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Bitcoin blamed for blocking search for alien life

A Millennial reboot of the X-files would perhaps see Mulder and Scully chase down Bitcoin miners that are apparently hogging all the world’s high performance microchips

Alien sillouettes
Meanwhile, Bitcoin and cryptocurrency prices rallied on Thursday

The truth may be out there, but, efforts of real life Fox Mulders are apparently being thwarted by something other than some shadowy conspiracy.

Rocketing demand for high-powered computer hardware is the problem. Stargazers seeking alien life are unable to get hold of necessary processing power due to cryptocurrency ‘miners’ buying up graphics processing units (GPUs) and other high performance microchips.

These ‘miners’ form an increasingly large network of cryptocurrency computers. They perform algorithmic tasks central to the blockchain systems that are the basis for digital currencies such as Bitcoin. The owners of the machines, known as ‘miners’, earn digital currency units every time they successfully complete the computational task.

As the price of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies have soared, the computer based ‘mining’ industry has escalated quickly.

Processing power is the competitive battleground for these miners – the fastest processors allow more lucrative coins to be secured. The knock-on effect is soaring demand for the best and fastest  equipment, causing a scarcity of high performance processors for other demanding scientific pursuits, like stargazing.

Specifically, researchers for the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) organisation want to expand their capabilities but they can’t get hold of the right equipment.

“We'd like to use the latest GPUs ... and we can't get 'em," SETI chief scientist Dr Dan Werthimer is quoted in a report.

He added: “This is a new problem, it's only happened on orders we've been trying to make in the last couple of months."

Bitcoin, Ethereum, Ripple and Litecoin all advance

In the cryptocurrency market, the price of Bitcoin is continuing its recovery. Bitcoin was up US$409 or 4.3% in Thursday’s dealing, changing hands at US$9,887.

The Ethereum price, meanwhile, rose 3% to trade at US$951. And the Ripple XRP token advanced 9.5% at US$1.16.

Elsewhere, attentions have been on Litecoin - which was the fifth largest digital currency - where changes and upgrades promise to bring it into the mainstream. The Litecoin price jumped 27% changing hands at US$232.

Litepay, a new payment system for Litecoin, will allow businesses to accept Litecoin payments, while it will also offer users the ability to “spend dollars anywhere debit cards are accepted, or withdraw cash from any compatible ATM”. It is due to be rolled out at the end of this month.

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