Science

How cryptocurrency is holding us back from finding life on another planet

How cryptocurrency is holding us back from finding life on another planet

The cryptocurrency craze is making it more hard for scientists to secure the equipment they need to search space for alien life, according to a researcher at the University of California Berkeley's Search For Extraterrestrial Life (SETI) Research Center. He added that SETI's plans to expand operations at two observatories are being held up because of the GPU shortage.

Thanks to the cryptocurrency craze, we might miss out on a call from E.T. Astronomers are reporting that they can't as easily access the graphics processing units (GPUs) needed to run their powerful telescopes and radio arrays, as they're being bought up by those looking to mine cryptocurrency.

The practice of "mining" for cryptocurrencies like bitcoin and ethereum requires a massive amount of computing power.

"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", Werthimer told the BBC.

Seti scientists are now trying to improve their capacity by analysing Green Bank in West Virginia and Parkes in Australia's data.

Miners are being driven by monetary incentives, which is making it more appealing, but this is causing them to purchase more GPUs in order to get more power, which will enable them to solve more equations and get more money.

"We're in the process of expanding our telescope - we got a grant from the National Science Foundation here in the United States to do so", said Aaron Parsons at the University of California at Berkeley.




"Although the prices of GPUs have been skyrocketing recently and supply is down, it's often a more accessible way for people to get started".

It has been created to listen to low frequency radio waves emitted by the reionising hydrogen gas that permeated the universe before the first stars and galaxies formed.

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.

Three months ago, the Hera team had budgeted for a set of GPUs that cost around $500 (£360) - the price has since doubled to $1,000.

According to Professor Parsons - who manages the HERA telescope -, it will be able to weather the storm, but the expansion will end up costing around $32,000 more than initially planned.

In late 2017, cryptocurrency prices began taking off. Prices reached as much as $20,000 for Bitcoin. "The experts in cybersecurity use them when they test the security of passwords trying to decipher them, with computers that make millions of attempts with different combinations ".

"It's becoming increasingly hard to find suppliers and cards", he said.


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