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Sunday 4 December 2016

Hawking backs bid to scan skies for alien life

Science

Renowned physicist Stephen Hawking has joined a Russian billionaire to launch a major new effort to listen for aliens in the search for life.

Hawking has offered his support to tech entrepreneur Yuri Milner's Breakthrough Initiatives project - a $100m (€92m) quest to see if extraterrestrial intelligence exists.

Milner, who made a fortune through investments in companies such as Facebook, said the power and innovation of Silicon Valley could be harnessed to search the entire Milky Way and 100 nearby galaxies.

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

As well as using some of the world's most powerful telescopes, the Breakthrough Listen project will support SETI@home, a University of California, Berkeley computing platform.

supercomputer

The project will have nine million volunteers donating spare computing power to a worldwide network, scanning the skies and looking for life - creating one of the biggest supercomputers in the world.

The researchers said 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 before the programme began.

Milner plans to back the programme for at least 10 years.

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