On June 19, 2018, block number #528249 in Bitcoin’s blockchain was mined. And ever since, the crypto community has been in a frenzy. Why? Because the block hash assigned to block #528249 is 00000000000000000021e800c1e8df51b22c1588e5a624bea17e9faa34b2dc4a, and, according to calculations, it is very unlikely for a miner to compute this hash.
The crypto-community has been restless in trying to figure out if this low-probability event was by chance, premeditated, or maybe a legacy of Satoshi Nakamoto. When members of the crypto-community crunched the numbers to figure out how long it would take a miner to come up with this hash, they found that if a miner had one exahash of computing power, it would take the miner about 2512 years to discover block #528249.
To put that amount of computing power into perspective, 1000 petahashes is equal to one exahash, and it takes 1000 terahashes to equal a petahash. An Antminer s9 is able to put out about 14 terahashes per second. Thus, it was found that there is about a 0.4699 percent chance of this block hash being discovered.
More so, block #528249 is similar to the genesis block signed by Satoshi Nakamoto — the anonymous creator of Bitcoin. According to a crypto community member that goes by the alias “coop-soup,” if a Bitcoin miner using a CPU in the genesis block era worked toward solving the genesis block for six days straight, they would have about a 17 percent chance of solving the block.
However, according to the genesis block scriptsig on Coinbase, it only took the miner who solved the genesis block about 4.2 minutes to sign the block. The striking resemblance in the mathematical likelihood of both the genesis block and block 528249 taking place, and the fact that Satoshi Nakamoto did actually sign the genesis block, lead some to believe that block #528249 was also the work of Satoshi Nakamoto. Others claimed that the block confirms that quantum computing exists, while a more realistic approach is that the appearance of the block is a random event.
Was it Satoshi Nakamoto?
This is something that we will never know the answer to — at least not at this point in time. But the fact that block #528529 — a low probability event — and the genesis block — another unlikely event — both resemble each other in probability, this leads some members of the community to believe it is Nakamoto showing the community that he is still around and involved in the network.
Was it quantum computing?
Some members of the crypto community estimated it would take around 2500 years to come up with this hash, using an extremely powerful mining rig. This has led some to believe that quantum computing may already exist on the Bitcoin network. A quantum computer is an extremely powerful computer that is able to process information at incredible speeds using subatomic particles to store information.
Because the probability of 21e800 as its 19-24 digits in the hash is so low, some believe that a quantum computer might already exist on the Bitcoin network. A quantum computer would be able to provide answers to the cryptographic proof at incredible speeds, cutting down the time it takes to solve the block from 2500 years, to an average of 10 minutes it takes to sign a block.
Was it a random event?
This seems to be the most plausible theory, at the moment. It is the only theory for which we can objectively provide an answer. Although it is not very likely for a block to have 21e800 as its 19-24th characters, there is still a chance that it can happen. A probability of .4699 percent tells us that block #528249 is likely to happen once in a blue moon, but it may very well be a blue moon we are looking at.
Emin Gün Sirer, a professor at Cornell and a systems builder in the blockchain ecosystem, told Cointelegraph that the crypto community is putting too much emphasis on block #528249. When Sirer crunched the numbers, he discovered that we can expect a rare event like 21e800 to occur about once a year. Moreover, developer and lawyer Dan Robinson found that blocks #26284, #83434, #187323, #259695, #304822, #349158, #437039 and #475118 all start with 21e8, and just like Sirer argues, the number seems to appear once a year.
A deeper meaning?
Some individuals believe block #528249 was not just a coincidence or predetermined, but rather a hidden message on the Bitcoin blockchain. Individuals who believe this theory are most likely looking at the “E8” part of the hash.
E8 is a theory in physics often referred to as “An Exceptionally Simple Theory of Everything." The E8 theory was created by Antony Garrett Lisi and published on November 6, 2007. It attempts to describe all of the fundamental interactions in physics. Members of the crypto community see the E8 as a sign that maybe there are ways to use Bitcoin and blockchain technology that we are unaware of at the moment, and that maybe Bitcoin will allow the world to unify — at least in the sense of all fundamental transactions that take place.
Others, like Sirer and Robinson, believe that this is just a random event taking place and that the crypto community is looking too deep into this block, trying to derive some sort of meaning that doesn’t really exist. Sirer shared with Cointelegraph:
“The only way to make sense of the fascination around this particular block is to note that people love seeing patterns. Even in true random sequences. That, and the fact that a bear market brings out the mysticism and the search for divine in people. In hard times, people often look to the Creator to send them a sign, to give them an indication that he is still watching over them, to extend them a ray of hope. I think that's what's happening here.”
It could be the case that the bleak state of the cryptocurrency market that we have been in since December has the community desperately looking — even creating — their own signs of hope for the future. The outcome of this is that things that should be taken with a grain of salt often carry much more weight than they objectively should.
Mocking those looking for a deeper meaning, Robinson suggests looking to block #297879 for a hidden message from Satoshi in the hash: 00000000000000001dead1b2e2967171d88cb7b4ce35f15f17e86cb50a8df09c — being, “I dead.”
And when Cointelegraph asked self-proclaimed 'Bitcoin nashionalist' Mark Wilcox — one of the first individuals to publicize block #528249 — if he thought this was a random event or premeditated, Wilcox replied, “It’s just a regular block.” Another response that supports Sirer’s math that this is just a low probability event taking place.
At this point in time, it is tough to say why block #528249 has a difficulty of 18 — which means it begins with 18 zeros — and is followed by 21e800. Although this event is highly unlikely, it could just be — and most likely is — a random event that took place. But it’s also possible that 21e800 was a predetermined block from an individual on the Bitcoin network who is more savvy than the rest of the community.