Searching for ET: Hawking to look for extraterrestrial life

Searching for ET: Hawking to look for extraterrestrial life
Renowned physicist Stephen Hawking sits in front of a presentation image during a press conference in London, Monday, July 20, 2015. Renowned physicist Stephen Hawking and Russian tech entrepreneur Yuri Milner are pushing the search for extraterrestrial life into higher gear. The pair said Monday the $100 million "Breakthrough Initiatives" program funded by Milner will harness computer power as never before in a search of the heavens. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)

Renowned physicist Stephen Hawking and Russian-born billionaire Yuri Milner on Monday announced an ambitious bid to combine vast computing capacity with the world's most powerful telescopes to intensify the so far fruitless search for extraterrestrial life.

Hawking, who speaks using a computer-generated voice due to the effects of motor neuron disease, explained the reason for the $100 million project: "We are alive. We are intelligent. We must know."

Milner, who made a fortune through investments in companies like Facebook, said the power of Silicon Valley technology and innovation would be used.

"The scope of our search will be unprecedented: a million nearby stars, the galactic center, the entire plane of the Milky Way and 100 nearby galaxies," Milner told a packed press conference at the Royal Society in London.

Organizers say the "Breakthrough Initiatives" project, also endorsed by other prominent British scientists, is the biggest ever scientific search for alien life. It includes a "listening" program—the effort to analyze vast amounts of radio signals in search of signs of life—and a "messaging" program that will include $1 million in prizes for digital messages that best represent the planet Earth.

The messages will not be sent, however, in part because some scientists—including Hawking—fear messages sent into space could possibly spur aggressive actions by alien races.

It will be supported by the 100-meter Robert C. Byrd Green Bank Telescope in West Virginia in the United States and the 64-meter Parkes Telescope in New South Wales, Australia.

In addition, the Lick Observatory in California will conduct a deeper-than-ever search for optical laser transmissions.

The project will be 50 times more sensitive than earlier searches, and will cover 10 times more of the sky, organizers say.

It will also make use of SETI@home, a University of California, Berkeley project that uses some 9 million volunteers throughout the world who donate computer power to search astronomical data for signs of life.

Milner said the search will be entirely transparent and will rely on open-source software so findings can be shared throughout the world.

"Our approach to data will be open and taking advantage of the problem-solving power of social networks," he said.

The researchers say the focused computing power and the use of some of the world's most powerful telescopes will allow them to collect in one day the same amount of data that would have taken one year to collect before the program began.

Milner plans to back the program for at least 10 years although scientists agree it may take longer to find proof that alien life exists.

Hawking said the new program should succeed because it has ample resources: access to time on major telescopes, a huge data capacity, and a long-term financial commitment that will not be withdrawn.

"If a search of this sophistication finds no proof, that is an interesting result," he said. "It will not prove that we are alone but it will narrow the possibilities and it is likely to produce data that is fascinating in its own right."

Based on new information about the number of other worlds where life could have taken hold it is "quite likely" humans are not alone, he said.

"There is no bigger question," Hawking said. "It is time to commit to finding the answer to search for life beyond Earth."


Explore further

Stephen Hawking to appear at Glastonbury music festival

© 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Citation: Searching for ET: Hawking to look for extraterrestrial life (2015, July 20) retrieved 18 June 2019 from https://phys.org/news/2015-07-hawking-extraterrestrial-life.html
This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.
144 shares

Feedback to editors

User comments

Jul 20, 2015
The same old adage. Time will tell.

Jul 20, 2015
This comment has been removed by a moderator.

Jul 20, 2015
They fail to realize the futility of this project.

Unless the aliens are specifically trying to be noticed by us, we are not going to detect (and understand) their signal.

If they are using broadband communications, the information on individual frequencies will appear like random noise, because you don't have the context to know how many frequencies are involved in the transmission, and which order the data is encoded among those frequencies. Thus it will all appear as random noise.

You don't know how their data is formated, nor how their machine is designed to encode/decode data, nor even what type of data it might be, so how do you expect to even recognize real data even if you did happen to see it among background radiation?

Are you expecting to intercept left-over/stray signals from "cell phone" calls between multiple aliens?

Or maybe you think it's like "Contact" and the aliens are beaming a continual stream of data to us, and we just have to find it and recognize

Jul 20, 2015
If you believe you've found a text message, you can find the indefinite article, definite article, and prepositions by sorting the words by commonality. In human languages, the definite article is always the most common word, and the prepositional word "of" is usually the second most common word, although I otherwise didn't use it at all in this paragraph besides quoting it.

Maybe the alien cell phone users use short hand and emoticons too...

"C U L8r :)"

Jul 20, 2015
I do not believe every civilization will be social, some aliens may want to be left alone, not like some humans who have to know every little thing that is going on in the world or universe, some I believe exist but choose to not be social beings.

Jul 20, 2015
The academic fraudster Hawking at it again.

Jul 20, 2015
Yeah, what does he know of the Bible?

Jul 20, 2015
You don't even know how many characters are in the aliens' alphabet, nor what type of alphabet it is. There may be a few characters, like our own, or there maybe thousands like Chinese and Japanese, or there may be millions like the Unicode.

Unless the aliens are deliberately trying to be understood, and I mean like transmitting number sequences and alphabet sequences in combination with their message, to get your attention and deliberately help you decypher their grammar and syntax...you simply are never going to understand the message, in fact you won't even recognize the message unless they are doing something deliberate to be recognized by a stranger, again something like transmitting a number sequence or alphabet sequence.

This endeavor is silly.

Human beings don't go around transmitting sequences and cyphers of grammar and syntax rules in random directions, nor to one another, so why do expect aliens to do so?

Jul 20, 2015
You literally have a much higher chance of being contacted by intelligence via prayer, and I do recommend you pray often.

Ask God to speak to you and show you the ultimate Truth.


Jul 20, 2015
Ask God to speak to you and show you the ultimate Truth.


Why we need to ask god Cher? We got you to show us without us asking.

Jul 20, 2015
This comment has been removed by a moderator.

Jul 20, 2015
Absolutely hilarious that the same two or three attention-starved, jobless trolls post the same nonsense early and often on every P.O. article.

As for the endeavor, I suspect we'll still need to get incredibly mathematically lucky to find a signal despite the increased search, but I wholeheartedly support the effort. Finding an extra terrestrial signal would be the single greatest achievement in human history.


Sorry, but the discovery of electricity and the development of the vaccine far trump whatever knowledge you might gain from aliens.

Anything less than warp drive or time travel would not even be in my top 5 greatest discoveries in human history.

Jul 20, 2015
This comment has been removed by a moderator.

Jul 20, 2015
I keep thinking about fifteenth-century Native Americans addressing the question, "Are there any other tribes out there?" Their subsequent experience with other tribes from across an ocean - technologically equivalent to "space" - was not a good one. Not because the Spanish and Portugese and English were not good people, but because goal-seeking intelligences can be expected to pursue our "good" in ways not well understood. Rather like Musk and others have suggested in the context of AI, I don't expect every sentient self-aware life form to share my objectives in life.

Jul 20, 2015
Imho I think it's a waste of money! Not that I think there we are alone but that I think the money would better spent on helping our technology to improve propulsion of probe drives. Only just a few minutes I was reading (http://www.space....5-07-20) that NASA is offering small grants for research into ideas. My opinion is that this propulsion research for robotic probes can serve several purposes in one, more efficient engines (for larger payloads), increasing our knowledge of our own SS and they might lead to probes carrying updated signal/messaging equipment. And of course faster robotic probes might reach an 'alien traffic lane', if such exits, sooner (just a joke really but I think it stresses the point)

Jul 21, 2015
Notice the heiroglyphics on the metals in the wreckage at Roswell. They never were diciphered simply because they were ideograms meant to discourage translation by not providing a consistant reference frame like sound of the 'letters'. We would do well to mark the parts of our stellar travel machines in Chinese too. Marks on parts describe function and we may not want others to back engineer our stuff so quickly. We may be more advanced in this universe than we think we are. Others in even our local group probably will not share much unless an ulterior motive. I think we are being 'helped' right now inasmuch as we have come too far too fast to have done it ourselves since 1947.
With that Wyle particle, we now stand on the threshhold of greatness as we now have the infinite power carrier, a trans-lightspeed conduit of plasma for infinite magnetism, for efficient fusion, for earth to space in a small shuttle powered by a compact fusion source like focus fusion powrd EmDrives.

Jul 21, 2015
Notice the heiroglyphics on the metals in the wreckage at Roswell. They never were diciphered simply because they were ideograms meant to discourage translation by not providing a consistant reference frame like sound of the 'letters'.


LOL! What a silly load of cr*p. Those 'hieroglyphs' (look up the word if you don't know it instead of making a complete ass of yourself by butchering it) were simply little pictures on the balsa-wood that was purchased at a TOY STORE.

Only people with no understanding of history AT ALL can dismiss the Project Mogul-explanation for what happened at Roswell. Sad people make up stories about alien crashes when the truth is just as interesting. But the truth doesn't have any spacemen in it, so these people prefer to listen to Giorgio Tsoukalos telling them that aliens built everything up to and including the Empire State Building.

Jul 21, 2015
There's nobody out there.

* Don't get up gentlemen, I'm only passing through. *


Jul 21, 2015
While SETI is certainly a worthwhile endeavour I doubt we'll find anything by listening to radio signals.
- More primitive cultures don't send them
- More advanced cultures know how to not waste energy by sending in all directions indiscriminately (heck, WE know how to do that)
- The more advanced a civilization the less 'overpowered' signals are (i.e. less of a signal goes to anything that is not directly involved in getting it from A to B)
(- More advanced civs may not use radio at all (speculation))
- Sending radio messages is utterly pointless once you have interstellar space travel capabilities (much more so once you have space travel that is an appreciable fraction of c).

So that leaves only civs that have just invented radio but not yet even minimally advanced antennas/receivers. As these are likely low power civs the radius for detectable signals is only a few dozen light years (at best).

Not a winning proposition.

Jul 21, 2015
Maybe we'll find a civilization with an outstanding technology level. A loud, careless civilization, not feeling concerned being watched or heard by us.
It could show us everything or nothing at all. Trying to understand and explain what aliens can or can't do when we clearly don't know enough to be sure leads nowhere. Like this new search? That, again, we don't know.
Wait and see. Maybe there'll be something to be seen.

Jul 21, 2015
Hoking may think that he is entitled not to love God, but there is no reason to do so. Because if he had the right attitude to God would have be enlightened in the darkness of outrageous speculation called science by some very strange criteria. It seems that some too blatant people misuse with his dire physical condition that causing sympathy and compassion in people, to make certain suggestions in society.
You're an idiot on so many levels.

I can't think of a better way to turn people away from your religion than to have you posting here.

Keep up the good work.

Jul 22, 2015
I rarely agree with the demi-troll Otto, but he's spot on here!

Jul 22, 2015
I rarely agree with the demi-troll Otto, but he's spot on here!
I rarely care what the full-on troll tommyq has to say, nor do I care now.

Jul 22, 2015
"I rarely care what the full-on troll tommyq has to say, nor do I care now."
------------------------------------

Life must have been hard on you to make you so offensive.

Jul 22, 2015
"I rarely care what the full-on troll tommyq has to say, nor do I care now."
------------------------------------

Life must have been hard on you to make you so offensive.
"Oh, indeed, psychopaths can imitate feelings, but the only real feelings they seem to have - the thing that drives them and causes them to act out different dramas for effect - is a sort of "predatorial hunger" for what they want.

Jul 22, 2015
I do not know about others, but I find it interesting to see you come apart emotionally.

All bullies are just cowards.

Jul 22, 2015
I do not know about others, but I find it interesting to see you come apart emotionally.

All bullies are just cowards.
"Manipulation is the key to the psychopath's conquests. Initially, the psychopath will feign false emotions to create empathy, and many of them study the tricks that can be employed by the empathy technique. Psychopaths are often able to incite pity from people because they seem like "lost souls" as Guggenbuhl-Craig writes. So the pity factor is one reason why victims often fall for these "poor" people."

-Poor george feels picked on because people here feel justified in exposing his lies and the sorry nature of his character.

Too bad george.

Youre not going to get away with it.

Jul 22, 2015
Gosh, otto, I thought by now you would be sick of embarrassing yourself with your raw and adolescent emotions. I guess not.

Don't stop - it's great to see you come apart. Don't let me "get away with it"!

Jul 22, 2015
Gosh, otto, I thought by now you would be sick of embarrassing yourself with your raw and adolescent emotions. I guess not.

Don't stop - it's great to see you come apart. Don't let me "get away with it"!
We wont. We're in your head. Better crack open another bottle of anti-psychosis.

"What is the one thing a sociopath does not want other people to know? The truth. More specifically, sociopaths do not want the truth about them to be known as they are insecure, malicious, and devious people. Beyond being embarrassed by the truth of their behaviors and thoughts, they have a deathly fear of being exposed and rejected. "

Jul 22, 2015
"Beyond being embarrassed by the truth of their behaviors and thoughts, they have a deathly fear of being exposed and rejected. "
-------------------------------------

That's right,otto. I gave out my real name and business, but you are still HIDING behind a pseudonym, like you bragged about, playing your "games" with the rest of us.

It's pure adolescence.

Jul 22, 2015
"Beyond being embarrassed by the truth of their behaviors and thoughts, they have a deathly fear of being exposed and rejected. "
-------------------------------------

That's right,otto. I gave out my real name and business
-And like I say myself and others have been busy exposing WHAT you are.
but you are still HIDING behind a pseudonym, like you bragged about, playing your "games" with the rest of us.

It's pure adolescence
And so youve given out your alleged education and experience. But a responsible adult who wanted people to know these things would assemble a comprehensive list along with dates.

Put this on your website.

We already know you have had at least a dozen jobs as a temp, job shopper, 'consultant', etc, and you claim that this was according to some plan of yours.

So a list would make it obvious that each successive job was an improvement.

Can you prove that george?

Jul 22, 2015
We know who I am, but all we know about you comes from your bragging about being a lurker, a sniper, hiding behind phony names. You said you like variations of "otto". We will look for them.

Again, I think you are a small group of freshman fraternity candidates, trying to get into a "forever adolescent" boy's group. The inability to know what engineers do for a living is telling.

Then, your inability to rein in your puerile emotions, screaming dirty words in all caps, accusing others of poor character betrays your true character to all of us just reading and watching you go ballistic.

Now, let's get off your fascination with me, and back to the issues here. Perhaps you need a nap?

Thanks.

Jul 22, 2015
We know who I am
-And because of the efforts of many people on this site we now know WHAT you are.
accusing others of poor character
And as you know the accusations are valid.
Again, I think you are a small group of freshman fraternity candidates
-So its a group now? It must be a group of young brilliant upstarts who can take on the great george kamburoff.
your puerile emotions
-but as I have often pointed out, even a high school freshman knows that fallout is not the MAIN cause of lung cancer.

Only a moron could think he could get away with that one.

Jul 22, 2015
I am flattered by your attention, otto, but you drive other commenters away when you start your nonsense.

Do I have to apologize for being real, and making you look ridiculous? You did to yourself, otto, unable to control yourself.

Jul 22, 2015
and making you look ridiculous?
Im not the one who continues to claim that there mustve been an H2-initiated Pu explosion at fukushima, and then claim that it mustve been an aiirburst because there is no crater.

Thats pretty fucking ridiculous dont you think?

"What seems to be so is that conscience and feelings are related to the abstract concepts of "future" and "others." It is "spatio-temporal." We can feel fear, sympathy, empathy, sadness, and so on because we can IMAGINE in an abstract way, the future based on our own experiences in the past, or even just "concepts of experiences" in myriad variations. We can "predict" how others will react because we are able to "see ourselves" in them even though they are "out there" and the situation is somewhat different externally, though similar in dynamic. In other words, we can not only identify with others spatially - so to say - but also temporally - in time.

"The psychopath does not seem to have this capacity."

Jul 23, 2015
No matter how many terms like "sociopath" and "psychopath" you lace it with, pseudo-psychology is still hokum, Otto. You're a completely fake, bitter demi-troll who has nothing to offer except abuse, non sequitur personal attacks and pathetically inadequate amateur attempts at psychological analysis, yet you seem to labour under the delusion that you are an insightful, intelligent contributor to meaningful discussion, a superman picking out the untermenschen. Your flirtations with fascism are as obvious as they are incoherent, and your standard list of pseudo-intellectual psychology is as tired as it is desperate.

Not that this is going to get through to you, but it is very funny to see that you exhibit most of the traits you ascribe to sociopaths, psychopaths and, especially, narcicists. Irony impaired, Otto?

Jul 23, 2015
Some things are too hot to touch
The human mind can only stand so much
You can't win with a losing hand.

People are crazy and times are strange
I'm locked in tight, I'm out of range
I used to care, but things have changed.

Jul 23, 2015
Not that this is going to get through to you, but it is very funny to see that you exhibit most of the traits you ascribe to sociopaths, psychopaths and, especially, narcicists. Irony impaired, Otto?
Sorry tommy q I dont lie, I dont cheat, I dont make up bullshit facts about science and then expect people to believe that theyre true simply because I post my real name along with obviously phony stories about bullshit experience and education.

People who do that here need to be constantly harassed and exposed for doing so.

And they will.

I respect the amount of effort it takes to become real engineers and scientists and would never pretend that I know more than they.

And I do admit it when Im wrong.

You ever do that tommy q?

Or do you just get all huffy and pouty and defend obvious psychopaths just to try to get even for past defeats?

Jul 23, 2015
He has you,otto, as do many of the rest of us. This one of your "games" about which you bragged is over. Perhaps it is time for you to use one of your other sock puppet pseudonyms.

Or you can just take your bruised ego and slink away. You thought you spotted another sneak, another liar, one like you, so you tried to "out" me, repeatedly, and each time I proved who I am and what I did. You stay as a sniper, anonymously, taking up space and driving serious folk away.

Please take your little self away.

Thanks,

The Decent Folk

Jul 23, 2015
@Otto
Serious question, have you checked any of his service/employment claims? I'd be interested in any links you could provide. I did a quick poke around a coupla months ago, found nothing to suggest he's lying about them.

Jul 23, 2015
@gkam
Otto does not have any sockpuppets.

Jul 24, 2015
Kepler 452...maybe WE came from there ha!

Jul 24, 2015
The physicist Stephen Hawking is known to the public thank to the mass media mostly with his hypotesis for the evaporation of black holes. There is no doubt that it is interesting but the main problem for it is that black holes do not exist in our physical reality. First must appear in our physical reality to be able to evaporate later eventually. These objects exist only in tne imagination of vain scientists speculators to make career and impression to more unfamiliar with physics people.

Jul 24, 2015
Sending radio messages is utterly pointless once you have interstellar space travel capabilities (much more so once you have space travel that is an appreciable fraction of c).


The energy cost of a signal is far less than shipping people across star systems.

Type 2 and Type 3 civilizations' member states, if they exist, do not trade in commodities. They trade in information for further technological development.

Don't believe me?

We aren't even Type 1 yet, and we are already doing it via Google and science discussion forums and online science publishing sites, like Arxiv.

It is much cheaper to send the blueprint of a new invention to that other star system, than it is to manufacture a bunch of copies of the invention, put them on a starship, and then burn a million tons of anti-matter to fly a ship to the other star and back.

I discussed this concept of type 3 "information harvesting" years ago.

"There is no knowledge that is not power."

Jul 24, 2015
Unless the aliens discover some radically advanced energy source, like Zero Point Energy or harnessing Dark Energy itself (whatever it is and if it exists at all), then travelling between stars as a "trade route" really just is never going to happen.

If ZPE is possible to harness, and something like a true warp/wormhole drive can be invented, that might be another story, but even with zero point energy, travelling to another star would still be annoying and risky.

The "aliens" (angels or demons or whatever they are) who come here are probably higher dimensional beings, based on ancient religious descriptions as well as modern experiential testimonials including my own experience, so stepping between the stars would be easy to them.

If we wanted to consistently travel to other stars, finding a way to manipulate the 5th dimension would be needed. ZPE or some form of Higgs Field control device, or something like that, would be needed.

Jul 24, 2015
The only incentive to fly to another star with any technology we are likely to have in the near future (such as fusion rocketry if we ever figure fusion out) is COLONIZATION for the purpose of expanding human knowledge and survivability.

What does the parent civilization get?

Eventually they get a few extra billion brains on another planet thinking of new technologies and doing new astronomy, and once in a while an extra "Einstein per generation" on that newly populated planet.

Knowledge is all you trade between planets, because knowledge is power in a type 2 and type 3 civilization.

Jul 25, 2015
I know, you guys can't think like that, because our existing corporate model is about funneling money to the CEO's hands.

Type 2 and Type 3 civilizations plan things hundreds and even thousands of years ahead of time. They have to, because the types of machines they need to make to sustain themselves and keep prospering require millions and even billions of man-hours of planning to design and build.

The existing corporate/capital model in the U.S. would never work for a type 2 or type 3 civilization, because our people simply cannot conceive of how commerce would be done.

Moreover, you have been given the false impression by entertainment, such as Star Trek, that people would fly around in a space ship with a warp drive at 1000 times the speed of light, and trade with other civilizations; Mysteriously powered by a half-kilogram of anti-matter per year plus some stray hydrogen gas from the background.

In all likelihood no such technology will ever be invented.

Jul 25, 2015
To give you an idea of how pathetic our economic model is, the ISS is a pathetically small project compared to an orbital solar platform project, and pretty much nobody except science fiction and positive futurists even considers those projects yet, because the corporate model and our governmental model do not support the form of economics which would evolve out of a full transition to a type 1 civilization and to a type 2 civilization with so-called "Dyson Swarm" platforms for habitation or for collecting energy and mass to construct and power mining equipment for the asteroid belt or other planets.

They don't consider it because it is inconceivable to their small, narrow-minded view of the definition of "wealth" and more importantly who should control said wealth.

Solar energy and even raw materials abundant, as a Dyson collector could and would do, would be a disruptive technology which would crush the existing slave-economics model that has persisted for 5000 years.

Jul 25, 2015
If the aliens are in fact coming here already, and apparently they are, then they already have something better than Anti-matter or Fusion. Fusion isn't efficient enough, and anti-matter is too unstable to be safe as a fuel source for propulsion. Moreover they have a more powerful physics model than either Relativity or QM, otherwise they wouldn't be able to make a machine capable of tapping whatever energy source they use in-flight, and they wouldn't be able to just lfy around at relativistic, speeds because the travelers timeline with respect to their homewords' timelines would get out of sync by thousands and even millions of years each time they made a journey between stars. The first relativistic travelers might return home to their planet to find the planet destroyed, or else, time having passed more quickly for them, radically advanced to the point stellar engines no longer matter. Why make a relativistic engine if it's guaranteed obsolete the first time it's used?

Jul 25, 2015
The aliens are smart enough to evade our leaders' detection.

I mean think about how incompetent our leaders are.

Anyone capable of building a space ship capable of coming here from another star would be *ahem* light years ahead of us, pun intended. So evading our military and certainly our incompetent civilian government would be no problem.

If they are capable of extra-dimensional travel or wormhole travel, then it is just as easy to send photons through a wormhole and communicate with the other ship or the other planet directly, without using radio transmissions as we know them....they'd be able to hold a "live" conversation across thousands of light-years if that is the case....if they have such technologies, and our puny concepts of technology would not be able to detect them unless they wanted to be seen, much less put up any sort of real resistance against a full scale invasion.

Orsen Wells had it right though. Viruses are our defense against space aliens.

Jul 25, 2015
The aliens are the Thetans sent by Xenu.

Tom Cruise told me confidentially.

Jul 25, 2015
@Returners 'Orsen Wells had it right though. Viruses are our defense against space aliens.' Unless, of course, they have strains that we haven't seen or even contemplated and are much worse for us than ours is for them...assuming they exist, that is.

Jul 26, 2015
The aliens are the Thetans sent by Xenu.

Tom Cruise told me confidentially.


Talk about the meltdown of the century. No wonder Nicole divorced him.

Not to worry though, Hollywood, and the American idiocracy, has no problem funneling another 20 Million to him via "mission Impossible 4".

The false "Church" of Scientology will gladly accept your donations so they can remove all of your Thetans for you, temporarily, of course....until the next sequel that is.

Jul 28, 2015

Orsen Wells had it right though. Viruses are our defense against space aliens.


That would be H.G. Wells, not Orson Welles.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more