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Technologists Allen and Myhrvold give SETI $12.5 million for revolutionary new telescope
01 Aug 2000

Investor and philanthropist Paul G. Allen and former Microsoft chief technology officer Nathan P. Myhrvold will fund the development phase of a new telescope at UC Berkeley that will be the world's most powerful instrument designed to seek out signals from civilizations elsewhere in our galaxy.

SETI telescopesAllen will provide $11.5 million and Myhrvold $1.0 million for a total gift of $12.5 million over three years. The announcement was made Aug. 1 by the SETI Institute, the world's largest private organization conducting research to determine whether intelligent life exists beyond Earth. The institute is a nonprofit organization based in California's Silicon Valley.

The announcement follows the April unveiling of the first prototype of the telescope, which is being designed jointly by astronomers and engineers at the SETI Institute and UC Berkeley. Announced last year under a working title that described its 10,000-square-meter collecting area - the One Hectare Telescope - the project will be renamed the Allen Telescope Array.

"For the first time in our history, we have the ability to pursue a scientifically and technologically sophisticated search for intelligent life beyond Earth at the same time we are doing traditional radio astronomy," said Allen, a long-time financial supporter of SETI and of scientific research in a variety of fields. "This new telescope will be the world's most powerful instrument for this search, and I am pleased to support its important work."

The primary electronics laboratory to be built on site in support of the Allen Telescope Array will be named for Myhrvold. A longtime SETI advocate, Myhrvold was a member of the international 'blue ribbon' team of scientists and technologists engaged in a two-year strategic planning effort in the late 1990s from which the Allen Telescope Array concept emerged.

"The Allen Telescope Array and associated laboratory are the latest steps in our exploration of the cosmos," said Myhrvold. "While the best scientific estimates tell us the probability of intelligent life elsewhere in the universe is fairly high, there is great uncertainty and some controversy in the calculation. One thing however, is beyond dispute. That is, if we don't continue supporting projects like the Allen Telescope Array, our chances of discovery will remain at zero. While it's impossible to predict exactly what we will find with a new scientific instrument, we should remember that interesting science is not just about the likelihood of end results -- it is also about the serendipity that occurs along the way."


Full SETI press release

SETI Institute web site

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