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posted by Fnord666 on Thursday February 15 2018, @04:43PM   Printer-friendly
from the just-nod-if-you-can-hear-me dept.

Crypto-currency craze 'hinders search for alien life'

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?


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  • (Score: 3, Interesting) by julian on Thursday February 15 2018, @07:29PM (2 children)

    by julian (6003) Subscriber Badge on Thursday February 15 2018, @07:29PM (#638391)

    It's not just gamers, it's anyone who needs a new GPU for any reason. I've been trying to get a 1070 or 1080 at original MSRP for six months and it's impossible. I'm not paying 100-200% over MSRP for a GPU. This techno tulip mania needs to end.

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  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 16 2018, @01:34AM (1 child)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 16 2018, @01:34AM (#638580)

    They're missing out on a boatload of profit.

    • (Score: 3, Insightful) by julian on Friday February 16 2018, @02:28AM

      by julian (6003) Subscriber Badge on Friday February 16 2018, @02:28AM (#638599)

      They're not though. They're literally selling them as fast as they can physically be made. To increase capacity they'd have to build more fabs, which is slow and expensive. There's no guarantee that the mining craze will still be around when those new fabs are up and running. They could end up with a massive capital investment for a market that no longer exists. It's too risky to take that chance, or at least that's the current common wisdom in the industry. There are not that many chip makers, either. AMD doesn't make any of their own silicon, they're at the mercy of TSMC which have their own priorities and business plans.