Cryptocurrency Craze Could Be Preventing Us From Finding Aliens

Al Medwedsky/

The truth is out there ... but will we hear it?

Researchers at the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, or SETI, are in a jam. The non-profit wants to expand its operations at two observatories. To do that they will need a lot of graphics processing units that are suddenly in short supply due to cryptocurrency mining, reports the BBC.

These digital currencies have taken off in the last year. And those looking for a Bitcoin, Etherum or Monero boost use GPUs' processing power to solve complex math problems that result in hefty payday. On the other hand, SETI researchers looking for signs of intelligence life use the GPUs to scan multiple communications frequencies at once, listening for potential signals from space.

"We'd like to use the latest GPUs ... and we can't get 'em," said Dan Werthimer, chief scientist at the Berkeley SETI Research Center said to the BBC. "That's limiting our search for extra-terrestrials, to try to answer the question, 'Are we alone? Is there anybody out there?' "

Some telescopes at the Berkeley SETI location have 100 GPUs. SETI facilities at Green Bank, West Virginia, and Parkes, Australia, are trying to expand and can't.

"We've got the money, we've contacted the vendors, and they say, 'we just don't have them,' " said Werthimer to the BBC.

The cryptocurrency craze and the technology behind it isn't going away anytime soon. Federal agencies are bringing blockchain technology into government operations, and the state of Arizona may soon let citizens pay for taxes using Bitcoin.