When A Russian Billionaire's Hunt For Aliens Took Up A Whole Page In TOI

When A Russian Billionaire's Hunt For Aliens Took Up A Whole Page In TOI

The pursuit of alien life forms has fascinated human beings for centuries. India was no exception, as we previously explored how some of the alien sightings  and explorations date as far back as 10,000 years with sightings and speculation continuing well into the 21st century. The existence of alien life in the universe, which has often been pushed aside as cheap conspiracy theories now seems to be on the brink of mainstream credibility, an observation one can infer from the full page advertisement in today’s Times Of India.

The advertisement titled “ Are We Alone? Now Is The Time To Find Out” argues that humanity has never had the capability to investigate the proof of alien life, citing the Voyager One mission as well as the breakthroughs of today’s supercomputers. But what makes the advertisement more convincing are the names who have associated themselves in the cause- from cosmologist Stephen Hawking, Astrophysicist and ‘Interstellar’ consultant Kip Thorne to Actor Seth McFarlane and World Chess Champion Magnus Carlsen, along with eminent scientists and academicians.  

‘Breakthrough Initiatives’ is a new Search For Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence (SETI) project that was behind the advertisement and the high profile announcement. The project is the brainchild of Russian Tech Billionaire Yuri Milner, who has until now placed money in some of the biggest tech companies such as Facebook, Twitter, Flipkart and Ola. The $100 million project will hunt for signs of life in outer space with scientists from around the world using open data and software to ensure total transparency in what is the biggest SETI project ever undertaken till date.

“The reason I was interested in launching this initiative was because there is a big, philosophical question which people have been asking for years, are we alone in the universe? I thought it is a big enough question for someone to do something about,” Yuri told Times Of India. Stephen Hawking, who was present at the launch of the Breakthrough Listen in London, explained the significance of the project. “We believe that life arose spontaneously on Earth, so in an infinite universe there must be other occurrences of life. Somewhere in the cosmos perhaps intelligent life may be watching these lights of ours, aware of what they mean,”

The 10-year-long project will see scientists and researchers based in the University Of Berkeley come together as they work on two of the world’s most powerful telescopes-Green Bank Telescope and Parkes Telescope. The ‘listening’ project will include an effort to analyze the vast amounts of radio signals in search of signs of life and a messaging program, which will give one million dollars in prizes to those which best represent the Earth. The ‘Listen’ program aims to pick up anything, which is being broadcast from 1,000 of the closest stars to Earth.

Space exploration has always been a top priority for many countries-from exploring Pluto to India’s own tryst with Mars and yet, the public sector initiatives never presented a dedicated exploration of alien life. It seems the void of such an exploration is being filled by the private sector, heeding the advice of Mulder and Scully in its initiative and exploration - “The Truth Is Out There.”