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Listening for alien civilizations

LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 20: (L-R) DST Global Founder Yuri Milner, Theoretical Physicist Stephen Hawking, Cosmologist and astrophysicist Lord Martin Rees, Chairman Emeritus, SETI Institute Frank Drake, Creative Director of the Interstellar Message, NASA Voyager Ann Druyan and Professor of Astronomy, University of California Geoff Marcy attend a press conference on the Breakthrough Life in the Universe Initiatives, hosted by Yuri Milner and Stephen Hawking, at The Royal Society on July 20, 2015 in London, England. (Photo by Stuart C. Wilson/Getty Images for Breakthrough Initiatives) *** Local Caption *** Yuri Milner; Stephen Hawking; Martin Rees; Frank Drake; Ann Druyan; Geoff Marcy

Why should we search for life in the universe? Such an amazing complex question.

There are many reasons. For me the most compelling two are 1) to find out how our own planet works by watching other worlds, both older and younger than ours, to piece together the life story of an Earth and get a first glimpse in our potential future, 2) to find out if we are alone in the universe or not.

Listening for civilizations that build technologies like ours is one very specific search approach. A planet needs to be in the radio age – or if we switch to laser light signals – in the laser light signal stage. Even with billions of other rocky worlds out there, it is a fascinating question how far away the next radio-age world would be? A find would of course be amazing. And start a whole new age of trying to understand such a message. Listening for such signals just got some private funding from Yuri Milner.

How many other forms of life could be out there? It is nearly as complex a question as to why we are searching.


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