Josie Wales, Anti-Media
In the wake of Bitcoin’s meteoric rise in popularity, interest in the dynamics of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies has skyrocketed over the past year. With bank-based blockchain projects poised to revolutionize the world of financial services, researchers continue to study the new technology to better understand the inner workings of the blockchain, as well its economic, social, and technological implications.
One such researcher from Stanford University recently uncovered a parallel between cryptocurrency transactions and the structure of swirling liquid that may help develop more advanced digital security, help validate precise procedures used in drug development, and even further our understanding of physical processes in nature.
In a study published recently in PROCEEDINGS OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES, Stanford applied physics doctoral student William Gilpin explains how swirling liquids like coffee follow the same principles as cryptocurrency transactions. Cryptocurrency transactions are encrypted through a complex mathematical function called a cryptographic hash. Hash functions work by “mathematically transform[ing] digital information into a unique output that disguises the input. Hash functions are deliberately designed to be complex, but they also remain consistent so that the same input always produces the same output. However, two similar inputs will likely produce very different outputs.”
Gilpin said he noticed “similarities between the way hash functions work and the physical laws involved with stirring a liquid” and decided to explore it during a winter break.
Focusing on a principle called chaotic mixing, Gilpin found that the equations in mixing a fluid were almost identical to the properties of a hash function. “I wasn’t expecting it to perform that well,” Gilpin said. “When it looked like it satisfied every property of a hash function I started getting really excited. It suggests that there’s something more fundamental going on with how chaotic math is acting.”
In addition to helping develop more secure ways to protect information, this connection could also be used to improve drug development methods that require injecting various fluids at specific points in time, according to Gilpin. “If you don’t form the correct arrangement when you’re done, then you know that one of your processes didn’t go right,” he said. “The chaotic property ensures that you’re not going to accidentally get a final product that looks correct.”
The findings also indicate that cryptographic computations occur not only in the digital world but also in nature. According to Gilpin, “Something as ordinary as a fluid is still performing computations. It’s not something only humans tell computers to do. It’s something that nature does and it shows up in the structure of how things form.”
While Gilpin is not himself a computer scientist or drug developer, he’s excited about the doors this discovery will open in other fields. “Having an actual physical model and showing that this is a naturally occurring process might open up new ways to think about those functions,” he said.
Josie Wales, journalist for Anti-Media, is a writer, public speaker, Youtube personality, and activist from Philadelphia. She is also a tech writer for d10e.co, and formerly worked as editor and contributing writer at The Free Thought Project. Josie covers disruptive technology, artificial intelligence, innovation, tech solutions, and digital privacy issues for Anti-Media. Contact Josie: firstname.lastname@example.org. Support her work on Patreon: patreon.com/JosieWales.