ata radio telescope arrayDo you think humans should strive to send airplanes into space? Listen for ET? Develop a real understanding of the human mind? Such ambitious projects have often been shelved because they require enormous investment. But now, Paul Allen is putting up the money hoping to help humanity gain a better world.

Paul G. Allen was a co-founder of Microsoft, and earned billions of dollars from his stake in the company. He is also a founding member and the primary investor in of Dreamworks Studios, the movie company that brought us Shrek, Shark Tales, and Madagascar. Instead of simply spending his earnings on himself and his friends, he decided to invest a large amount, well over eight hundred million dollars, to fund the projects that may improve life today, and lay foundations for the future.

Construction of the new Allen Telescope Array is underway just north of Lassen Peak, California, a new radio telescope which will be the most sensitive instrument of its kind on earth. It will be used by the Radio Astronomy Lab at the University of California, Berkeley to do cutting-edge radio astronomy research and by the SETI project to search for signs of intelligent life in the universe. The ATA is named after Paul Allen who is providing the majority of funding for the project.

The Allen Institute for Brain Science is searching for intelligent life closer to home — within the inner workings of the human brain.

On the razor’s edge of medical research the institute is developing new neuron mapping techniques that will assist doctors in understanding the human thinking pathways and brain architecture. At a personal cost of $100 million, Allen funded this non-profit effort located in Seattle, Washington.

On October 4, 2004, SpaceShipOne rocketed into history, becoming the first private manned spacecraft to exceed an altitude of 100 km. Brian Binnie, flew into sub-orbital space twice in two weeks to capture the Ansari X-Prize offered to any group who could achieve that goal. Paul Allen’s funding made the ship and the flight possible.

To help others in need now, Allen and his wife, founded the Paul G. Allen Family Foundations, which give tens of millions of dollars every year to a wide range of good causes ranging from educational programs to museums, from dance companies to youth groups.

Allen exemplifies the heights to which an inspired entrepreneur can reach if he dares to dream big, and has a bank account to match.