The Breakthrough Listen Project (SETI)


Aug 19, 2003
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RUSSIAN BILLIONAIRE YURI Milner made his name throughsavvy investments in social media companies like Facebook. But now the theoretical-physicist-turned-tech-tycoon is sinking $100 million into science’s most quixotic quest: the search for extraterrestrial intelligence. Announced today, the ten-year Breakthrough Listen initiative will conduct the most comprehensive sweep of space for signals from intelligent aliens ever.


Gone But Not Forgotten
Aug 7, 2001
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Prof Stephen Hawking backs venture to listen for aliens
By Pallab Ghosh Science correspondent, BBC News

Prof Stephen Hawking has launched a new effort to answer the question of whether there is life elsewhere in space.
The venture is said to be the biggest yet in support of the search for extra-terrestrial intelligence.
The 10-year effort will listen for broadcast signals from a million of the stars closest to Earth.
The £64m ($100m) initiative was launched by the Breakthrough Initiatives group at the Royal Society in London.

Speaking at the launch, Prof Hawking said: "Somewhere in the cosmos, perhaps, intelligent life may be watching these lights of ours, aware of what they mean.
"Or do our lights wander a lifeless cosmos - unseen beacons, announcing that here, on one rock, the Universe discovered its existence. Either way, there is no bigger question. It's time to commit to finding the answer - to search for life beyond Earth.
"We are alive. We are intelligent. We must know."

Those behind the initiative claim it to be the biggest scientific search ever undertaken for signs of intelligent life beyond Earth. They plan to cover 10 times more of the sky than previous programmes and scan five times more of the radio spectrum, 100 times faster.
It will involve access to two of the world's most powerful telescopes. - the Green Bank Telescope in West Virginia and the Parkes Telescope in New South Wales, Australia.
Among those involved in the search is Lord Martin Rees, the Astronomer Royal.
"The search for extra-terrestrial life is the most exciting quest in 21st-century science. The Breakthrough Initiatives aim to put it on the same level as the other ultimate scientific questions," he said.
The public will be invited to participate in efforts to find a signal from another world through the [email protected] project.

Yuri Milner, a high tech US based-billionaire and founder of the initiative said technology had developed to a point where it was possible to put listening for signs of extra-terrestrial intelligence on a proper scientific footing.
He said: "Current technology gives us a real chance to answer one of humanity's biggest questions: Are we alone?
"With Breakthrough Listen, we're committed to bringing the Silicon Valley approach to the search for intelligent life in the Universe. Our approach to data will be open and taking advantage of the problem-solving power of social networks.

Prof Hawking added that he believed the search was one of humanity's most important scientific endeavours.
"To understand the Universe, you must know about atoms - about the forces that bind them, the contours of space and time, the birth and death of stars, the dance of galaxies, the secrets of black holes," he explained.
"But that is not enough. These ideas cannot explain everything. They can explain the light of stars, but not the lights that shine from planet Earth.
"To understand these lights, you must know about life. About minds."

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Parish Watch
Staff member
Oct 29, 2002
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East of Suez
I wish I knew more about this kind of thing, but even the popular articles tend to lose me--a layman--in jargon before long.

We’ve just seen 15 new mysterious cosmic radio bursts from space

By Leah Crane

One of the most mysterious objects in space just got even weirder. A group of researchers just found 15 new fast radio bursts, all from the only one of these objects that we’ve ever seen repeat.

Fast radio bursts (FRBs) are some of the universe’s strangest phenomena: powerful radio signals that flash from distant space for milliseconds and then disappear. They have been attributed to everything from black holes to extraterrestrial intelligence.

Because they’re so brief, and because radio telescopes can only watch a small area of the sky at a time, only about 2 dozen FRBs have ever been detected. Of those, only one has been observed to repeat: FRB 121102, which resides in a dwarf galaxy about 3 billion light years away from Earth.

Now, researchers with the Breakthrough Listen initiative, a $100 billion search for signs of intelligent life in the universe, have detected 15 more pulses from FRB 121102.

Short Article Concludes:
Similar Report Here:


Aug 26, 2005
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These aren't attempts at communication - who would expect to get an answer back grom a galaxy three billion light years away? But they might be the unintended consequence of very advanced technology. A distant civilisation three billion years ago might have found out how to crack the cosmogenesis problem, and created a new universe to live in. This is incidental radiation from the creation of a baby universe.

This idea was suggested by Lee Smolin in his 'Fecund Universes' theory - new universes can be born out of old ones, leading to a process of natural selection for universes.
By tweaking the initial starting conditions, a sufficiently advanced civilisation might be able to create a universe that is more suitable for life than our own - and then go off and live in it.

One of the more unusual answers to the Fermi Paradox - sufficiently advanced civilisations create their own universes and don't bother with our, less-than-perfect, example.

Eric Hoffman

Gone But Not Forgotten
Mar 15, 2016
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A press release put out by the Breakthrough Listen organization, which funded and organized the project says; “Possible explanations for FRBs range from outbursts from rotating neutron stars with extremely strong magnetic fields, to more speculative ideas that they are directed energy sources used by extraterrestrial civilizations to power spacecraft.”


Delineated by a professional cryptozoologist
Jul 13, 2013
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Now, researchers with the Breakthrough Listen initiative, a $100 billion search for signs of intelligent life
Utterly, utterly impossible budgets, New Scientist!! Shame on you

Article amended on 1 September 2017
We have corrected the budget of Breakthrough Listen
That's a thousand times better, thank-you!! Or as a British publication, might that even be a million times better?

In space, no-one can hear you scream about the casual errors lurking within popular science and it's associated media reporting.

Cue the revised data regarding the quantity of repeat FRBs from one unique constellation sector....."Well, we said 15...but...."

I have what I fear may be a valid technical question. Since this global array of radiotelescopes must somehow emulate NASA's DSN geotopical equipositioned acquisition sites (but, by definition, not in every sense of that requirement) how certain are the FRB project leads that this dataset outlier is not a aggregation artefact?

And dare I, as the arch-skeptic who doesn't even believe in the existence of all sceptics also close was this discovery made, on timeline, relative to the end of this project's funding stream?? Hate me all you want, for saying this. I'm just absolutely looking forward to being told that this data was obtained during the project's first quartile of current budget funding, and not it's last....

Shout me down, world, for being a cynic...but, more importantly, tell me I'm wrong nb I merely query this financial information point based upon personal paranoid projection, I've not yet researched it. But when/if I do, I shall attempt to be more fiscally/chronlogically-accurate than the 10*^3 (or 10*^6) reporting error made by New Scientist.
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I knew the job was dangerous when I took it ...
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Jul 19, 2004
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Out of Bounds
Researchers with the Breakthrough Listen initiative made a presentation and released a huge dataset today. This was apparently the second data release since the initiative got underway.
Looking for aliens who might be looking for us

Data from a massive search for cosmic radio emission released Feb 14. by the Breakthrough Listen Initiative--the most comprehensive survey yet of radio emissions from the Milky Way--has allowed astronomers to look for technological signatures of extraterrestrial civilizations that might be looking for us.

Breakthrough Listen--based at the University of California, Berkeley--announced the public release of the data as well as research investigating these "technosignatures" at a media briefing Feb. 14 in Seattle, Washington, as part of the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

The new research, led by Penn State graduate student Sofia Sheikh, is inspired by a technique Earth-bound astronomers use to identify and study planets outside of our solar system--exoplanets--called transit photometry. The technique relies on sensitive equipment like NASA's Kepler space telescope to detect the infinitesimal dip in a star's light as orbiting planets pass in front of the star from our line of sight. In this new search for radio emissions, the astronomers looked for radio emissions from 20 nearby stars that are aligned with the plane of Earth's orbit such that an alien species around those stars could see Earth pass in front of the Sun with such a telescope of their own.

The team used the Green Bank Telescope in West Virginia to look for radio signals from potential exoplanets in the so-called C-band, radio waves with a frequency between 4 and 8 gigahertz. The project was conceived by Sheikh, who started the work as an undergraduate at UC Berkeley and who also led the data analysis. She checked billions of frequencies for strong radio signals using one of the largest radio receivers in the world, the Green Bank Telescope.

"This region has been talked about before, but there has never been a targeted search of this region of the sky," Sheikh said. "If other civilizations have telescopes like ours, they would know that the Solar System has planets from their transits, and even know that Earth has life. That is how we have discovered thousands of other exoplanets, so it kind of makes sense to extrapolate and say that that might be how other intelligent species find planets as well. And if they know we're here, they might be signaling us."

While Sheikh and her team found no technosignatures of civilization, the analysis and other detailed studies the Breakthrough Listen group has conducted are gradually putting limits on the location and capabilities of advanced civilizations that may exist in our galaxy.

"We didn't find any aliens, but we are setting very rigorous limits on the presence of a technologically capable species, with data for the first time in the part of the radio spectrum between 4 and 8 gigahertz," said Breakthrough Listen principal investigator Andrew Siemion, who presented the media briefing. "These results put another rung on the ladder for the next person who comes along and wants to improve on the experiment."

Sheikh noted that her mentor, Penn State Professor of Astronomy and Astrophysics Jason Wright, estimated that if the world's oceans represented every place and wavelength we could search for intelligent signals, we have, to date, explored only a hot tub's worth of it.

In this and other SETI searches, Siemion said, Breakthrough Listen looks for electromagnetic radiation that is consistent with a signal that we know technology produces or some anticipated signal that technology could produce, and that is inconsistent with the background noise from natural astrophysical events. This also requires eliminating signals from cellphones, satellites, GPS, internet, Wi-Fi, and myriad other human sources.

In Sheikh's case, she pointed the Green Bank Telescope at each star for five minutes, pointed away for another five minutes, and repeated the process two more times. She then threw out any signal that didn't disappear when the telescope pointed away from the star. Ultimately, she whittled an initial million radio spikes down to a couple hundred, most of which she was able to eliminate as Earth-based human interference. The last four unexplained signals turned out to be from passing satellites.

"My search was sensitive enough to see a transmitter basically the same as the strongest transmitters we have on Earth, because the targets were nearby," Sheikh said. "So we know that there isn't anything as strong as our strongest radars beaming something at us. Even though this is a very small project, we are starting to get at new frequencies and new areas of the sky." ...

Breakthrough Listen released nearly 2 petabytes of data, about half of which comes from the Parkes radio telescope in New South Wales, Australia, and half from the Green Bank Observatory. This marks the second significant release of data from the four-year old search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI). A petabyte of radio and optical telescope data was also released last June, which, at the time, was the largest release of SETI data in the history of the field. With these releases, Breakthrough Listen is inviting the public to search the data for signals from intelligent civilizations.

"Since Breakthrough Listen's initial data release last year, we have doubled what is available to the public," said Breakthrough Listen's lead system administrator Matt Lebofsky. "It is our hope that these data sets will reveal something new and interesting, be it other intelligent life in the universe or an as-yet-undiscovered natural astronomical phenomenon." ...