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Yuri Milner is something of a visionary. He sees that while there are many good causes and pressing problems, ultimately our chances of thriving as a species depend on tending and feeding the precious flame of knowledge.

His investments take the long view. Shifting the culture toward one more committed to science and its virtues of curiosity and reason. Supporting fundamental but underfunded quests, such as the search for life in the universe and a path to interstellar travel. Moon-shot projects that may take decades but, if they succeed, will transform our relationship to the cosmos.

At the core of his vision is a sense of scale. A deep respect for the universe, in its immensity, and for human beings, whose minds can somehow span it.

Hawking, a theoretical physicist, is collaborating with Milner on Breakthrough Starshot, a project to develop the technology necessary to send a spacecraft to Alpha Centauri, a star system 4.37 light-years away from Earth

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