Russian billionaire Yuri Milner plans to invest $100 million on a team of researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, to learn more about intelligent alien life. The venture capitalist’s claim to fame in the U.S. were his early bets on Twitter and Facebook.
With the influx of cash, the researchers will reportedly be able to collect more data in one day than they previously collected in a year. The team will rent two of the largest telescopes in the world for their research for the next 10 years. The telescopes are from New South Wales, Australia, and West Virginia.
Milner’s money will help some of the leading scientists in the world, including legendary figures like Stephen Hawking. “It is time to commit to finding the answer to search for life beyond Earth,” Hawking, 73, said in London, as Russia Today reported. “We are intelligent; we are alive; we must know.”
Around a billion stars closest to Earth will be surveyed as a part of the project. The search will be “100 times better than any previous search for intelligent life in the universe,” said Geoff Marcy, chairman of the SETI Institute, as reported by the Wall Street Journal. [SETI means "search for extraterrestrial intelligence."]
Milner, with an estimated net worth of $3.4 billion, said he would spend at least $10 million every year for a decade on the research program, called “Breakthrough Listen.” He also plans to give $1 million as a reward for a “Breakthrough Message” -- a method for the best possible communication with alien life.
The 53-year-old Russian billionaire invested $200 million in Facebook in 2009. The social networking website was valued at $10 billion at that time. It was recently valued at nearly $245 billion.