The Search for Intelligent Extraterrestrial Life With Breakthrough Listen


Yuri Milner had been fascinated by the idea of intelligent extraterrestrial life ever since he was a little boy. Over time, that led him to begin a career as a physicist. He joined the Giving Pledge and started looking for areas of science that could benefit from private funding. One of those fields was the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI). With SETI deeply underfunded, Milner knew he needed to do something. As a result of Milner’s plans and goals, the Breakthrough Initiatives moved from concept to reality.

What Are the Breakthrough Initiatives, and How Were They Started?

In 2015, Yuri Milner partnered with Stephen Hawking to form the Breakthrough Initiatives, a set of space science programs that focus on alien life and helping humans become a space-faring species. The Initiatives were started to fill gaps in the space science area and showcase the value of searching for extraterrestrial life. Millions of dollars of new funding have been put into the program, from various donors who see the importance of what the program is trying to do.

The search for alien life has interested mankind for decades, but it was often something that was not taken as a serious scientific field. Thanks to Yuri Milner and the Breakthrough Initiatives, though, all that changed and developed into something different and far more significant. Since its creation, the program has attracted the attention of serious scientific leaders, as well as those who fully believe there are opportunities for humans to live among the stars, and that other species may already be there.

An Overview of Breakthrough Listen

Breakthrough Listen is a program that has helped transform SETI. Before the program launched, SETI was extremely underfunded and not getting the help and support it needed to foster advancement. Through the use of Listen, SETI has been developed into a rigorous and respected field of science that is continuing to grow and develop. For perhaps the first time, SETI is being taken seriously by a large majority of the scientific community, which has encouraged support and funding from many places.

Yuri Milner and Stephen Hawking launched Listen at the Royal Society in London. Among the most important scientific institutions, the Royal Society was an excellent launching point for such a valuable endeavor. Now that the Breakthrough Listen program is fully up and running, and has been in use for several years, it has increased the space for SETI experiments. It also works with innovations such as machine learning to make it easier and more efficient to detect signals that may not be coming from Earth.

Yuri Milner’s Thoughts and Giving Efforts

One of Milner’s most important works is his Eureka Manifesto. In this work, Milner discusses his interest in extraterrestrial life and the reasons he is fascinated by whether there are other species living among the stars. Additionally, Yuri Milner addresses how important it is for humans to become a space-faring species and to work their way into the stars as a second home. Milner couples these beliefs with the Giving Pledge, the Breakthrough Junior Challenge, and the Breakthrough Prize, to advance the success and prestige of science in our culture.

How the Program Works to Discover Alien Life

The Breakthrough Listen program that Yuri Milner co-founded has discovered several Fast Radio Bursts (FRBs) believed to have natural origins. The program has also identified radio signals that appeared to come from Alpha Centauri, but which were later found to be interference from terrestrial sources. However, the program continues to have significant value and is always listening for radio signals and other noise that could be extraterrestrial in nature.