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The topic of space exploration is fresh in everyone’s mind following New Horizons' close encounter with Pluto earlier this month. The expedition provided humanity with its first detailed look at the dwarf planet's icy surface and while incredibly fascinating, the ultimate question still remains unanswered: are we alone in the universe?
In a quest to help answer that eternal question, renowned physicist Stephen Hawking recently partnered with Russian billionaire Yuri Milner to launch a 10-year, $100 million initiative called Breakthrough Listen.
As the name implies, Breakthrough Listen doesn’t involve actively seeking out intelligent life beyond our planet but will instead listen for alien communications. It’ll do so using two major radio telescopes, the Green Bank telescope in West Virginia and the Parkes Radio telescope in Australia.
Listening for foreign communications is much more involved than it sounds and requires an immense amount of processing power to interpret recorded data. The Breakthrough Listen initiative aims to crowdsource data analysis using the collective processing power of modern-day smartphones. If you’re familiar with the SETI@home project, this is essentially the same thing.
Should you wish to participate, you can download the BOINC app via Google Play. Don’t worry, the app won’t run down your battery as it only operates when a device is plugged in and charging. Furthermore, data is only transferred over Wi-Fi as to not eat into your monthly data allotment (assuming you aren’t on an unlimited data plan). No word on whether or not a version for iOS is in the works.
Image courtesty Breakthrough Initatives