GPU shortage caused by crypto craze is hindering search for ET

GPU shortage caused by crypto craze is hindering search for ET

This is ultimately due to the fact that scientists require computer power in order to search for extra terrestrials and it seems that the two are being pitted against each other.

Mining involves solving complex mathematical puzzles which are used to lock cryptocurrency transactions to the blockchain.

Scouring the universe for signs of alien life - especially when we have no idea how our cosmic neighbours would want to chat - also requires a lot of computing power.

[Crypto-currency mining] is limiting our search for extra-terrestrials, to try to answer the question, 'Are we alone?

GPU's (graphics processing units) are high-performance chips used by radio astronomers, video gamers and, most recently, Bitcoin and other cryptocurrency miners.

"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, what communication are they using?" he said.

Search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI) scientists are getting frustrated by their inability to find GPUs.


SETI uses GPUs to process spectrum data from sky scans.

"We've got the money, we've contacted the vendors, and they say, 'We just don't have them, '" Werthimer told BBC. SETI facilities at Green Bank, West Virginia, and Parkes, Australia, are trying to expand and can't.

Of course, astronomers aren't the only people affected by this shortage. Do you believe we're not alone in the universe? The Hydrogen Epoch of Reionisation Array in South Africa, which received a grant from the National Science Foundation, soon found out that the price of GPUs had doubled. Like SETI, it's listening to radio waves from distant parts of space.

Across the world, the demand for GPUs has not only resulted in a bubble in the processor market, but a considerable shortage, leaving many of those who need them scrambling to find any.

"We'll be able to weather it but it is coming out of our contingency budget." added Prof Parsons.

But Mr Hickey has also noticed that GPUs are now being sold on sites such as Ebay at inflated prices.

Nvidia - the most prominent GPU manufacturer - is working hard to meet demand, but materials are becoming increasingly scarce. Trying to earn a little Bitcoin or Ethereum? "When it comes to finding the aliens, the more computer power you have, the quicker you can do the search".

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