Can searching for aliens improve breast cancer detection?

The answer is yes.

Project Phoenix is the name of the SETI Institute’s research project to search for extraterrestrial intelligence. Project Phoenix uses the world’s largest telescopes (40 to 300 meters in diameter) to scrutinize the vicinities of nearby, sun-like stars. Moffitt researcher John J. Heine, Ph.D., adapted signal detection computer algorithms developed at the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) Institute to detect breast cancer.

SETI has a slightly different problembut you could put it in the same context, Dr. Heine explains, comparing the searchfor tumors in breasts to the search forcivilizations in the universe.“They’re tryingto dig a coherent signal out of random noise. But the detection task in mammogramsis more or less attempting to findone somewhat coherent signal buried inanother statistically similar signal,” he says,using the term “coherent” in the loosecontext to mean long-range.

Idea cross-pollination can occur in some strange ways.


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