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Feb 16, 2018

How cryptocurrency mining is hurting astronomers

Aaron Parsons is on a quest to discover the first stars that formed in our Universe around 13 billion years ago. But one thing is getting in the way of his primordial cosmic quest: cryptocurrency.

The mining craze of cryptocurrencies like Ethereum and Ripple is draining the supplies of graphics cards on the market. And that’s spiking the prices of so-called graphics processing units, or GPUs, super powerful chips that can process huge amounts of data. Without GPUs, astronomers like Parsons can’t do their job.

Parsons, at UC Berkeley, works with radio telescopes. These are made of hundreds of antennas that pick up radio emissions permeating the cosmos. All that data needs to be processed in real time by a supercomputer to create a map of...

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