Russian Billionaire Yuri Milner Funds SETI Initiative With $100 Million

©Breakthrough Prize Foundation

Russian Billionaire Yuri Milner Funds SETI Initiative With $100 Million.

Joined by an all-star cast of scientists that included Stephen Hawking, Martin Rees, Frank Drake, Geoff Marcy and Ann Druyan, Russian billionaire Yuri Milner announced that he was personally funding a series of new initiatives to kickstart the search for life in the universe called Breakthrough Initiatives.

Milner said he would fund the initiatives with a $100 million over 10 years.

A key member of the team also present was former NASA Ames Center Director Pete Worden who now becomes the Chairman of the Breakthrough Prize Foundation.

Breakthrough Initiatives

The first two initiatives to be funded are Breakthrough Listen and Breakthrough Message.

According to Milner these initiatives are the biggest scientific search ever undertaken for signs of intelligent life beyond Earth.

Breakthrough Listen

Two major radio telescopes will collect the data; the 100 Meter Robert C. Byrd Green Bank Telescope in West Virginia, USA and the 64 metre diameter Parkes Telescope in New South Wales, Australia. As well the Automated Planet Finder Telescope at Lick Observatory in California, USA will undertake world's deepest and broadest search for optical laser transmissions.

Other Breakthrough Listen details:
- 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.

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."

Breakthrough Message

There will be an International competition to create digital messages that represent humanity and planet Earth with a pool of prizes that will total $1,000,000, the details of which will be announced at a later time.

According to Milner "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."

Project Leadership

The leader of the project includes:

- Pete Worden, Chairman, Breakthrough Prize Foundation.
- Martin Rees, Astronomer Royal, Fellow of Trinity College; Emeritus Professor of Cosmology and Astrophysics, University of Cambridge.
- 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.

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."

Watch the Archived News Conference


- Breakthrough Initiatives website
- Press Release - Yuri Milner and Stephen Hawking Announce $100 Million Breakthrough Initiative to Dramatically Accelerate Search for Intelligent Life in the Universe

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