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Cryptocurrency mining making it hard to look for aliens in space

/ 02:35 PM February 15, 2018

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Scientists hoping to expand their equipment to search for intelligent life in outer space have hit a roadblock with inflated graphics card prices.

Graphics processing units (GPUs), or graphics cards, are primarily used for rendering high-quality graphics like in 3D games. However, current GPUs have proven versatile enough to handle other data-crunching tasks.

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Scientists could harness several GPUs to go through large amounts of radio signal data from telescopes to search for intelligent life or space phenomena.

Meanwhile, enterprising individuals are using GPUs to “mine” for cryptocurrency like bitcoin or ethereum. Thanks to the boom in crypto prices, more miners are buying up GPUs causing supplies to dwindle and prices to skyrocket.

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This has affected both gamers and scientists. Gamers find it difficult to buy new GPUs, while scientists are sometimes forced to go over budget to enhance their equipment, reports BBC.

“We’re buying a lot of these things, it’s going to end up costing about $32,000 extra,“ said Prof. Aaron Parsons of the University of California at Berkeley.

Sometimes GPUs are simply nowhere to be found.

“We’ve got the money, we’ve contacted the vendors, and they say, ‘We just don’t have them,'” said Dr. Dan Werthimer, chief scientist at the Berkeley Seti Research Center.

Berkeley Seti currently has around 100 GPUs processing data from several large listening arrays. The arrays listen to radio frequencies from various natural phenomena like collapsing stars.

GPU maker NVIDIA bared its ongoing efforts to catch up with market demand. At the same time, it urged retailers to prioritize gamer demands over miners’.

Cryptocurrency mining also uses up a lot of power. Electricity consumption due to crypto mining has already surpassed that of many European countries.  /ra

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TOPICS: astronomers, cyrptocurrency, GPU, graphics cards, graphics processing unit, search for extra terrestrial intelligence, SETI
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