21e8 Explained in Layman Terms

There was a lot of buzz around 21e8 hash on social media and it created a lot of interesting and strange theories. But many people were not able to understand this and so we wanted to break it down and put it in layman terms to understand this “E8 Theory”.

Basics of Bitcoin Mining and SHA-256 Algorithm

Bitcoin Mining adds security to the network. The miner’s group a bunch of transactions into a block and then perform hashing to find the unique hash value that is hidden in the block. This is done a trillion times to find the hash and the miner who gets the hash is rewarded with Bitcoin. Once the hash is found, the block is added to the blockchain.

The hash function used in Bitcoin is SHA-256. The miners need to keep hashing blocks to find the unique hash. The hashing is so difficult so that one doesn’t get it very easily and more computational power is thrown at the Bitcoin blockchain. This computational power gives the Bitcoin, its much-needed security. More the computational power or hashrate, the more secure the blockchain network would be.

The successful hash starts with enough zeros. More the number of zeros, it is more difficult and rare to find the hash. So it is exponentially difficult if it started with multiple zeros.

21e8 Explained

We have understood the basics of Bitcoin Mining and SHA-256 algorithm and also on finding the hash. Now let’s see what this 21e8 controversy is all about.

  • As mentioned earlier, more the number of leading zeros, it would be exponentially more difficult to find the hash.
  • The hash that was found on 19th June 2018 in the block # 528249 had 21e8 leading zeros(#00000000000000000021e800c1e8df51b22c1588e5a624bea17e9faa34b2dc4a)
    that need very high computational power to find.
  • The computational power required would be several magnitudes higher level that exists in the whole world.
  • It would take 2500 years to create this hash with all the computational power in the world.
  • Someone with the quantum computer alone can produce this level of computational power to find the hash.
  • Another strange thing is that 21e8 has 8 digits and the total number of Bitcoins is 21 million (both match) and it might be that someone deliberately did it, but for him to do something, he/she/they would need a quantum computer  (which we believe have not advanced enough till the point).

Strange Theories for this to Happen

There are many strange theories that are spreading on social media for this seemingly impossible scenario. Below are some of them

  • Someone got really lucky (To the tune of being astronomically lucky)
  • Someone has unlocked the quantum computing.
  • Someone has broken/hacked the SHA-256 algorithm.
  • Satoshi might be a time traveler with a quantum computer.
  • Aliens might have found this block.

All the above are just funny theories, but nobody knows how the hash was created.

Buzz in Social Media

Many strange theories were floating around on social media and it also was quite confusing for many people due to the technicality. Below are some of the tweets that are interesting and funny regarding the finding of the Hash.

The below tweet explains that it would take 2512 years to find the hash if he uses 1 exahash/sec computational power. Also, he outlines in the next tweet that either there is an adequately functioning quantum computer or Satoshi has traveled in time to mine this block.

Below tweet is by a developer and he questions why a Mining pool was used to mine if one believes that Satoshi has time traveled to future with a quantum computer to mine his block.

Below tweet says that “Bitcoin is a gift from the Future.”

This Medium Post explains this whole scenario fully if one wants to know about it in-depth in technical terms.