This is a pretty solid article about the new venture Hawking has become involved in. This is definitely worth a read, if you're into space, aliens, etc.
The search for extraterrestrial intelligence gets a $100m boost
A bold new programme financed by a Silicon Valley tycoon will revitalise the hunt for alien civilisations
IN 1959 a young astronomer called Frank Drake took a job at the Green Bank radio observatory in West Virginia. Thinking about the capabilities of the 26-metre dish under construction there, Dr Drake realised that, if it were used to transmit radio waves rather than to receive them, it would produce a signal which a similar telescope around another star would be able to pick up. For the first time, human beings had a technology for communicating with other solar systems—an idea which led immediately to the speculation that, if there were any aliens out there, they might already be doing something similar.
Five and half decades on, he joined Stephen Hawking, a physicist, and Martin Rees, Britain’s Astronomer Royal, to launch Breakthrough Listen, the latest incarnation of the search. It is an undertaking that would have seemed unbelievable back then. As of 2016, an unprecedented 15% of the observing time at Green Bank’s latest dish—which at 100 metres across has 15 times the area of its first—will be devoted to seeking signals from aliens. Rather than looking at just two stars, Breakthrough Listen will look at the nearest 1m, as well as looking more generally in the core and disc of the Milky Way, and 100 other galaxies to boot. Later in 2016 the project will add the 64-metre dish at the Parkes Observatory, in Australia, to its workforce. In time, further observatories will be pressed into service. Back in 1960, Dr Drake could listen in to just one radio channel at a time. The new effort will use cutting-edge electronics to scan some 10 billion simultaneously.
The optimistic gambler responsible for this new effort is Yuri Milner, a Russian entrepreneur and investor who has made a fortune in Silicon Valley. Mr Milner has a background in physics and a longstanding interest in space. His parents named him after Yuri Gagarin, who became the first human to orbit the Earth in the year of his birth. In 2012 he helped found the Breakthrough prizes, awarded to researchers who have helped to answer big questions in biology, physics and maths. Convinced that the existence of extraterrestrial life is the biggest question of all, he has committed $100m over ten years to Breakthrough Listen. The field has seen big philanthropic donations before—most notably from Paul Allen, one of the founders of Microsoft—but never on such a scale, and for such a long period.