News & Views
Is $100 Million Enough to Find Alien Life?
Aug 14 2015
The question of whether or not humans are “alone” in the universe has been toyed with for thousands of years. From Giordano Bruno’s eccentric ideas during the Italian Renaissance, Immanuel Kant’s 1755 star inhabiting alien theories, contemporary pop culture’s science fiction infatuation and NASA’s next generation space expeditions, the search for extra-terrestrial life is age old.
Russian billionaire pioneers alien exploration
Now, Russian entrepreneur Yuri Milner has upped the ante with a $100 million investment endorsed by some of the most talented astrophysicists on the planet, including Stephen Hawking. The cash will be used to fund the Breakthrough Initiative, a 10-year scientific study fronted by two of the most powerful telescopes in the world. The plan is to use the instruments to directly observe one million of the closest stars to Earth, and detect any technologically advanced civilizations that could exist outside of our solar system. Stealing the spotlight is the Breakthrough Listen programme which will focus on exploring the entire scope of the universe’s electromagnetic spectrum. While in the past searches have encompassed just 2% of existing frequencies, the new programme will boast 100% coverage.
Frank Drake, lead scientist for the Breakthrough Listen programme explains, “There’s a certain part of the spectrum where universe is darkest and quietest, and 2% has been searched. The new search is 100% of the promising radio spectrum, the low-noise radio spectrum which is one to 10 gigahertz.”
Will $100 million make the cut?
Milner’s plan is to fund the development of an ultra-sophisticated space-based telescope capable of tracking down and observing life on other planets. But is the eye-watering figure enough to find alien life? While the project is widely considered as one of the boldest and most significant scientific endeavours ever undertaken, some critics maintain that the sheer scope of the universe simply can’t be tackled with such a ‘small’ investment. The project represents a new era of advancement for space science yet despite its value, the capital needed to explore the universe in-depth would require an investment roughly a hundred times more than Milner’s cool $100 million.
That said, scientists have hailed the project for its potential to reveal whether or not single-celled bacteria evolution creates highly complex sentient organisms on other life supporting planets.
As well as being at the forefront of space exploration Russia also plays host to a myriad of other innovations. ‘Renowned Russian Research Institute Uses Thermal Imaging to Monitor Temperatures in Siberian Permafrost’ examines how the nation is using thermal imaging cameras to research permafrost conditions and develop intelligent designs for the monitoring of roads and railways.
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