How will the Breakthrough Initiatives speed up the search for extraterrestrial intelligence?

Sir Martin Rees answers

The Breakthrough Initiatives will be a more sustained and sensitive search than was ever possible before. Each day, it will gather more data than in a year of any previous searches, and it is a 10 year program—all open source—which should allow sustained planning and encourage worldwide influence and involvement. It has secured time on two major telescopes, and a leading role will be played by Geoff Marcy and other Berkeley scientists.

Of course none of us is holding our breath for success. The stakes are so high that the effort is worthwhile even if the chance is small. If something manifestly artificial were detected, it would have huge cultural and scientific import even if it was coming from an entity so different from us that we couldn't decode any meaningful message.

Sir Martin Rees is the British Astronomer Royal, a Fellow of Trinity College, an emeritus professor of cosmology and astrophysics at the University of Cambridge, and a leader of the Breakthrough Initiatives