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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: 2, Informative) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 15 2018, @07:50PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 15 2018, @07:50PM (#638404)

    maybe you could go through a couple of physics books before you start talking about this.
    1. the frequencies SETI is looking at are the frequencies that we would use if we wanted to talk to people living around other stars. they are the frequencies for which most of the universe is transparent, while at the same time they are cheap to produce.
    2. "photonic technologies"? grow up. any radio technology is, by construction, "photonic technology".
    3. "we don't generate signals that intentionally repeat". go read the SETI website. they routinely detect human generated signals and classify them as "communication". they then figure out it's human because they know where satellites are etc.
    4. neutrinos. again: grow up. neutrinos are hard to generate, and hard to detect. let's ignore that for now, and just talk about signal to noise ratios. supernovas are the only source of neutrinos that we can clearly detect with neutrino detectors. otherwise whatever neutrinos we do detect (one per month or something) are of unknown origin, i.e. noise. in fact, the universe is filled with neutrinos travelling in all possible directions at many different speeds, because neutrinos don't generally interact with anything. so, you will need to put in an enormous amount of energy when generating your neutrino signal, because the noise level is gigantic.
    in more simple terms: go to a rock concert, and try to talk to your friend from 10 m away. that's probably easier to do than try to talk across star systems with neutrinos.

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