Hunt for extraterrestrial life obstructed by crypto-currency mining

Hunt for extraterrestrial life obstructed by crypto-currency mining

This is the case at SETI, where researchers say they simply can not get the hardware they need to search the universe for extraterrestrial (ET) life.

Cryptocurrency mining uses computers to solve mathematical equations as a way of validating transactions on the blockchain.

This is preventing progression in the search for alien life, astronomers have claimed.

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

Although GPUs were originally designed for visual tasks such as making PC games look cool, their speed and incredibly processing power led to cryptocurrency miners beginning to hoard them.

"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, "That takes a lot of computing power".

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Senior scientists at Seti, the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, have said that they can not find enough graphic processing units (GPUs) to process the data gathered from radio telescopes that scan for signals beaming in from space. Some telescopes utilize 100 GPUs on their own.

As the price of bitcoin has continued its bull run this week, cryptocurrencies have indeed been linked to aliens or, more specifically, our inability to find them.

SETI chief scientist Dan Wethimer told the BBC: "We'd like to use the latest GPUs [graphics processing units]. and we can't get 'em". SETI has other stations in Green Bank, West Virginia and Parkes, Australia are trying to expand, but the GPU shortage isn't helping. The aforementioned telescope listens to low-frequency radio waves emitted by hydrogen before the first galaxies formed in the early universe.

Scientists use GPUs due to its enormous computing capability especially when working with large amounts of data. A contingency budget is helping for now, but if the supply gets more scarce, the operation might not be able to continue its research, according to Parsons. In fact, the price of GPUs has reportedly doubled recently.

Thanks in part to a recent boom in the price of crypto-currencies such as Bitcoin and Ethereum, mining crypto-currencies has never been more popular.

Nvidia - the most prominent GPU manufacturer - is working hard to meet demand, but materials are becoming increasingly scarce.

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