Stephen Hawking has teamed up with Russian tech entrepreneur Yuri Milner to seek out sounds of extraterrestrial life in the cosmos, AP reports.
Milner made his name by investing in tech start-ups like Facebook, but also has a soft spot for the final frontier. He recently dropped a load of cash into a giant, new Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) project called "Breakthrough Initiatives," which will hunt for signs of life in outer space. Milner is in league with scientists worldwide, and has said the project will use open data and software, meaning total transparency. With a budget of $100 million, it's by far the biggest SETI project in history.
Professor Hawking has come on board for a portion of the undertaking called Breakthrough Listen, which will allow a bunch of scientists to press their ears up against the Milky Way and listen for any alien rumblings. Breakthrough Listen plans to pick up anything broadcast from the 1,000 closest stars.
Humanity won't be sending out any radio signals of our own, at least not this time around, for fear of pissing off some aliens with a bunch of spam from Earth.
During today's live-streamed launch, Hawking said, "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."
"There is no bigger question," Hawking continued. "It is time to commit to finding the answer to search for life beyond Earth."