GPUs are high-performance chips and aren't just used for powering video games - they may be stacked together by Bitcoin miners, radio-astronomers or others interested in processing large amounts of data for certain applications.
'This is a new problem, it's only happened on orders we've been trying to make in the last couple of months'. SETI researchers need the high-performing processors to scan many communications frequencies at once to ensure they don't miss out on an extraterrestrial's potential call; Berkeley SETI alone has 100 GPUs.
But the institute has been hit by the GPU shortage.
Of course, astronomers aren't the only people affected by this shortage.
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Scientists use GPUs due to its enormous computing capability especially when working with large amounts of data. Do you believe we're not alone in the universe?
The BBC notes that a UC Berkeley team of researchers was hoping to expand their GPU capability at their telescope lab: they went to spend a National Science Foundation grant but realized their money wouldn't go as far as planned because the cost of their target GPU hardware had risen so drastically. A contingency budget is helping for now, but if the supply gets more scarce, the operation might not be able to continue its research, according to Parsons. The aforementioned telescope listens to low-frequency radio waves emitted by hydrogen before the first galaxies formed in the early universe.
GPUs are versatile, he added, pointing out that cyber-security experts sometimes use them for password-cracking experiments, in which computers make many millions of attempts at breaking into a system. Retailers have reportedly had a tough time keeping stock around long enough so that everyone could get their hands on one at a reasonable price.
The shortage has reportedly been caused by a recent spike in demand for GPUs. "When it comes to finding the aliens, the more computer power you have, the quicker you can do the search".