from the just-nod-if-you-can-hear-me dept.
Scientists listening out for broadcasts by extra-terrestrials are struggling to get the computer hardware they need, thanks to the crypto-currency mining craze, a radio-astronomer has said.
Seti (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) researchers want to expand operations at two observatories. However, they have found that key computer chips are in short supply. "We'd like to use the latest GPUs [graphics processing units]... and we can't get 'em," said Dan Werthimer.
Demand for GPUs has soared recently thanks to crypto-currency mining. "That's limiting our search for extra-terrestrials, to try to answer the question, 'Are we alone? Is there anybody out there?'," Dr Werthimer told the BBC.
[...] Other radio-astronomers have been affected. A group looking for evidence of the earliest stars in the universe was recently shocked to see that the cost of the GPUs it wanted had doubled.
[...] Prof [Aaron] Parsons' radio telescope, the Hydrogen Epoch of Reionisation Array (Hera), is an American, British and South African project located in South Africa's western plains. [...] Three months ago, the Hera team had budgeted for a set of GPUs that cost around $500 (£360) - the price has since doubled to $1,000.
"We'll be able to weather it but it is coming out of our contingency budget." added Prof Parsons. "We're buying a lot of these things, it's going to end up costing about $32,000 extra."
When the inevitable flood of cheap GPUs onto the market happens, will it be a boon to science?
Shipments of GPUs are being slowed down or suspended in light of a slowdown in demand driven by cryptocurrency miners:
Taiwan-based graphics card makers including Gigabyte Technology, Micro-Star International (MSI) and TUL are expected to see their shipments for April plunge over 40% on month, as many clients have suspended taking shipments in response to drastic slowdown in demand for cryptocurrency mining machines, according to industry sources.
Channel distributors and larger mining farm operators have cut orders with makers of mining graphics cards and mining motherboards or asked them to suspend shipments due to the crypto mining craze waning abruptly from the beginning of April, the sources said.
Quite a few mining farm operators have even stopped purchasing graphic cards, as they are awaiting the rollout of Ethereum mining machines by China's Bitmain in the third quarter of 2018. They anticipate mining rewards to pick up gradually in the third quarter, as Bitcoin and Ethereum values may rebound following sharp declines seen in early 2018, the sources indicated.
Previously: AMD GPU Supply Exhausted By Cryptocurrency Mining, AIBs Now Directly Advertising To Miners
Cryptocoin GPU Bubble?
Ethereum Mining Craze Leads to GPU Shortages
Used GPUs Flood the Market as Ethereum's Price Crashes Below $150
Cryptocurrency Mining Wipes Out Vega 64 Stock
GPU Cryptomining Hurting SETI and Other Astronomy Projects
Related: AMD Profits in Q3 2017
Emerging technologies and new strategies are opening a revitalized era in the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI). New discovery capabilities, along with the rapidly-expanding number of known planets orbiting stars other than the Sun, are spurring innovative approaches by both government and private organizations, according to a panel of experts speaking at a meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in Seattle, Washington.
New approaches will not only expand upon but also go beyond the traditional SETI technique of searching for intelligently-generated radio signals, first pioneered by Frank Drake's Project Ozma in 1960. Scientists now are designing state-of-the-art techniques to detect a variety of signatures that can indicate the possibility of extraterrestrial technologies. Such "technosignatures" can range from the chemical composition of a planet's atmosphere, to laser emissions, to structures orbiting other stars, among others.
The National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) and the privately-funded SETI Institute announced an agreement to collaborate on new systems to add SETI capabilities to radio telescopes operated by NRAO. The first project will develop a system to piggyback on the National Science Foundation's Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array (VLA) that will provide data to a state-of-the-art technosignature search system.
"As the VLA conducts its usual scientific observations, this new system will allow for an additional and important use for the data we're already collecting," said NRAO Director Tony Beasley. "Determining whether we are alone in the Universe as technologically capable life is among the most compelling questions in science, and NRAO telescopes can play a major role in answering it," Beasley continued.
"The SETI Institute will develop and install an interface on the VLA permitting unprecedented access to the rich data stream continuously produced by the telescope as it scans the sky," said Andrew Siemion, Bernard M. Oliver Chair for SETI at the SETI Institute and Principal Investigator for the Breakthrough Listen Initiative at the University of California, Berkeley. "This interface will allow us to conduct a powerful, wide-area SETI survey that will be vastly more complete than any previous such search," he added.