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Hardware

Crypto-currency Craze 'Hinders Search For Alien Life' (bbc.com) 109

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. From a report: 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. "This is a new problem, it's only happened on orders we've been trying to make in the last couple of months."

Crypto-currency Craze 'Hinders Search For Alien Life'

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  • by WoodstockJeff ( 568111 ) on Wednesday February 14, 2018 @01:13PM (#56123197) Homepage

    Aliens have a right to not be monitored, too.

    • by Hetero ( 5159127 )
      The field of astrophysics utilizes orders of magnitude in their calculations with ONE significant figure. Numbers like 1E-50 are commonplace. Now think about that one for your probability of catching an alien's signal on the hydrogen line spectrum. Think about it. You'd have to modulate a star. Not going to happen, and I don't think they would be that interested in our level of "intelligence," unfortunately.
      • I don't think they would be that interested in our level of "intelligence," unfortunately.

        Sure they would. We'll make great Pets [youtube.com]

      • by Excelcia ( 906188 ) <kfitzner@excelcia.ca> on Wednesday February 14, 2018 @01:38PM (#56123365) Homepage Journal

        They are not looking for modulating of a star. No one is thinking an alien race is going to be modulating a star. Stars don't emit on the hydrogen line. Lord.

        When looking for a frequency to search for transmissions on, you can't use nice round numbers and expect that those nice round numbers for us are going to be nice round numbers for them too. 1.000000GHz for us won't be 1.000000GWhatevers for them because every race will have a different measurement for time. So they look for frequencies that are built into the fabric of the universe and use those as the base reference, with the belief that if that idea makes sense for us it would make sense for others too. Hydrogen is the most basic element, the most abundant element in space, and the precession frequency of neutral hydrogen atoms (1.42ishGHz) is a radio frequency that propagates reasonably well. The hope is if that idea makes sense to us, it will make sense to an alien race who might be looking for a frequency to send on that others will think to listen to. Hydrogen line times pi is another one.

        • Hydrogen is the most basic element, the most abundant element in space, and the precession frequency of neutral hydrogen atoms (1.42ishGHz) is a radio frequency that propagates reasonably well. The hope is if that idea makes sense to us, it will make sense to an alien race who might be looking for a frequency to send on that others will think to listen to. Hydrogen line times pi is another one.

          But we aren't actually sending out that frequency either. What if everyone is listening and no one is transmitting?

          • by gnick ( 1211984 )

            But we aren't actually sending out that frequency either. What if everyone is listening and no one is transmitting?

            We've got a new satellite blaring David Bowie into the void. Does that count?

          • But we aren't actually sending out that frequency either. What if everyone is listening and no one is transmitting?

            We don't have anything useful to say. "We are here and we are primitive" is actually a dumb message to transmit into the cosmos. The only useful information to transmit to other species would be if you had the secret to FTL communication and/or travel. Otherwise, you can't hope to have any meaningful exchange, and you might as well focus on your home and not worry about whether there are aliens. If there are, you can't reach them or talk to them. If they can reach you, then there's nothing you can really do

            • by gnick ( 1211984 )

              "We are here and we are primitive" is actually a dumb message to transmit into the cosmos.

              So what? Can you imagine how ground shaking it would be if we received that message? "We are here and we are primitive" can be translated to "You are not alone."

            • I know exactly what message I'd send. It'd be in unary encoding: 2 3 5 7 11 13.

              It's the message that many on this planet want to receive: "You are not alone."

          • by PPH ( 736903 )

            What if everyone is listening

            No. Because talking meat [terrybisson.com].

        • by Anonymous Coward

          And then the expansion of the universe, galaxy's in motion, redshift.

        • I remember reading a sci fi story where the aliens were doing just that, holding a star in a weird excited state. After tens of thousands of years, maybe more, of doing that without getting any response, they gave up. Humanity just assumed it was the result of natural phenomena. Meanwhile, birds on earth had evolved to use the output of the star in their navigation sense, and many were confused and lost when it ended.
        • It is also an especially quiet band in space with low noise, because water molecules in interstelar gas absorb these.
          Makes me wonder though if someone would really use this for communication. If it is absorbed it weakens the signal sent. The absorption only helps if the sender, receiver and the way in between are not absorbing.
    • If they can't afford to buy an Nvidia then just switch to openCL on AMD.

    • statistically speaking, the most likely thing we will detect on an alien broadcast will be the Porn Channel. Eeewww.

    • Fermi's paradox is that if alien life were inevitable we should see the signls. We wont if the fate of all alien civilizations is to eventually kill themselves quickly so that few would likley broadcast in our brief tenure.

      An alternative explanation is that all civilization eventually discover crytocurrency and it consumes all their resources including the broadcasting power. All civilizations go dark after a period of time.

      • by jd ( 1658 )

        Other alternatives:

        1. Some alien civilizations found wireless to be slow and inefficient, and have adopted dense mode optic fibres, waveguides and other physical networking for most of their stuff. The same route we're taking. You only need enough for the density of radio transmitters in the galaxy to be very low. We can still detect them, using the method proposed by James Lovelock when he was at NASA - observe the atmosphere instead and look for combinations that can't arise naturally.

        2. Alien civilizatio

        • We all need to listen to Frank Drake [theguardian.com] (founder of SETI) on this one. We are not ever going to detect any alien communications (unless they are specifically targeted at us with that intent). We have a hard enough time talking to Mars: that whole 'Sun' thing makes for a terrible SNR [astrosurf.com]. Not only that, but broadcasting high-energy analog signals is extremely wasteful. Humanity had about a 50-year period where we did this. Now, as you say, we use waveguides. We also don't send anything in analog form any more. Digi

          • We all need to listen to Frank Drake [theguardian.com] (founder of SETI) on this one. We are not ever going to detect any alien communications (unless they are specifically targeted at us with that intent). We have a hard enough time talking to Mars: that whole 'Sun' thing makes for a terrible SNR [astrosurf.com]. Not only that, but broadcasting high-energy analog signals is extremely wasteful. Humanity had about a 50-year period where we did this. Now, as you say, we use waveguides. We also don't send anything in analog form any more. Digital data that you don't know how to decode tends to look an awful lot like noise, even without being encrypted or compressed.

            What SETI is doing is completely pointless, even compared to cryptocurrency mining.

            Nice ....!

    • The concept of Seti while interesting is flawed.
      Just look at own civilization.
      When Seti was started we were broadcasting long radio waves for everything.
      Now we are going toward the direction of closed infrastructure, Fiber optics, cable, Shorter range Wi-Fi and Cell radio services.
      So in a period of 100 years we went to screaming radio, to a talk.

      Now for life on other planets will be in different stages of technology. I expect while most planets will just be slime puddles. But places with intelligent life w

  • Can only be traded for Flanian Pobble Beads (but at a very good exchange)

  • Worthless (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 14, 2018 @01:23PM (#56123251)

    It's disgusting that all that important computing power goes to something so utterly pointless. They should stop this nonsense and just let the cryptocurrency miners have the GPUs.

    • IThey should stop this nonsense and just let the cryptocurrency miners have the GPUs.

      The SETI folks can get all the graphics cards they need from the Aliens. All they need to do is to broadcast messages into outer space:

      "We need graphics cards! Please send us graphics cards!"

      However, maybe the Aliens don't want to be found by us, and they won't send shit.

      • by Anonymous Coward
        Maybe the aliens' crypto mining operations are using all of their GPUs as well.
      • SETI: "We need graphics cards! Please send us graphics cards!"

        Aliens: "Sure, pay us 100,000 bit coins"

  • Proof of space (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Idou ( 572394 ) on Wednesday February 14, 2018 @01:26PM (#56123273) Journal
    More reason to switch to Proof of space [wikipedia.org]. Then SETI will be able to buy a bunch of used GPUs on the cheap. . .
  • Oh cool another post about why crypto and mining is bad. Nvidia has already stated they are ramping up production for this year, as is AMD.
    • by Z00L00K ( 682162 )

      And suddenly there's a surplus of cards instead because it's no longer viable to mine cryptocurrencies.

      • And suddenly there's a surplus of cards instead because it's no longer viable to mine cryptocurrencies.

        That would be great, but as long as people make cryptocurrencies with GPU mining in mind, that's probably not going to happen.

    • Yes, we've heard so many reasons why crypto is not viable. Too much energy use, too slow, not accepted anywhere, too volatile... and now apparently it prevents us from finding aliens. Wow. I think crypto must be an actual threat to the elite. The shills are out in force 24/7 spreading whatever FUD they can. Meanwhile, BTC is up nearing $10k again...
      • by MrL0G1C ( 867445 )

        Wow. I think crypto must be an actual threat to the elite.

        Who do you think has pushed the price up so high? Who is now selling futures for cryptocoins? And the big banks even have their own crypto-currency.

        Who is playing who here?

        • Wow. I think crypto must be an actual threat to the elite.

          Who do you think has pushed the price up so high? Who is now selling futures for cryptocoins? And the big banks even have their own crypto-currency.

          Who is playing who here?

          1. People who got the FOMO last December.

          2. *selling* Think about that.

          3. *their own* Think about that.

          4. The value of my cryptos are up 30% this week and once again at all-time-high. So...

  • ...There will be a glut of them soon enough.

    • I'm really looking forward to the coming glut. I've started buying the components I want for a new computer as they go on sale. I figure I'll be buying the video card last and hopefully super cheap. Maybe I'll even be able to justify getting a 1080.

  • Collectively, a species that invents something as terrible and pointless as cryptocurrency, and adopts it to the point that it causes a shortage of an important piece of technology, deserves to remain isolated :-(

    • Not very smart are you. Here let me give you a couple of car examples.

      Horses vs car. Cars are way to expensive what a waste of time.

      50 years later Cars vs race cars. Race cars are way to expensive, what a waste of time

      50 years after that gas powered cars that are faster/better handling than historical race cars vs Teslas (electric cars). Telsas are way to expensive, what a waste of time

      50 years after that Teslas vs flying cars.......

      To go back to GPUs.

      In the short run yeah there aren't too

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I wonder how much Folding@Home is affected and other more useful computer projects.

  • by Koreantoast ( 527520 ) on Wednesday February 14, 2018 @02:21PM (#56123725)
    How do we know SETI doesn't want the GPUs to mine cryptocurrency themselves to fund their program? :P
  • Sound like they need to get their projects on BOINC if they are complaining that they don't have enough GPUs to get things done.

    You don't even have to run on their public service. Those guys will set up a local grid computing network for you on all the machines on campus. More than enough CPU power laying around I'm sure.

  • We're supposed to sympathize with people who look us in the eye and tell us with a straight face that searching for aliens in cosmic noise is a worthwhile use of time and money? These guys are bad for science because they waste finite resources on pie-in-the-sky-not-gonna-happen nonsense and because they suck up finite good will for science with their pie-in-the-sky-not-gonna-happen nonsense. Every time someone wants to defund or put down legitimate research, they can point to these whackjobs as a reason fo
  • They aren't going anywhere, so what's the rush?

  • it's also hindering my search for BLEEDING EDGE GRAPHIX (!!)

  • Dear SETI,

    Make your own crypto-currency, and use the extra cycles to run all the calculations you'll ever need.

    Love,
    Obvious Solution

  • It's 2018 and /. [Slashdot] readers [people who read Slashdot] need to have the acronym GPU explained to them in their story summary.
    What have we come to?

  • We can't get GPUs for biology, either. Molecular dynamics simulations, protein structure determination using cryo-EM, and a number of other areas in computational biology rely on GPU-accelerated computing for obtaining results in a timely fashion.

    GPU computing in this area has the particular advantage over CPU clusters in rapid iteration over user-defined parameters. If you know a correct set of parameters, running a job for several days on CPU is fine. If you need to run 100 such jobs to find those paramet

  • just clean up the gunk that's polluting your mind, meditate a little or something
  • May I point out that there's a cryptocurrency that doesn't waste all that precious computing power that is currently simply used as a glorified heater?

    https://www.gridcoin.us/ [gridcoin.us]

    It runs on top of the BOINC platform, so you can choose different proyects you want to contribute to
  • My systems are still processing Seti. I never got into the crypto-currency fad. My systems are not making a huge dent in the Seti data, yet they persist. Is there life out there? I want to believe.

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