Among the many outstanding questions in science, ‘Are We Alone’ must be the one that captivates scientists and public alike. I have very fond memories watching the SETI screensaver on my laptop churn through data while and wondering if the big peaks in the fascinating looking graphs meant something had been found! That was a good few years back now but the search for ET continues. One such organisation spearheading the hunt is the SETI Institute and they have just announced a whacking great alien busting $200 million gift.
The SETI Institute was founded in 1984 with the simple mission to unravel the origins of life in the universe and just how common it is. Their research explores the physical and biological sciences, signal and communication technology and data analytics and to that aim partner with industry, academic organisations and government agencies. Unfortunately they only have access to fairly limited amounts of Government funding so rely heavily on philanthropic donations.
One such fabulously generous donation has come from the estate of Franklin Antonio, the co-founder of communications chip Qualcomm. He was already one of the main donors to the Institute but say passed away in May 2023 leaving a wonderful gift in his will. Antonio was not just a benefactor to the SETI Institute though, he was actively involved with the technical team too and was heavily involved with the Allan Telescope Array having applied his communications skills to its upgrade.
There are over one hundred scientists working at the Institute but with the limited government funding, its donations from the likes of Antonio that allow them to continue their research across 173 separate programs across astronomy and astrophysics, exoplanets, planetary exploration, Astrobiology, climate and bio-geoscience and of course the search for extraterrestrial intelligence.
The funding will enable the Institute to to expand their plans and research by;
- Establishing postdoctoral fellowships and grants for science and education programs,
- Enabling the Institute’s research to expand and extend its reach through new collaborations,
- Developing new educational initiatives focussing on under represented communities,
- Supporting development of observational technology initiatives and analytical instrumentation.
No-one knows when or indeed if we will ever discover alien civilisations but thanks to Antonio, the Search for ET can continue for years to come.