Crypto mining is slowing the search for ALIEN LIFE

Crypto mining is slowing the search for ALIEN LIFE

'This is a new problem, it's only happened on orders we've been trying to make in the last couple of months'. Today, the cheapest Vega 56 is £956.99 on Ebuyer, and graphics cards bearing the more powerful Vega 64 GPU aren't available.

However, cryptocurrency mining has caused the cost of the GPUs to skyrocket, almost doubling in price, thanks in particular to the rise in Ethereum cryptocurrency mining. This is because GPUs are also used to mine for cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin, Ethereum and ZCash.

The number of people doing this has rocketed in recent years, mainly due to the fact there is a reward for this work; the miners receive a small cryptocurrency payment for their mining efforts, making it profitable.

Saying that the shortage became noticeable just a few months ago, Werthimer stressed that the organisation has the funds to buy GPUs and has been dealing with vendors, but have been told that they have simply run out.

"That's limiting our search for extra-terrestrials, to try to answer the question, "Are we alone?"

Unfortunately for those scientists, the processing power of GPUs has also proven useful in the cryptocurrency community, particularly for those who are mining for Bitcoin and other digital currencies.

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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, what communication are they using?" explained Dr Werthimer, who is chief scientist at the Berkeley Seti Research Center.

GPUs are efficient electronic circuits that can process large amounts of data and perform many...

Graphics cards with less memory - 2GB or less - have largely been left on the shelves by cryptocurrency miners, but they're much less use to both gamers and astronomers alike.

However, some alien hunters consider the GPU shortage a minor setback.

Searching for alien life in space also takes a lot of computing power. Dr. Seth Shostak, senior astronomer, at the Seti Institute told RT.com that he believes GPUs are key to extraterrestrial discoveries.

The BBC notes that a UC Berkeley team of researchers was hoping to expand their GPU capability at their telescope lab: they went to spend a National Science Foundation grant but realized their money wouldn't go as far as planned because the cost of their target GPU hardware had risen so drastically. "It's like looking for buried treasure on a South Pacific island. if you can replace a teaspoon with a shovel, you might find it a lot quicker!"

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