Cryptocurrencies is endangering the search for Extraterrestrial life

Cryptocurrencies is endangering the search for Extraterrestrial life

Although there are specialized chips called "Asic" to support mining of digital currencies, miners still use GPUs for the goal.

Other researchers are also facing the same shortage issues.

The shortage of GPUs is largely thanks to the cryptocurrency craze, as mining for cryptocoins requires enormous amounts of computing power.

"We want to use the latest version of graphics cards and we cannot find them on the market", radio astronomer Dan Werthimer, a researcher at the Center for Searching for Extraterrestrial Intelligence at the University of California.

If you're wondering, SETI stands for the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence.

"This problem is new, we have faced it in the last two months".

GPUs are ideal for processing complex mathematical puzzles that are involved in mining for cryptocurrencies. Solving the equations gives the miners payment in the cryptocurrency that they are mining.

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"At SETI, we want to look at as many frequency channels as we possibly can because we don't know what frequency ET will be broadcasting on, and we want to look for lots of different signal types-is it AM or FM?"

SETI would use the GPUs to analyze radio frequency data to try and determine if aliens are sending out any sort of communications. The institute is now trying to increase the power at two observatories in Green Bank, West Virginia and Parkes, Australia.

"We've got the money, we've contacted the vendors, and they say, 'we just don't have them, ' " said Werthimer to the BBC. While companies like AMD and NVIDIA recently announced graphics cards specifically designed for cryptocurrency mining, it's yet to be seen whether such moves will make it easier for everyone to own high-performing GPUs.

As reported by the BBC, radio astronomers and scientists observing our galaxy are struggling to expand their work due to a lack of these key components. NVIDIA, the leading graphics card maker, recently limited online sales in response to the demand.

The interest in cryptocurrency has exploded as of late, and while Bitcoin is rarely worth mining for unless you join a pool, other cryptocurrencies - such as Monero and potentially Ethereum (ETH) - can still be uncovered as long as mining rigs have the right GPU support.

While Parsons says the team can survive the additional expense, the overall increase is roughly $32,000 for GPUs required in the next stage of research - assuming they can be purchased - and should the price rise further, this could threaten future projects.

"We received funds from the National Science Foundation of the United States and we want to expand our telescope", said Aaron Parsons, a professor at UC Berkeley.

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