How Artificial Intelligence is Assisting in the Search for Extraterrestrial Life


Bill Diamond, the chief executive of the Seti Institute, is faced with the daunting task of searching for potential alien life in a galaxy that contains between 10 and 50 billion habitable worlds. The Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (Seti) is a challenging endeavor, as it involves looking for evidence of life and intelligence beyond our solar system, which is akin to finding a needle in a haystack.

However, advancements in artificial intelligence (AI) have revolutionized the search for alien intelligence. Seti Institute has partnered with the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in New Mexico to develop an AI-powered software system that can process massive amounts of data captured by radio frequencies. The AI can analyze two terabytes of data every second, enabling researchers to search for new types of radio signals from alien sources.

Another project, Breakthrough Listen, is scanning a million stars and 100 galaxies using AI to distinguish between possible signals from aliens and interference. University of Toronto student Peter Ma developed an AI system to identify potential alien signals that traditional analysis may have missed.

AI is also being used to detect signs of life closer to home, such as on Mars. Nasa’s Perseverance rover has detected organic compounds on Mars, but it remains unclear whether they are derived from past life on the planet. The Carnegie Institution for Science is using AI to analyze rock samples for signs of present or past life, achieving an accuracy rate of almost 90%.

While the search for alien life is ongoing and results are yet to be confirmed, the use of AI in analyzing vast amounts of data is increasing the chances of detecting alien life if it exists. As Mr. Diamond notes, progress in this field is measured by the scale of the effort rather than immediate results.

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