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Cryptocurrency Mining Hindering Astronomy Efforts Due to GPU Shortage



Researchers have also raised the alarm with regards to the dearth of video cards caused by the immense demand from the crypto mining industry.

Researchers are demanding more of the most recent GPU chips for their data processing equipment if they are to successfully pick up radio signals from the heavens.

Radio-astronomers working on SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) projects have said they need more GPUs to improve their equipment. The scientists want to bolster their operations at two observatories but could not find enough of the new powerful chips, according to a report that was published on the BBC.

Telescopes need an estimated 100 graphics cards to process data from large listening arrays. They are used to identify signals from space, in the hope of finding extra terrestrial life

Demand for graphics processing units has surged in the past few months and cryptocurrency miners have been identified as the culprits. Investors purchase in bulk the latest GPUs on the market, which can process more crypto transactions and return higher profits.

Cards are used in mining rigs keen on getting altcoins such as ethereum and monero. Bitcoin mining requires a certain processing capacity and is performed by more specific hardware.

“We’d like to use the latest GPUs, and we can’t get them”, remarked Dan Werthimer, chief scientist at the University of California, Berkeley SETI Research Center.

“We want to look at as many frequency channels as we possibly can. We don’t know what frequency ET will be broadcasting on – is it AM or FM, what communication are they using? That takes a lot of computing power,” he added.

The scientists have been trying to bolster the analyzing capability of equipment placed at two SETI observatories – Green Bank in West Virginia and Parkes in Australia.

But their efforts have been hindered by the GPU shortages.

“We’ve got the money, we have contacted the vendors, and they say they just don’t have them”, Werthimer was quoted as saying.

Telescopes utilized by radio-astronomers are able to pick up ultra faint radio frequencies in the universe. SETI scientists are always on the look out for broadcasts by aliens, but the arrays are also detecting signals emitted by natural phenomena.

Major graphics cards manufacturers Nvidia and Advanced Micro Devices have acknowledged the shortage and have already taken steps to resolve the issue. AMD disclosed plans to generate more production after the recently launched RX Vega GPUs all but disappeared from store shelves.

The company said its Radeon cards were in short supply and admitted that demand for mining applications was to blame for the shortage. AMD also pledged to make more of the powerful chips to satisfy its client base.

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