In Silicon Valley Paul Allen is best known for two things: his place among the multimillionaires, and his investments, sometimes ill-inspired, in various startups. But the cheque the Microsoft cofounder has just written has more to do with the stars in the sky than those in the business world.
Along with Nathan Myhrvold, Microsoft's director of research, Allen has donated $12.5m (about £7.75m) to a group of astronomers in the San Francisco region, for the construction of the largest-ever radiotelescope to be used in the search for alien life.
Allen has the funds to back up his generosity: his net worth is estimated at around $28bn. The donation will be used to construct from 500 to 1,000 parabolic antennae of five meters in diameter, which will synchronise to receive up to 50 million radio frequencies.
Until today, the Seti project for the research of extraterrestrial life has attempted to analyse the data collected 20 days per year by the radiotelescope of Arecibo, in Puerto Rico. The new ensemble will permit the collection of more precise data, and moreover will be available 365 days a year.
The project is expected to become a reality in 2005.
Translation by Matthew Broersma.
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