You Won’t Believe How Much These Guys Are Spending to Look for Aliens

Jul 20, 2015 at 1:51 pm |
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stephen hawking yuri milner aliens

(Photo by Stuart C. Wilson/ Getty Images)

Stephen Hawking: renowned astrophysicist, Honorary Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and… alien hunter?


Lots of celebrities believe in aliens, Hawking himself included. So naturally, it’s no surprise that the brilliant mind is involved in the world’s latest—and extremely expensive—attempt to make contact with other lifeforms. What’s truly surprising is his newest business partner: Russian billionaire Yuri Milner.

The entrepreneur and internet tycoon announced that he would be spending $100 million over the next ten years on Breakthrough Initiatives, one of the priciest and most comprehensive projects to date in the ongoing Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI). Breakthrough Listen, the first segment of the program, will use some of the world’s largest telescopes to survey the 1,000,000 closest stars to Earth—covering the Milky Way and the next 100 closest galaxies—for any signs of extraterrestrial life. Milner boasted that the undertaking will cover ten times more of the sky than ever before, making it a thousand times more effective than any previous search for aliens.

The entire project will be open sourced, meaning scientists and researchers from around the world are able to get involved, analyze data, and even create their own applications to further look for signs of life out there. Another component of the project is Breakthrough Message, a $1 million competition to decide what message to send out in space should we find signs of life. “Somewhere in the cosmos, perhaps, intelligent life may be watching these lights of ours, aware of what they mean,” said Professor Hawking.

When asked if he believed in aliens, Milner responded, “The universe is not teeming with life, but we’re probably not alone. If we were alone, it would be such a waste of real estate. But I don’t want to be the judge, I just want to help find an answer.”

Stephen Hawking is now an alien hunter. But could this money go to better causes?