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Microsoft's Paul Allen Funds ET Search 314

Chris Gondek writes "Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, one of the richest men on Earth, today pledged to donate $US13.5 million ($17.99 million) for research into extra-terrestrial life. With the contribution, Allen will have given $US25 million ($33.32 million) for construction of the Allen Telescope Array (ATA), a network of 350 radio telescopes being built to find signs of life in space, said Thomas Pierson, director of the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) Institute."
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Microsoft's Paul Allen Funds ET Search

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  • by SwansonMarpalum ( 521840 ) <redina AT alum DOT rpi DOT edu> on Sunday March 21, 2004 @12:14PM (#8627493) Homepage Journal
    Microsoft is looking to hire!
    • by rlp ( 11898 ) on Sunday March 21, 2004 @12:19PM (#8627534)
      That does it! This is taking outsourcing way too far!
      • by An Onerous Coward ( 222037 ) on Sunday March 21, 2004 @01:58PM (#8628193) Homepage
        Seriously, it would probably work the other way, as the aliens moved their high-polluting, unskilled manufacturing processes here to Earth. They'd buy our labor for a few hundred thousand a year (pennies on the dollar when compared to the cost of labor back on Xaphodbrox). We'd all be rushing out to buy Xaphian language tapes, learning to chat about their politics and sports (an odd cross between polo and mud wrestling), staffing their call centers and reading scripts we only barely understood, and buying up their nifty technology while local industries perished.

        Meanwhile, back on the Motherworld, the people would be consoling themselves, saying that humans were great for cheap labor, but thank god they aren't capable of real creativity. Then a hundred years down the road, we'd lob a bunch of nukes at their planet, each lovingly engraved with, "Is THIS creative enough for ya?"

        T'will be interesting times, indeed.
        • Seriously, if the ETs haven't already eliminated the need for work with automation (robotics + nanotech + AI), then the retards deserve to be nuked. :)

          And if it happens that they DO have an economy of abundance, but are being assholes by enforcing artificial scarcity because of their old evolutionary psychology, then they need to be nuked ten times over.


    • Re:Obviously... (Score:3, Interesting)

      by useosx ( 693652 )
      Well, actually, this is just simply a triumph of capitalism.

      I mean if our businesspersons need some reason to want to make 10 kagillion dollars a week. If it's the search for some sort of adolescent fantasy [] in space or simply just stamping their face on the moon [] then so be it.
    • I Thought (Score:3, Funny)

      by Greyfox ( 87712 )
      They were looking for someone who liked them. It's getting pretty hostile for them here on Earth. Either that or a new customer base. Everyone knows Aliens run Apple. That's why their networks run Appletalk and are succeptable to virusses written on Apple computers. Maybe Microsoft's looking to push into that market.
  • He mentions $US and $? What is the anonymous $ value?
    • The article is taken from an australian site, the adress could have lead you to an easy answer (
      • Yeah, but the blurb is on an American site, you'd think the editors would convert the amounts into US dollars and leave it at that.

        Nevermind that other countries shouldn't be using "$" for their currency to start with (the origin of that symbol was writing a "U" over an "S", doesn't really make sense for other countries to us it, huh?)
        • by Anonymous Coward

          That's only one of a competing set of theories regarding the origin and function of the dollar sign. The etymology itself is pretty easy, but the sign has a number of possible explanations []. (Scroll to the bottom.)

          For instance, the theory you advanced was popularized by Ayn Rand.

          • Well, it's not quite so cryptic -- the article you cite lists the "pillar peso" as just one theory, as if it was no more supported than crackpot theories by the likes of Rand-- but take a look at the peso itself [] -- it is difficult for anyone who has seen it to doubt that that was the origin of the dollar symbol
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 21, 2004 @12:16PM (#8627505)
    The radio telescopes will measure the density of the early universe, the formation of stars and magnetic fields.

    They will also be capable of searching for "possible signals from technologically advanced civilisations elsewhere in the galaxy," according to a SETI statement.

    The announcement of Allen's donation coincided with the completion of the project's research and development phases, which Allen funded with an $US11.5 million ($15.33 million) donation.

    The $US13.5 million donation will pay for the first two phases of construction of the ATA, according to the statement.

    One network of 32 telescopes will be available for research by the end of 2004 and the entire network of 350 telescopes will be completed "late in the decade," it said.

    SETI and the Radio Astronomy Laboratory of the University of California at Berkley teamed up for the ATA project.

    "I am very excited to be supporting one of the world's most visionary efforts to seek basic answers to some of the fundamental question about our universe and what other civilisations may exist elsewhere," Allen said in a ceremony in Mountain View, California, where SETI is based.
  • by capn_buzzcut ( 676680 ) on Sunday March 21, 2004 @12:17PM (#8627517)
    Darl McBride's cranium first. Lots of space there.
  • by Average_Joe_Sixpack ( 534373 ) on Sunday March 21, 2004 @12:17PM (#8627520)
    What software will be used to interpret any readings gathered by these telescopes? I mean using a trojan infected XP box could lead to an intergalactic incident if these telescopes wind up port flooding the aliens' array.
    • I mean using a trojan infected XP box could lead to an intergalactic incident if these telescopes wind up port flooding the aliens' array.

      I can see it now...we receive a long, elaborate Contact-style message only to find out that what was sent to us across the lightyears is "H4H4 PWN3D N00B WTF".
  • Very Sneaky (Score:5, Funny)

    by SeaDour ( 704727 ) on Sunday March 21, 2004 @12:17PM (#8627522) Homepage
    This is obviously part of a grand scheme to transmit free copies of Microsoft Office to nearby star systems.
  • ah... (Score:5, Funny)

    by Raagshinnah ( 670749 ) on Sunday March 21, 2004 @12:18PM (#8627529)
    ah so that's why all those UFOs have been crashing

    thank you, i'll be here all night

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 21, 2004 @12:19PM (#8627533)
    will he get the blue busy signal of death?
  • it's INTELLIGENT life..

    this is why it will fail....

    if you want to fund life search, you have to GO THERE, or do things like look for chloryphll (sp?) in planetary atmopsheres

    they are LISTENING, when they should plan on LOOKING

    • I wonder, given a finite amount of money/resources, whether it is better to spend millions or billions on searching for ET intelligence or to spend it on research and development of our own space technologies. I suppose that sort of question can't be answered without knowing the odds of finding something, and you don't know that until you do!
    • We're listening for anything likely to be a radio communication, like the radio signals we've been sending out into the galaxy for the past hundred years. Sure, we'll only discover any life forms that happen to have invented wireless communications, but you have to be pretty intelligent to do that anyway.

      (Also, there is no way to measure characteristics of planets outside our own system with present technology. We can only detect them at all by observing their indirect effects on the measurable character
    • by s20451 ( 410424 ) on Sunday March 21, 2004 @12:41PM (#8627669) Journal
      if you want to fund life search, you have to GO THERE

      I was reading a NASA report on the prospects for interstellar travel. Basically, you would have to create a self-contained biosphere that would function for hundreds or even thousands of years; construct an enclosure that would last that long under erosion from particles with relative velocities that are a significant fraction of the speed of light; find a power source that would last that long and provide propulsion to accellerate such an enormous vehicle to a significant fraction of light speed; find a way to accurately navigate interstellar space, when our knowledge of stellar positions is imperfect; and find volunteers who would not only have no chance of returning to Earth, but who would have children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren who would never live anywhere except the spacecraft, in total dedication to the mission. Even assuming the technical hurdles could be overcome (which the report said are beyond existing or forseeable technology), the report noted that this last point would require extreme devotion that challenges the most stringent religions on Earth.

      To solve the human factor, I think it's inevitable that interstellar astronauts will have to be genetically altered humans, possibly with qualities such as extremely long lifespan, low food requirements, devoted obedience, and hibernation.

      Sending a probe to another star system is probably also beyond existing technology, but would probably be possible within the next century or so. The device would have to weigh at most a few pounds (by comparison, the Cassini probe weighs about a ton), again withstand interstellar pounding, and yet have enough energy to communicate its findings back to Earth (not at all trivial -- remember the inverse square law; with existing technology, Voyager's data rates at Pluto's distance are a few hundred bits per second).

      So until about the year 2100, listening is about all we got.
  • Should say "With the contribution, Allen will have given $25 million ($33.32 million CAN)"

  • Just... (Score:5, Informative)

    by Bishop, Martin ( 695163 ) on Sunday March 21, 2004 @12:21PM (#8627556)
    A little interesting... What does run? []
  • ATA? (Score:2, Funny)

    by reedk ( 43097 )
    Seems like a lot of an ATA array. I can get 'em off newegg for $100!
  • by krray ( 605395 ) * on Sunday March 21, 2004 @12:26PM (#8627580)
    Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, one of the richest men on Earth, today pledged to donate $US13.5 million ($17.99 million) for research into extra-terrestrial life.

    Of course -- Microsoft _needs_ to find new customers. We both know that...

  • In spite of... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by robslimo ( 587196 ) on Sunday March 21, 2004 @12:26PM (#8627583) Homepage Journal
    The negative thoughts that many /.ers have for Microsoft in general and their top men in specific, Both Gates and Allen have long been active philanthropists. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation [] benefits "global health and learning" (directed by Bill Gates' father).

    As mentioned in the story, Paul Allen has been a SETI supportor and funded the ATA.

    I like to think that if I commanded that sort of wealth I would be as generous (as long as I'm dreaming, I'd be *more* generous).
    • Re:In spite of... (Score:3, Interesting)

      by jsebrech ( 525647 )
      Just because he gives a lot to charity he's a good guy? I don't think so.

      First of all, what is the percentage of what he gives to charity compared to his income, and how does that in turn compare to the nationwide average? If he doesn't give more proportionally than the average, I don't think he should get credit for it at all. Generosity lies in giving more than your share.

      Secondly, microsoft has monopoly pricing on windows and office. Every dollar that is above the pricing level there would be in a free
      • Re:In spite of... (Score:3, Informative)

        by A Bugg ( 115871 )
        Last time i heard bill and his wife had given away over 40 billion dollars, now thats second hand but even it even half right i would say he is giving more than his fair share.
        • $40B? I thought that was about how much he's currently worth. I'd be surprised if the total amount he's given away is more that $1B.
    • Re:In spite of... (Score:3, Insightful)

      by nathanh ( 1214 )

      The negative thoughts that many /.ers have for Microsoft in general and their top men in specific, Both Gates and Allen have long been active philanthropists. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation [] benefits "global health and learning" (directed by Bill Gates' father).

      Bill never donated a dime to any charity until he married Melinda. What does that tell you? It tells me that Bill is still the stingy bastard he always was but Melinda is a much better person.

      Of course, being gene

  • by mkro ( 644055 )
    Allen will have given $US25 million for construction of the Allen Telescope Array (ATA), a network of 350 radio telescopes being built to find signs of life in space

    If you build it, they will come. ...and KICK OUR ASS!
  • nothing changes (Score:4, Insightful)

    by jdkane ( 588293 ) on Sunday March 21, 2004 @12:41PM (#8627672)
    Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen ... 350 radio telescopes being built to find signs of life in space

    This is living proof that no matter how popular, powerful or rich a computer geek becomes, he never leaves his roots. The difference is instead of running SETI@home [] like the rest of the masses, instead he's funding such projects because he can -- plus it would be nice to have your name attached to an array of radio telescopes. Maybe he has to pay for each letter of his last name -- the latest being 13.5 mil to get the 'N' -- good thing he doesn't have a Russian last name.

  • $US13.5 million ($17.99 million)
    $US25 million ($33.32 million)

    Whats this value in the parentheses? Is this Paul Allen's money's performance rating?

    Or are we looking at what he actually gave, and what he'll claim he gave on his taxes?
  • by Cereal Box ( 4286 ) on Sunday March 21, 2004 @12:52PM (#8627728)
    ... since he's related to Microsoft, this contribution has to be wrong or evil for some reason.

    Come on, get those conspiracy theories going already!
  • by angle_slam ( 623817 ) on Sunday March 21, 2004 @12:54PM (#8627745)
    For those who don't know, Paul Allen co-founded MSFT with Bill Gates back in 1975. He left the company in 1983 due to health reasons (Hodgkins Disease), though he kept much of his stock holdings and a seat on the Board of Directors. He later became a "Senior Strategy Advisor" [] to MSFT after he left the Board, though it is not clear that he still has that position with MSFT.

    While Paul Allen was an integral part of the formation of MSFT, he has had little say in the Windows era of the company and I don't think it is correct to say "Microsoft's Paul Allen".

  • by WheelDweller ( 108946 ) <WheelDweller&gmail,com> on Sunday March 21, 2004 @12:55PM (#8627751)

    Like with Starbucks and Mc Donalds, hasn't Microsoft reached saturation? Gotta sell those licenses somehow. And once they have our computers, further scientific study is EASY. We can just use spyware. :>

  • If contact is made, will Microsoft try and offer discounts on all it's products? The thought of an non-Microsoft OS must be rather scary.
    • A potential galactic civilization that uses something other than Microsoft? There go all the antitrust cases, at least assuming the aliens eventually went all open source.

      Terran Linux distros are "alien" to many people, but an actual alien Linux-like OS that has reached it's natural conclusion of ultimate usability and extreme functionality after a few thousand years of refinement? I'd use it, and I think a lot of others would too.

      Of course, any alien race would probably have drastically different erg

  • Oh, it's quite obvious as to what's going on here. You'd have to be an idiot not to see it.

    Microsoft wants to find someone/thing that has NOT heard of Linux.

    :: grins ::

  • by Felinoid ( 16872 ) on Sunday March 21, 2004 @01:05PM (#8627826) Homepage Journal
    I had no idea Microsoft owned Paul Allen. I had the idea that Paul Allen holds (or once held) partal ownership in Microsoft.

    How about Tech TVs Paul Allen?
    That IS a bit more recent and Tech TV has quite an anti-Microsoft bent to boot. Watch the Screen Savers. Leo Laport who's been with Tech TV from the days when it was ZDTV is a Mac Zellot and the Dark Tipper is a Linux supporter.
    It seams anyone on Tech TV who is vocal about Microsoft will bash them every chance they get.
    Some times Tech TV can be as bad as Slashdot.

    And who is behind all this antiMicrosoft bashing? Paul Allen.

    In short: Mr Allen dose not have Microsofts best intrests at heart.
    And I'm quite happy about that.
  • I wonder.... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by purduephotog ( 218304 ) <hirsch&inorbit,com> on Sunday March 21, 2004 @01:19PM (#8627959) Homepage Journal
    ... how many people currently bashing the donation would say the same thing if "Linus" gave it instead.

    Paul is also the sponsor of Space Ship One.

    If it helps the Microsoft bashing crowd, think of it as a 'tax' on those that don't know Linux is a better solution.... :)
    • Re:I wonder.... (Score:3, Insightful)

      by DigiShaman ( 671371 )
      For Joe Sixpack and the diehard gamers, Linux is NOT a better solution. If Windows is not an option, then I'll take Mac please.

      Remember, the amount of destros of Linux is equally it's downfall. Untill Linux becomes more standardized, I don't think your average PC users is going to invest into an OS with an uncertain future (regarding change and adaptation). Though I for one hope Linux dethrones Windows. I get angry everytime I hear about consumers having to pay the M$ tax. Grrrrrrrrrr

  • Why just listen? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by jsebrech ( 525647 ) on Sunday March 21, 2004 @01:25PM (#8627994)
    Why do we always just listen and never send? It seems we're afraid of actually making contact. What if the aliens are also being prudent and just listening? We could be listening to each other's silence for millenia.

    An alien civilization could be less than 20 light years away. At that distance, you could start a conversation. Sure, it would take decades for every answer, but you wouldn't have to wait for the answer to ask more questions. It would be the most historical event of the millenium, to learn that we aren't alone.

    I don't really understand the whole "prudence" argument either. If a civilization doesn't have interstellar travel, they pose no threat. If they DO have interstellar travel and are close enough to receive our signals, it would seem extremely likely they've already visited our solar system, studied its natives, and decided making contact wasn't worth it. Either way, it seems unlikely an alien civilization would show up "independance day"-style to destroy us.

    So why aren't we transmitting?
    • Wow. i just had a vision of hundreds of inhabited planets, with intellinget beings hoping there's extraterrestrial life. And all of them are listening.
    • Why do we always just listen and never send? It seems we're afraid of actually making contact. What if the aliens are also being prudent and just listening? We could be listening to each other's silence for millenia.

      Two valid reasons:

      1) Point the antenna/laser where? Since we don't know of anyone else sending, we don't know where to send. And broadcasting directed EM in any random direction is highly unlikely to hit pay dirt.

      2) Announcements are a poor survival strategy when in a new and unfamiliar envi
    • by ross.w ( 87751 ) <rwonderley&gmail,com> on Sunday March 21, 2004 @06:01PM (#8629244) Journal
      We are transmitting, and have been for over 70 years.

      Ever since the invention of radio transmissions, there has been an expanding bubble of random RF moving away from the Earth at the speed of light.

      Any sufficiently advance civilisation within 70 light years or so already knows we're here.

      Conversly, our own listening is far more likely to pick up an advertorial for a product to keep your tentacles young and scaly looking than any message intended for us.
  • When we finally do detect a signal of intelligent origin it'll probably be a stray porno signal.

  • we could tax 70% or more of Allen's money, which would yield billions. THen we could not only fund interesting science like searching for aliens, but we could also fund science research to cure cancer and heart disease and old age. And wouldn't THAT be nice.

    Pull your heads out of your asses, fellow Americans: social democracy and progressive taxation is the way to go, not corporate capitalism and flat rate taxation.....
    • by NineNine ( 235196 ) on Sunday March 21, 2004 @03:32PM (#8628603)
      Godd idea. Then lazy fucks such as yourself can sit on your collective asses while people like Paul Allen pay your way with their hard work while not being properly compensated fot it. Read "Atlas Shrugged", you ignoramus.
  • Does the array do anything else other then listen to the static?
  • Can you imagine if the first broadcast the aliens got from Earth was monkey-boy dancing around yelling "Aliens, aliens, aliens!"? They'd be launching a fleet to blow up the Earth within a day!
  • sounds like... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ShadowRage ( 678728 ) on Sunday March 21, 2004 @04:56PM (#8628951) Homepage Journal
    a big tax write off for allen.. of course, not everyone in the evil empire is necessarily evil....

    but still... might be two things, he might be interested in that stuff, and it will give him a nice tax write off.

    Though if I were as rich as these guys, I'd be donating money out whenever I could, regardless of tax, like Carnegie did, he donated a lot of money, and when he died.. he had his entire fortune donated and spread around.
  • Never heard of the guy.

The party adjourned to a hot tub, yes. Fully clothed, I might add. -- IBM employee, testifying in California State Supreme Court