Cryptocurrency mining is hurting our astronomers
You might ask why cryptocurrency is getting in the way of our astronomers. And what is the relationship between the two because their field is far different from each other. But you know what, there’s actually a relationship and a common significant between the two. That is the graphics processing units or GPUs.
As you can see, cryptocurrency mining uses GPUs. And because of its rising and popularity, the market is running out of stock. Same as with our astronomers. Aaron Parsons is on a quest to discover the first stars that formed in our Universe 13 billion years ago. But because of the mining craze of cryptocurrency, the supplies in the market are draining and that’s spiking the prices GPUs. These graphics processing units are super powerful chips that can process huge amounts of data. Without these, astronomers like Parsons can’t do their job.
Parsons works with radio telescopes at UC Berkeley. These telescopes are made of hundreds of antennas that pick up radio emissions permeating the cosmos. The data picked up need to be processed in real time by a supercomputer to create a map of the sky. It can help astronomers like Parsons spot the earliest stars. And also ultimately understand how our Universe transitioned from hot plasma into a cosmos made of galaxies and planets. Parsons is currently trying to upgrade is radio telescope, called the Hydrogen Epoch of Reionization Array (HERA). It’s a total of 350 antennas in South Africa.
But to his surprise, the GPUs he need to process data from all those antennas doubled up the price. From $500 to $1,000 per piece! “I kind of rolled my eyes a little bit. I usually think of cryptocurrency as some kind of peripheral thing, and I was surprised and a bit annoyed to discover that it’s impacting the bottom line of our telescope,” Parsons said.
But not only astronomers are having a hard time, also gamers as well as other scientists. Like the SETI researchers who are looking for alien life. Today, cryptocurrency miners need the GPUs. That’s the main reason why there’s a huge demand of these chips in the market.