Astrophiz 165: ‘Are We Alone?’ Dr Vishal Gajjar

“Are We Alone?


In an exclusive interview, Dr. Vishal Gajjar, a leading researcher on the Breakthrough Listen project, discussed his groundbreaking work using machine learning and AI to facilitate the detection of technosignatures on the project’s search for Extraterrestrial life.

The Breakthrough Listen project, led by the University of California Berkeley and the SETI Institute, is one of the most ambitious efforts to search for intelligent life in the universe. Using some of the world’s largest radio telescopes, the project scans the cosmos for signs of intelligent civilizations, such as radio signals and other technosignatures.

Dr. Gajjar, who is a principal investigator on the project, is using AI to help analyse the vast amounts of data generated by the telescopes. “The amount of data we collect is enormous, and it would be impossible for humans to go through it all,” he explained. “Using machine learning algorithms, we can sift through the data much more efficiently and identify patterns that might indicate the presence of a technosignature.”

One of the key challenges of the project is distinguishing between signals that are truly indicative of Extraterrestrial life and those that are just background noise. Dr. Gajjar’s AI algorithms are able to filter out false positives, making the search for technosignatures more accurate.

The use of AI in the Breakthrough Listen project is not only increasing the efficiency of the search for Extraterrestrial life, but it’s also pushing the boundaries of what we can do with this technology. “We’re using AI in a way that it’s never been used before,” said Dr. Gajjar. “It’s exciting to think about the potential implications of this work, not just for our understanding of the universe but also for other fields like medicine and finance.”

The Breakthrough Listen project is a 10-year initiative with funding from the Breakthrough Initiatives, a program founded by internet investor and philanthropist Yuri Milner. Currently we have purchased time on the GBT in West Virginia in the US and the Parkes telescope in Australia and we have time on about a dozen other radio telescopes around the world and we have also purchased time on optical telescopes. This is an exciting time for the search for Extraterrestrial life, and Dr. Gajjar’s work with AI on the Breakthrough Listen project is a major step forward in this quest. As Dr. Gajjar put it, “The potential discovery of intelligent life beyond Earth would be one of the most profound discoveries in human history. I’m honoured to be a part of this effort and can’t wait to see what we’ll find.”


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