Yuri Milner — RBC: "Stephen Hawking is our ideological leader"

The investor Yuri Milner will spend $100 million on the search for intelligent life in the Universe. The physicist Stephen Hawking is the ideological leader of the project. In an interview with RBC Milner spoke about the details of the search for extraterrestrial civilizations
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"This project has always been a Cinderella '

- What is the project?

- This is the biggest project in the history of the search for extraterrestrial intelligence. Its scale - $ 100 million over 10 years. Technically, it is organized as follows: we have signed contracts for the use of the largest telescopes in the world, in particular the Green Bank Telescope in America and Parkes telescope in Australia. These are the largest telescopes, which are at our disposal now, I mean, in our civilization.

These telescopes will be connected to the software and servers, which are specially designed for this purpose and developed. It will enable to process the signal at a rate that is several orders of magnitude higher than all previous projects of this kind. This means that we will process the same amount of information as early in the year during the day. The very first attempt to hear the signal was in 1960. It made a man named Frank Drake. He is one of the leaders of this project today.

- That is, if I understand correctly, we are talking about the revival of the project SETI?

- That's right, the revival and output it to a new level. This project has had a turbulent history, there was one time public funding, then it was gone, then any private investors - mostly from the second silicone Valley. Such as [William] Hewlett, [Dave] Packard, Paul Allen. But lately it's all come to naught, in both the public and private context.

- Who will finance this project?

- The money will be allocated through the Breakthrough Prize Foundation [Foundation involving Milner issuing Science Award]. But at this stage, only funding for mine.

- $ 100 million - it's your money?

- Yes.

- In most of the money will be spent?

- You know, we have signed some NDA [non-disclosure agreements, non-disclosure agreement], but I can say that there is some kind of dominant expense item, they are all there are roughly comparable.

- Speaking "at this stage", you hope that some people will join you?

- Maybe, but for the next ten years, changedI have a personal commitment [from English. - "Commitment"], and then we'll see. I am ready to support the project further, but it is open, some people can join. But this, I hope, will not determine the future of this project, because these resources will be enough to be dramatically strengthened compared with all that was before.

I would not have done the project if it is not something radically new. A radically new things here are a few. Firstly, the amount of time that we rent these scopes, it has never been used in such an amount for the project. This project has always been a Cinderella - it always pushes in the farthest corner, giving the hour here, two hours there, telescopes, I mean. And here is guaranteed to be a significant amount of time in five years on each telescope. We have signed long-term contracts.

- The project does not provide, for example, the construction of new telescopes? Only the use of already existing?

- Absolutely. Because in fact, such telescopes are constructed, they YaVlyayutsya outstanding engineering structures. Furthermore, the already constructed a number of new telescopes. And as these new telescopes will be put into operation, we will try to connect them too.

- I understand that the draft does not provide for any the KPI, depending on which you can change your mind to give money on?

- KPI no no, sit, looking, improve the software, improving the backend, connect the new telescopes, and we continue to look for. After 10 years, if you do not find, we'll again discuss the situation, and maybe another 10 years, prolonging.

- And who will write and improve this software?

- We have a group, the most powerful in the world today on the analysis of such information, in Berkeley, California. We are this group will seriously strengthen and give her more opportunities to improvise in this area. Software, we also open source, anyone can set it yourself. And we will develop a platform to people even wrote some applications for the analysis of these data.

In general, the project is open, and is the key word. Firstly, it is opened with theof view of the accession of other telescopes. Second, it is open in terms of the fact that all the data that we obtain in large numbers, we will open not only for scientists but also for amateurs, hackers, anyone. Transparency of information - this is a new approach to science, it seems to me. Because usually people try to keep it all, and we will open it.

- By the way, how do you feel about that same signal "Wow"? Do you think it's still there was something present or still random noise?

- You know, I've read all about the signal, of course, he repeatedly checked, it was not confirmed, but, among other things, it we will also check. We will also look at the source and try to see if there was something interesting. This is one of the objects of our observations. We will try to verify it.

What is the SETI project

SETI project (. English SETI, Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, «The search for extraterrestrial intelligence") - the common name of projects and activities to search for extraterrestrial intelligence. The main purpose and objective of the project - search for signals comingtons of these civilizations.

The beginning of the project is considered to be the publication in 1959 in the journal Nature. This is an article from Cornell University physicists Giuseppe Cocconi and Philip Morrison, "The search for interstellar messages" who believe that the current level of development of radio astronomy can detect radio signals sent by other civilizations that live in the not too distant from our planet. The authors assumed that intelligent civilizations may resort to this method, the brothers find in the universe, because the radio technology is simple and allows a signal to overcome long distances with minimal energy consumption.

In 1960, astronomer Frank Drake began to experiment "Ozma" Observatory Green Bank: as objects to search for signals were chosen close to our solar-type stars Tau Ceti and Epsilon Eridani. However, neither the "Ozma" or held in the years 1973-1976 in the same observatory project "Ozma II of" have not yielded positive results.

In 1971, funding for SETI projects proposed to take over the agency NASA, however, large-scale project "Cyclen ", providing for the construction of 1.5 thousand. telescopes, was not implemented. In cooperation with NASA astrophysicist Frank Drake and Carl Sagan prepared and in 1974 was sent in the direction of the star cluster M13 so called Arecibo Message. The message was a picture size of 23 x 73 points; scientists have designated it the position of the solar system, we placed the image of human beings and some chemical formulas.

The most striking episode of the SETI project is considered to be registered in 1977, a signal "Wow" (from the English Wow, written by Dr. Jerry Eymanom on the printout of the signal codes). Its characteristics are consistent with the theoretically expected from the radio signal of extraterrestrial origin, but again it failed to detect, and so far scientists there is no consensus about its origin.

In 1992-1993, NASA tried to revive work on the SETI project, but after criticism from the United States Senate public funding has been curtailed. Since 1995, in the field of SETI projects run on single private donations - the largest, until recently, the amount of about $ 30 million, vydelil one of the founders to Microsoft, Paul Allen. With this money, not far from San Francisco radio telescope was built, named in his honor.

"We focus on what is called intelligent life"

- What is involved in all of this Stephen Hawking?

- Stephen Hawking - this is our ideological leader. He, unfortunately, can not somehow operationally involved in this, but it is the main ideologue of this trend, and it's all very inspiring. Everyone, I mean, who is going to do with the operating point of view.

- In several interviews Hawking complained that there was no money for such a wonderful, in his opinion, the SETI project, and said that it would be good to find investors for it. This led to the idea you have about participation?

- Children's Dreams, plus his thoughts plus communication with a large number of specialists in this field. Actually, the story begins in 1961, when Yuri Gagarin was the first man in space, and President [John] Kennedy announced the launch of "Apollo" program. By the way, our announcement coincides with the date of landing the first men on the moon [July 20, 1969 tha]. In the same year I happened by chance to be born and I was named in honor of Yuri Yuri Gagarin. It was the first signal to me to think about the cosmos. Then I read different books and I became more interested in the topic not only space, but also life in the Universe. It was a book of Joseph Shklovsky "The Universe. Mind. A life". I read it in a relatively early age, she made a considerable impression on me.

Including in connection with this I became a physicist and then some time to do it. In 1987 in Moscow the first time I saw Stephen Hawking, who came to lecture, and I saw him the next time in 2012 in Geneva, when I presented the award Breakthrough Prize [Science Prize, which was established with the participation of Yuri Milner].

- Do Hawking has a lot of different ideas in the search for extraterrestrial life, including the idea of a manned expedition to Mars or flying to Europe, a moon of Jupiter. On Mars is going to fly Elon Musk - how do you feel about his project?

- Very positive attitude. I believe that we need to diversify. Especially if we are alone in the universe, then there is nowhere Denesya have somehow spread it. Because if there is no one, the responsibility lies on us.

- But you do not want to organize an expedition to Jupiter, Pluto? In the distant or nearby space?

- With regard to the near space, take the solar system, there is a sufficient amount of funding and in much larger quantities. Compete here with NASA or the Russian Space Agency, the Chinese or the Indians - this occupation is ... Well, here and Elon Musk is. Here, it seems to me, clearing already fully mastered, it is clear that we must do all the plans laid out for the next 20 years. Even the latest news, pictures of Pluto - outstanding. It seems to me that we somehow do not fast, but moving, but with regard to everything that is happening outside our solar system, where we have a complete zero funding. I think it would be right to focus on this: on the whole, that of the solar system, and there is a lot more likely than inside.

- What are the regions of the universe will be conducted searches of signals?

- With regard to the objects, they fall into a few categories. Eabout 1 million nearby stars to the Sun, is a central part of our galaxy, the Milky Way and nearby galaxies is 100, starting from the Andromeda and so on.

- Judging by your words, for the first time a program of action is already there, it is prepared and agreed upon?

- Yes, for the first 10 years we have clarity, what needs to be addressed. We are now starting to finance the project, which is called Optical SETI. Basically, two types of signals that we can detect the current level of technology: radio or optical signal. Optical signal - it should be a powerful laser that someone brings to us, huh? Optical design at the same time, we also announce it is another observatory called Lick [located in San Jose, CA], and there is modern equipment to search for laser signals it is also included in the project. As soon as people will appear some other ideas - and we expect the same idea to finance - will be a certain number of grants for the generation of new ideas in this field.

- It is within the budget of $ 100 million, or separately?

- In the framework. Well, because there are all sorts of ideas about gravity waves, neutrinos, a variety of thoughts expressed, and we will welcome all these ideas, and we will do what is currently technologically possible. And yet technologically possible are the only two areas - radio band, the so-called microwave and optical.

- In 2018 it is planned to launch the telescope "James Webb", which will replace the "Hubble" - in this project you will be involved?

- "James Webb" a little bit not so engaged, he is looking for, say, a life, the life of the tracks on the nearest planets. And we focus on what is called intelligent life, intelligent life. We are looking for traces of the civilizations that have collected on your radio and there is something sent.

Who and how to spend $ 100 million Milner

Over the next ten years, $ 100 million will be spent on work-time payment of 100-meter radio telescope "Green Bank" (USA) and 60-meter radio telescope "Parks" (Australia), as well as the subsequent treatment of the resultingdata, which is the responsibility Breakthrough Listen team working in Berkeley, California.

Team Breakthrough Listen will also support the non-profit project SETI @ home, including work on improving platform that unites 9 million volunteers around the world, providing the power of their computers for processing data for SETI project.

In addition, it will be declared an international competition with a prize pool of $ 1 million for the best message on behalf of humanity to extraterrestrial civilizations. As part of the budget is also expected grants and awards for new ideas in the search for intelligent life in the universe (the details have not been disclosed).

Among the project leaders responsible for the operational management, called the royal astronomer, cosmologist and astrophysicist Martin Rees, one of the SETI project founder Professor Frank Drake, a professor of astronomy at UC Berkeley's Geoff Marcy, Director of SETI Research Center Dan Wertheimer, a film producer and well-known popularizer science Anne Druyan, former director of NASA Ames research center and the current chairman of the Board of dirprojectors Breakthrough Prize Foundation Simon Pete Worden, as well as the director of SETI Research Center in Berkeley, Andrew Simenon.

The funds will be allocated through the Breakthrough Prize Foundation, whose board of directors, in addition to Milner include Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Alibaba Group Jack Ma and the former wife of Google co-founder Sergey Brin, Anne Vozhitski.

"Either we are alone, and that's great, or we are not alone, and it is also a super"

- The same Stephen Hawking said that there are two ways to establish contact with extraterrestrial civilizations - to try to catch the wrong signals and send their. Second, you're not going to do that?

- By the way, Hawking against the second approach. Because it's dangerous, we do not know who it could catch him. We are in this dialogue or dispute does not expect to participate, and do not intend to send signals, but we plan to do another thing. We will announce international competition with a prize pool of $ 1 million to the people who come up with the best message of which could be sent.

- That is just in case, let it be?

- Just in case, prepare and sendor send it - the scientific community is divided roughly in half. Some people headed by Hawking say that we should not, others say: "No, let's." And we do not want to participate in this debate, but simply want to say: "OK, you're there yet negotiate, and we've been thinking that, in fact, send."

- Imagine that you are lucky, and we catch a signal that will be sent to verify how a reasonable civilization. What are we going to do with it in this case?

- Firstly, the first thing I'll call you. It will be an interesting headlining, huh?

- For the public it will be a shock, awe or terror, probably, and for science for mankind?

- For the public all together, I guess. For me this question is a philosophical, existential, I would say. I believe that we, as intelligent civilization, must necessarily look for the answer to this question. We find if we have it, whether it will be done over the next 10 years, 20 or 50, but we simply can not, but are obliged to continue this project. Because any answer to this question is dramatic. Either ms one, and it is, in general, super, or we are not alone - and it's also super, but in a different way. But do not take the effort to get the answer - it is not a manifestation of the higher mind, I think.

Who is Yuri Milner

Yuri Milner was born in 1961 in Moscow. He graduated from the Faculty of Physics of Moscow State University, he worked in the Physical Institute of the Academy of Sciences (FIAN). In the early 1990s, he went into business. In 1999 he created the company netBridge, doling out a lot of Russian Internet assets, including the postal service Mail.ru. In 2005, together with Gregory Finger and Mikhail Vinchel founded the investment fund Digital Sky Techologies, which became the basis of the current Mail.Ru Group.

In 2008, Milner met with Alisher Usmanov, has invested more than $ 1 billion in shares of Western Internet companies, the largest of which was Facebook. DST Global Fund partners based only on the subsequent IPO Facebook earned about $ 2 billion then created DST Global II of the fund continued to invest in the Internet:. In Twitter shares of Chinese Alibaba Group and JD.com, Spotify service, AirBnB and others. The cost of most of these companies to the present time has increased several times.

HBeginning in a fund DST Global III, Milner and Usmanov ways parted: the main investors of new funds as stated Milner are international institutional investors, the full composition of which has not been disclosed. Among the most recent successful investment funds Milner and DST - Chinese Xiaomi, the first action that Milner had bought shortly after its founding in 2011, and the market value of which is now estimated at $ 45 ppb In 2015, Forbes estimated personal fortune Milner at $ 3.2 billion .

In 2012, Yuri Milner established the annual award for outstanding achievements in the field of fundamental physics in the amount of $ 3 million, in 2013 - "Award for breakthrough in mathematics" in the amount of the same $ 3 million, as well as co-founded the "Prize for a breakthrough in the field of medicine" together with the head of Apple's board by Art Levinson, the founder of Google Sergey Brin and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg.

As private companies to explore outer space


The first company to invest in the exploration of space, became a German joint stock company OTRAG, founded in 1975 as an engineer Lutz Kayser. OTRAG SpanishTyva Kaiser invented the rocket, first in the Congo and then in Libya. In 1983, Germany joined the non-proliferation of missile technology and demanded to withdraw from Libya OTRAG. In response, Libya has confiscated equipment Kaiser. To understand how it works, local scientists have failed. Kaiser continued to work in Sweden, but in 1987, closed the project. Later BDKRS businessman founded the company that is developing a rocket "Neptune".

Space tourism

2001, Eric Anderson, Space Adventures to start sending space tourists into orbit.

In 1996, the Innovation Support Fund X-Prize engineer Peter Diamandis founded the award in the amount of $ 10 million for a team that in two weeks will make two flights on manned suborbital spacecraft. In 2004, the prize was awarded to the developers of the shuttle SpaceShipOne. The project was financed by Virgin Galactic of Richard Branson. In the future Virgin Galactic plans to organize tourist flights.

space miners

In 2010, Diamandis with Eric Anderson created the company Arkyd Astronautics, in 2012, renamed in Planetary Resources. The company's goal is the production of raw material on asteroids. Planetary Resources plans to mine asteroids approaching Earth needs water for the astronauts, as well as platinum group metals (ruthenium, rhodium, palladium, osmium, iridium, platinum) for delivery to Earth. Prior to be able to go to the main task, Planetary Resources decided to take the issue of small space telescopes. Among the company's investors include Google top executives Larry Page and Eric Schmidt, chairman of Perot Systems board of Ross Perot, Jr., the director of "Avatar", James Cameron, and former top manager of Microsoft, Charles Simonyi, who was in space as a tourist.

Moon and Mars

In 2002, American businessman Elon Musk set up SpaceX company. In 2008, the company constructed a rocket Falcon 1, 2010 - a spaceship Dragon. SpaceX contract with NASA is engaged in the delivery of cargo to the ISS. Musk hopes that by 2040 it will be possible to establish a colony on Mars.

A study conducted by Bigelow Aerospace in 2013, showed that the most attractive space project for private investors - waspsoenie Moon. The very Bigelow Aerospace develops residential units, which will be accessible including the Moon. Two units have already been put into orbit. Company was founded by the owner of the hotel chains, Robert Bigelow, who invested in it more than $ 180 million.