Everyday 1000’s of volunteers flip the ability of their computer systems over to the SETI@residence challenge in hopes of discovering aliens among the many stars. SETI@residence—quick for “Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence at Home”—is an experiment that makes use of folks’s computer systems to extend the challenge’s processing energy and analyze extra radio alerts from outer house.

The UC Berkeley-based SETI challenge solely depends on volunteers for a portion of its computing energy, nonetheless, and has its personal computing installations at a number of telescopes. But the challenge crew bumped into issues just lately when it tried to increase its operations by including the newest and strongest computer systems to 2 observatories. The crew found, Berkeley SETI Research Center chief scientist Dan Werthimer instructed the BBC, that it couldn’t discover the important thing laptop element it wanted: graphics processing models (GPUs).

That’s most likely because of cryptocurrency miners. The identical playing cards that make PC video games look wonderful and may crunch alien radio sign information can even “mine” (or generate) digital cash like Ethereum and Zcash, so cryptocurrency miners are shopping for them in bulk and leaving few behind for anybody else.

Read More: Cryptocurrency Mining Is Fueling a GPU Shortage

Searching the celebrities is intense work that “makes use of radio telescopes to pay attention for narrow-bandwidth radio alerts from house.” Analyzing all the information from these telescopes makes use of a whole lot of computing energy. “We’d like to make use of the newest GPUs and we will not get ’em,” Dan Werthimer, chief scientist of SETI, instructed the BBC. “That’s limiting our seek for extraterrestrials.”

Manufacturers equivalent to Nvidia are struggling to maintain up with demand for graphics playing cards. It just lately instructed buyers it might rise to fulfill its manufacturing problem whereas specializing in its core market—players. It even prompt distributors restrict purchases of graphics playing cards from particular person consumers in an effort to cease miners from shopping for up all of the playing cards.

“This is a brand new drawback, it is solely occurred on orders we have been making an attempt to make within the final couple of months,” Werthimer instructed the BBC. “We’ve bought the cash, we have contacted the distributors, and so they say, ‘we simply haven’t got them’”

One scientist on the SETI Institute—a corporation based by Carl Sagan unrelated to UC Berkeley’s SETI challenge—suppose this GPU scarcity is only a minor dip within the lengthy arc of rising laptop processing energy. Computers will get quicker and, ultimately, we’ll discover aliens in the event that they’re there to search out.

“I’ve wager everybody a cup of Starbucks that we would discover ET inside two dozen years,” Seth Shostak, fellow on the SETI Institute, instructed me in an e-mail. But then, he isn’t utilizing GPUs to conduct the search. “Using GPUs for SETI is actually one thing we’ve been investigating for a very long time,” he stated. “When it involves discovering the aliens, the extra laptop energy you might have, the faster you are able to do the search. It’s like searching for buried treasure on a South Pacific island … in the event you can change a teaspoon with a shovel, you may discover it rather a lot faster!”

At the second, plainly cryptocurrency miners are shopping for up all of the shovels.

Get six of our favourite Motherboard tales daily by signing up for our publication .

This article sources data from Motherboard