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How cryptocurrency mining is halting the search for aliens, and videogaming

How cryptocurrency mining is halting the search for aliens, and videogaming

Of all of the consequences of cryptocurrency mining – increased data usage, get-rich quick schemes, digital money being hacked and businesses creating online tokens – the search for aliens, extra-terrestrial life, being hampered isn’t exactly one we thought we’d list here.

But the demand for high-end graphics cards in the mining community has given way to a shortage no one could see coming. Seti (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) researchers want to expand their facilities but they can’t because miners have bought up all the equipment, causing the prices to skyrocket. This means the search for aliens has to wait.

“We’d like to use the latest GPUs [graphics processing units]… and we can’t get ’em,” said Dan Werthimer, a radio-astronomer. “That’s limiting our search for extra-terrestrials, to try to answer the question, ‘Are we alone? Is there anybody out there?’,” 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.”

Mining cryptocurrencies involves hooking computers up to a global network and solving incredibly and increasingly difficult mathematical equations to complete links on the blockchain, the technology behind many digital tokens including the most famous, Bitcoin. This has caused many problems, including such a strain on resources in Iceland that miners are set to overtake the power consumption used by rest of the country combined.

Aside from hefty bills and the search for intelligent lifeforms in outer space, the shortage of GPUs has hit the gaming community hard. PC gaming has become more popular than it has ever been, with huge online multiplayer games like PUBG, Warhammer and EVE requiring hefty rigs and expensive graphics cards. With prices still rising, the casual gamer can’t afford to keep up.

In trading news, the big four tokens have recently recovered after a dramatic fall in prices over the past few weeks. Bitcoin is currently trading at over $10k according to CoinBase, up 29% this week. Ethereum has risen 18% in the same time period, currently trading at just shy of $1,000.