initiative/1
Telescope 1: Green Bank Telescope
The first telescope is located in West Virginia in the Northern Hemisphere. It’s called the Green Bank Telescope. It’s so sensitive that Federal law prohibits the use of cellphones within 100 miles of it.
The telescope’s surface area is 2.3 acres. Yes, that’s longer than a football field across its width.
Telescope 2: Parkes Telescope
The second telescope is situated on the other side of the globe in Australia. It’s called the Parkes Telescope. It’s only slightly smaller, with a 64-meter diameter.
The third telescope is essentially an entire Observatory-The Lick Observatory in California. It will look for messages sent by laser anywhere in the Milky Way.
Open Source Software + Transparency + Distributed Computing = World’s Biggest SuperComputer?
Powerful Open Source Software is currently being developed for analyzing the unprecedented massive amounts of data that will be received by the telescopes. The hardware and software will also be compatible with other telescopes around the world, enabling almost anyone with a telescope to join the search for intelligent life. Apps are expected to be developed by scientists and interested developers to help sift the data for specific information.
The vast amounts of data generated by each telescope will all be available to the public. Complete Transparency.
Joining forces with The University of California, Berkeley and their famous SETI@home program will bring the power of Distributed Computing into the equation.
SETI@home is currently a platform of 9 million computers around the globe – collectively forming one of the World’s Biggest SuperComputers.
“A $1m competition to design a message representing Earth and humanity that could potentially be understood by another civilization. The aim is to encourage public debate about sending messages beyond Earth.”
For further and updated information on Breakthrough Message, see the official site here: http://www.breakthroughinitiatives.org./Initiative/2
1 Million Reasons to talk to an Alien
Breakthrough Message is essentially an international competition to find Penpals for Aliens.
The competition is open to everyone and boasts a pool of prizes totaling $1,000,000 for the best messages submitted.
There is currently no plan to send these messages, it is meant to foster discussion about all of the myriad issues with sending messages out into space and ultimately to extraterrestrial species.
More details on the contest will be announced soon.
Conversations with an Alien
What would you say to an Alien or to an entire new intelligent Alien Civilization maybe?
Note: Each message must be in digital format, and should be representative of humanity and planet Earth. (No Pressure).
Would you use words, images, video, symbols, sounds, music, computer/binary code, qubits/quantum states (see more on quantum computing here), DNA, or other means to communicate your message?
What would you want to communicate, that we come in peace, that we wish to learn and share and information or that we are prepared to defend ourselves, our property, and our Earth by any means necessary should the Aliens have hostile intentions or even a full scale invasion planned?
Do you include a record of the most amazing discoveries and creations of Mankind, like inventions from Leonardo Da Vinci, discoveries by Tesla, or music by John L. Williams or Mozart or Michael Jackson?
Leave your suggestions in the comments below. We would love to hear what you’d say to an Alien or an Alien Civilization…
Milner says he has very low expectations for the project.
He doesn’t think it’s likely that it will produce definitive results within 10 years, but he is hopeful someone else will step up and fund the search after his efforts conclude.
He believes that within a few decades humanity will be able to answer maybe its most important question (“Are We Alone”) one way or another.
He says that it would be as profound to learn we are alone in the universe as it would be to learn we are not alone. Either way he says it would mean we would finally have to accept full responsibility for the protection and continuation of life.
Stephen Hawking and Frank Drake are On Board
|Press Release|| Yuri Milner and Stephen Hawking Announce
$100 Million Breakthrough Initiative to Dramatically Accelerate
Search for Intelligent Life in the Universe
10-year, Multi-disciplinary Search Effort Will Harness
World’s Largest Telescopes to Mine Data from Nearest Million Stars, Milky Way and 100 Galaxies
London, UK – Monday, July 20, 2015 — Yuri Milner was joined at The Royal Society today by Stephen Hawking, Martin Rees, Frank Drake, Geoff Marcy, Pete Worden and Ann Druyan to announce the unprecedented $100 million global Breakthrough Initiatives to reinvigorate the search for life in the universe.
The first of two initiatives announced today, Breakthrough Listen, will be the most powerful, comprehensive and intensive scientific search ever undertaken for signs of intelligent life beyond Earth. The second, Breakthrough Message, will fund an international competition to generate messages representing humanity and planet Earth, which might one day be sent to other civilizations.
· Biggest scientific search ever undertaken for signs of intelligent life beyond Earth.
· Significant access to two of the world’s most powerful telescopes – 100 Meter Robert C. Byrd Green Bank Telescope in West Virginia, USA (“Green Bank Telescope”) and 64-metre diameter Parkes Telescope in New South Wales, Australia (“Parkes Telescope”).
· 50 times more sensitive than previous programs dedicated to SETI research.
· Will cover 10 times more of the sky than previous programs.
· Will scan at least 5 times more of the radio spectrum – and 100 times faster.
· In tandem with a radio search, Automated Planet Finder Telescope at Lick Observatory in California, USA (“Lick Telescope”) will undertake world’s deepest and broadest search for optical laser transmissions.
· Initiative will span 10 years.
· Financial commitment is $100,000,000.
The program will include a survey of the 1,000,000 closest stars to Earth. It will scan the center of our galaxy and the entire galactic plane. Beyond the Milky Way, it will listen for messages from the 100 closest galaxies. The telescopesused are exquisitely sensitive to long-distance signals, even of low or moderate power:
· If a civilization based around one of the 1,000 nearest stars transmits to us with the power of common aircraft radar,Breakthrough Listen telescopes could detect it.
· If a civilization transmits from the center of the Milky Way, with any more than 12 times the output of interplanetary radars we use to probe the Solar System, Breakthrough Listen telescopes could detect it.
· From a nearby star (25 trillion miles away), Breakthrough Listen’s optical search could detect a 100-watt laser (energy output of normal household light bulb).
Open Data, Open Source, Open Platform
The program will generate vast amounts of data. All data will be open to the public. This will likely constitute the largest amount of scientific data ever made available to the public. The Breakthrough Listen team will use and develop the most powerful software for sifting and searching this flood of data. All software will be open source. Both the software and the hardware used in the Breakthrough Listen project will be compatible with other telescopes around the world, so that they could join the search for intelligent life. As well as using the Breakthrough Listen software, scientists and members of the public will be able to add to it, developing their own applications to analyze the data.
Crowdsourced processing power
Breakthrough Listen will also be joining and supporting SETI@home, University of California, Berkeley’s ground breaking distributed computing platform, with 9 million volunteers around the world donating their spare computing power to search astronomical data for signs of life. Collectively, they constitute one of the largest supercomputers in the world.
· International competition to create digital messages that represent humanity and planet Earth.
· The pool of prizes will total $1,000,000.
· Details on the competition will be announced at a later date.
· This initiative is not a commitment to send messages. It’s a way to learn about the potential languages of interstellar communication and to spur global discussion on the ethical and philosophical issues surrounding communication with intelligent life beyond Earth.
· Martin Rees, Astronomer Royal, Fellow of Trinity College; Emeritus Professor of Cosmology and Astrophysics, University of Cambridge.
· Pete Worden, Chairman, Breakthrough Prize Foundation.
· Frank Drake, Chairman Emeritus, SETI Institute; Professor Emeritus of Astronomy and Astrophysics, University of California, Santa Cruz; Founding Director, National Astronomy and Ionosphere Center; Former Goldwin Smith Professor of Astronomy, Cornell University.
· Geoff Marcy, Professor of Astronomy, University of California, Berkeley; Alberts SETI Chair.
· Ann Druyan, Creative Director of the Interstellar Message, NASA Voyager; Co-Founder and CEO, Cosmos Studios; Emmy and Peabody award winning Writer and Producer.
· Dan Werthimer, Co-founder and chief scientist of the SETI@home project; director of SERENDIP; principal investigator for CASPER.
· Andrew Siemion, Director, Berkeley SETI Research Center.
Yuri Milner said: “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.”
Stephen Hawking said: “I strongly support the Breakthrough Initiatives and the search for extraterrestrial life.”
Frank Drake said: “Right now there could be messages from the stars flying right through the room, through us all. That still sends a shiver down my spine. The search for intelligent life is a great adventure. And Breakthrough Listen is giving it a huge lift.”
“We’ve learned a lot in the last fifty years about how to look for signals from space. With the Breakthrough Initiatives, the learning curve is likely to bend upward significantly,” added Frank Drake.
Ann Druyan said: “The Breakthrough Message competition is designed to spark the imaginations of millions, and to generate conversation about who we really are in the universe and what it is that we wish to share about the nature of being alive on Earth. Even if we don’t send a single message, the act of conceptualizing one can be transformative. In creating the Voyager Interstellar Message, we strived to attain a cosmic perspective on our planet, our species and our time. It was intended for two distinct kinds of recipients – the putative extraterrestrials of distant worlds in the remote future and our human contemporaries. As we approach the Message’s fortieth anniversary, I am deeply grateful for the chance to collaborate on the Breakthrough Message, for what we might discover together and in the hope that it might inform our outlook and even our conduct on this world.”
Additional information www.breakthroughinitiatives.org.
Images, video and materials from today’s press conference are available for media download at the below link. Content will be uploaded throughout the day.
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October 13, 2015 Update:
Geoff Marcy has resigned from the project.
Stay tuned to CosmicElevator for updates on The Breakthrough Initiatives as they happen and join me next time as the search continues with the latest discovery on the Red Planet in Search for Alien Life: “Is There Anybody Out There!?” Episode 3 – “H2- Oh Mars!?”