Economy

Scientists struggle over the demand for GPUs

Scientists struggle over the demand for GPUs

Researchers at the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) have recently set out to expand operations at two observatories.

However, it has found that key computer chips are in short supply. According to Werthimer, this is because of the demand for GPUs rising over cryptocurrency 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".

Miners receive rewards in the form of cryptocurrency by solving complex computation puzzles and, in doing so, verifying transactions. Solving the equations gives the miners payment in the cryptocurrency that they are mining.

Because of those capabilities, GPUs used by scientists searching for signs of alien life to handle data crunching tasks like processing broadcast signals and powering telescopes. At Seti, radio astronomers want to process as many frequency channels as possible, because we can't know which ones a distant civilization might use to send a signal to other worlds. Dr. Werthimer added. "That takes a lot of computing power". It needs GPUs to scan radio frequencies in the hope of understanding how the first stars and galaxies formed.

Seti scientists are now trying to improve their capacity by analysing Green Bank in West Virginia and Parkes in Australia's data.

But the institute has been hit by the GPU shortage.

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We've got the money, we've contacted the vendors, and they say, 'We just don't have them'. Do you believe we're not alone in the universe? Like SETI, it's listening to radio waves from distant parts of space.

Scientists use GPUs due to its enormous computing capability especially when working with large amounts of data.

The cost of high-end GPUs purchased by the group has doubled in the midst of cryptocurrency fever, from $1,000 to $2,000, Werthimer told RT.

According to Professor Parsons - who manages the HERA telescope -, it will be able to weather the storm, but the expansion will end up costing around $32,000 more than initially planned.

He also said he was concerned that future work could even be stopped in its tracks, should the GPU shortage worsen.

The profitability of mining has, however, come under pressure in recent months after the price of Bitcoin dropped from its all-time high of around $20,000 to $9,700. This is because GPUs are also used to mine for cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin, Ethereum and ZCash.

"We'd like to use the latest GPUs, and we can't get 'em". As a result, SETI has as many as 100 GPUs at some telescopes.


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