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FAST in China. Photo: Ou Dongqu/Xinhua via Getty

China's Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical radio Telescope (FAST) began official science operations earlier this month, making it the largest operating telescope of its kind on Earth.

Why it matters: The $100 million Breakthrough Listen project is expected to survey 100 nearby galaxies, 1 million stars and the galactic plane for radio signatures that could only have been sent out by an advanced society, and FAST is expected to help.

  • Scientists have trouble parsing out exactly which signals might be from outside of our solar system and which might have been created by human activity.
  • FAST's advanced technology will help cut down on any false-positives, Breakthrough Listen scientist Vishal Gajjar told Axios.

Where it stands: FAST has already done a preliminary observation in collaboration with Breakthrough Listen, listening for signals from the planet GJ273b as a proof of concept for the telescope, Gajjar said.

  • Breakthrough Listen expects to hunt for radio signatures coming from the Andromeda galaxy and planets discovered by NASA's Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite using FAST, Gajjar added.
  • Breakthrough Listen and FAST also have a partnership to share information, making sure any promising looking signals are followed up on quickly.

But, but, but: Just because scientists are listening for advanced intelligent life doesn't mean it's out there, or that we can hear it.

  • While powerful telescopes like FAST aid in the hunt, it's possible that our tools simply aren't sensitive enough to pick up SETI signals yet.

Go deeper: The search for life as we don't know it

Go deeper

1 hour ago - Health

Prior coronavirus infections may not protect well against Omicron

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

New data from South Africa suggests the Omicron variant spreads more than twice as quickly as the Delta variant, and that immunity from prior infection doesn't appear to protect a person very well against Omicron variant.

Why it matters: The findings are extremely preliminary, and there are still many open questions about how well vaccines work against the variant. But these initial breadcrumbs of data are helping the world begin to understand what it's up against.

Bryan Walsh, author of Future
2 hours ago - Technology

AI could end foreign-language subtitles

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

AI companies are developing methods to translate and synthesize voices in ads, movies and TV.

Why it matters: The advances in voice synthesis could help fix bad movie dubbing — and they come as international content is becoming increasingly important to studios and streaming platforms as part of the globalization of entertainment.

Bryan Walsh, author of Future
Updated 11 hours ago - Technology

A dark view of the future of autonomous weapons

A still from the video "If Human: Kill ( )." Image: Future of Life Institute

A new short film warns of the coming risks posed by the development and proliferation of lethal autonomous weapons.

Why it matters: Drones with the ability to autonomously target and kill without the assistance of a human operator are reportedly already being used on battlefields, and time is running out to craft a global ban of what could be a destabilizing and terrifying new class of weapon.

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