Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Turning a deaf ear to the universe

The Kepler telescope has identified 1,235 possible planets in the habitable zone around other stars. So the logical next step is to turn our radiotelescopes on those solar systems and listen for electronic signs of civilization. Too bad we just turned off our most powerful tool, the Allen Telescope Array, for lack of a few million dollars per year. Operating funds came from the National Science Foundation and the state of California, both of which have cut back this year so severely that the array, half funded by Microsoft billionaire Paul Allen, has been shut down.
COMMENT: A day of scientific infamy. It's understood that there is never enough money for every worthy use, and we pay our leaders to choose between competing priorities. But surely we could pull a few million from somewhere (tobacco farmer subsidies, perhaps?) to keep our ear open to the universe.

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