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Crypto-Currency Craze –Search For Alien Life Hampered


Feb 16, 2018 Posted /  2735 Views


Crypto-Currency Craze –Search For Alien Life Hampered

The researchers of SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) wants to expand their operations but falling short of GPU computer chips due to high utilization by cryptocurrency miners. Due to this scientists are getting limited resources which are further limiting their research. As per Dr. Werthimer interview with BBC, the scientists are facing this shortfall from past few months and it is relatable that Virtual tokens grabbed the attention of miners a few months back only.

In the mining process of Bitcoin or other cryptocurrency, miners solve complex algorithms by connecting to computers at the global network level and the miners get a small virtual token payment as a reward. A huge amount of data is processed while mining, the miners require GPU’s. Graphics Processing Units (GPU’s) are high-performance chips used for processing a large amount of data which is not only done by crypto miners rather used by video gamers and radio astronomers as well.

In an interview with BBC, a chief scientist at the Berkeley SETI Research Center. Dr. Werthimer stated that they require to observe as many frequency channels as possible and they look at lots of different signal types. This process consumes a lot of computing power. He further told that in some telescopes 100 GPU’s are used to comminute large listening arrays.

The SETI scientists were working on analyzing data at two observatories -  Green Bank in West Virginia and Parkes in Australia. This is when they faced the shortage of GPU ’s. They are ready to spend to resume their work but there is a shortage of units with retailers.

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This has not happened with SETI scientists only, rather video gamers observed a sudden rise in prices of GPU’s reportedly due to high demand for processing unit by Ethereum miners. To this insufficiency of supply, the CEO of  Nvidia assured its buyers that they will catch up with the supply.

Along with the above-mentioned groups, radio astronomers have also been affected. Prof. Parsons of the University of California has been working on searching evidence of earliest stars in universe and shocked when he encountered doubled prices of GPU’s. He has received a grant from National Science Foundation of U.S. and working on a joint project of America, Britain and South Africa named HERA ( the Hydrogen Epoch of Reionisation Array ).

The team involved in the project has set up various telescopes at different spots to hear low-frequency radio waves and GPU’s are required to bring data together.

Earlier the HERA team got a set of GPU’s in $500 and the same set is now costing $1000. As per Prof. Parsons that this would affect their budget and they will end up paying $32,000 extra. The prevailing circumstances may result in discontinuing of the project.

The shortage of these appliances has been encountered due to rise in the price of cryptocurrencies which motivated miners to mine even more. While due to the deficit of GPU’s the Bitcoin miners have moved to ASIC chips which have been generated from the scrap and supports mining.

In an interview with BBC, a cybersecurity expert Matthew Hickey said that GPU’s are versatile and used by cyber security experts in cracking system passwords as well. Observing the high demand for GPU’s and their inflated prices Matthew commented that it is going to be very difficult to find one.


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