A recent announcement by a new organization called Breakthrough Initiatives read in part:  “Are we the Universe’s only child—our thoughts its only thoughts?  Or do we have cosmic siblings—an interstellar family of intelligence?”

In a quest to find out, Russian-born Silicon Valley venture capitalist and Ph.D. physicist Yuri Milner founded Breakthrough Initiatives with $100 million in start-up capital.  His non-profit has attracted some of the finest scientific minds in the world, including its intellectual leader Stephen Hawking of the University of Cambridge.

Breakthrough Initiatives said:   “In the last few years, astronomers and the Kepler Mission have discovered thousands of planets beyond our solar system.  It now appears that most stars host a planetary system.  Many of them have a planet similar in size to our own, basking in the ‘habitable zone’ where the temperature permits liquid water.  There are likely billions of earth-like worlds in our galaxy alone.  And with instruments now or soon available, we have a chance of finding out if any of these planets are true Pale Blue Dots—home to water, life, even minds.”

The Milner-funded effort will be led by a team of researchers at the University of California at Berkeley, who will use telescopes—one the size of a football field located in West Virginia–to scan for radio frequencies from “advanced civilizations.”  While scientists have been scanning for intelligent life for the last half century, Milner’s funding enables researchers to search vast regions of the sky like never before–and computer advances facilitate the processing of the data collected.

The quest to “seek other forms of life” is a long-shot for sure, but a shot that Milner and his associates know needs to be–and must be–taken no matter the odds.

This spirit of adventure is what motivates and drives entrepreneurs and entrepreneurial businesses, the people who founded Microsoft, Apple, Netflix, and so many others.

When it comes to entrepreneurial spirit, the horse-racing enterprise in North America is a study in contrasts.  While the bloodstock side of the industry attracts people who commit their capital to the inherently high-risk sport-business of breeding and racing horses, the racetrack side tends to be staffed with top executives who are demonstrably timid about taking the calculated risks that might turn around the declining trend in pari-mutuel wagering–risks pertaining to significantly reducing takeout percentages on bets.

No one in charge at racetracks seems to be listening closely to intelligible price signals from the marketplace, as customers continue to curtail their betting or leave the game altogether.  This disconnect, unless addressed soon, will be increasingly detrimental as state elected officials continue to curb slots subsidies to purses…and the entire racing industry and its suppliers will feel the chilling effects of an uncompetitive pari-mutuel product left to stand on its own.

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