Stephen Hawking used to think that looking for aliens was a bad idea, as he reasoned that once they knew we exist, they might be prone to wiping us out. He’s changed his tune, though, and now thinks that the search is important enough to lend his name to a $100 million effort to find intelligent life elsewhere in the universe. “In an infinite universe, there must be other occurrences of life,” Hawking said at the launch of Breakthrough Initiatives. “It’s time to commit to finding the answer, for the search for life beyond Earth. We are life, we are intelligent, we must know.”
Using two of the world’s most powerful telescopes — the Green Bank and the Parkes — astronomers and scientists will ‘listen’ to the closest 100 million stars in the Milky Way, searching for radio waves that could emanate from advanced civilizations. In addition, nearly 100 galaxies will be surveyed, making the search the biggest in SETI history. It isn’t just about covering a vast area of Space. It’s about looking for specific light frequencies by examining 10 billion of them simultaneously. “In effect, we will listen… to a cosmic piano every time we point the radio telescopes, a piano not with eighty-eight keys but with ten billion keys,” said astronomer Geoff Marcy.