Yuri Milner, a Russian billionaire and tech entrepreneur, announced today that he’s donating $100 million to a 10-year international effort led by UC Berkeley to make contact with extraterrestrial life. As the Chronicle reports, Berkeley has a major Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) project at its Science Space Laboratory.
[jump] Annual funding for SETI research is estimated at $2.5 million, with most of that coming from private foundations. Dan Werthimer, an engineer and astrophysical scientist at Berkeley, told the Chronicle that Milner’s donation is “a spectacular decisions that’s far beyond our wildest dreams.” The money will allow the university to listen for radio signals on 100 billion channels simultaneously.
Berkeley will begin listening for space life early next year, using two radio telescopes — one in West Virginia, which scans the Northern Hemisphere, and the other in Australia that scans the Southern Hemisphere.
According to The Verge, 53-year-old Milner pursued a PhD in physics before switching to business. Milner also announced a $1 million competition, Breakthrough Message, to create messages that can be sent to aliens.
Lewis Ball, director of the Australian observatory, told the Chronicle, “making contact could be one of the most significant scientific discoveries you could ever contemplate, and while the likelihood of contact is small, its implications would be enormous.”