Stirring a creamy coffee acts similar to bitcoin. In a study published on April 23 at the Academy of Sciences, William Gilpin, Ph.D. student of applied physics at Stanford, described how swirling liquids, like coffee, follow the same principles as transactions with cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin.
The physics involved in the agitation of a liquid operates in the same way as the mathematical functions that ensure digital information. This parallel could help develop even more secure ways to protect digital information.
“Having a real physical model and showing that it is a natural process could open up new ways of thinking about those functions,” Gilpin said.
Cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin work in a mysterious way on purpose. As a virtual currency, it is not protected or controlled by any central group. Instead, cryptocurrencies exchange secure information through a mathematical function called cryptographic hash, a modern workhorse for cybersecurity. These functions mathematically transform digital information into a single output that disguises the input.
Hash functions are deliberately designed to be complex, but they are also consistent, so the same input always produces the same result. However, two similar entries will likely produce very different outputs. These functions make it easier for computers to track cryptocurrencies, but hackers find it difficult to do the same.
As a physicist, Gilpin said he saw similarities between the functioning of hash functions and the physical laws related to the agitation of a liquid. “I thought there was probably some analogy worth investigating,” he said. And, with a few weeks off during a winter break, he decided to explore his idea.
Gilpin focused on a principle called Chaotic Mix, (process that flow tracers become fractal complexes under the action of a fluid flow.The flow is characterized by an exponential growth of fluid filaments). Imagine removing the cream from a black coffee cup and watching the cream separate into a swirl pattern. If the cream was stirred in exactly the same way in the future, the same pattern would result. But even the smallest change in the location of the spoon or the speed of the stirring produces a very different pattern. In other words, each initial agitation produces a unique signature in the whirlpool.
Also, just looking at the resulting pattern of the cream in the coffee does not reveal anything about, start of the movement: where the spoon was, how fast it moved, or how many circles, similar to the way a hash function transforms the information so that the entry is impossible to identify.
Gilpin decided to put the example of chaotic mixture of fluids to test as a hash function. He discovered that the equations involved in mixing a fluid conform to the requirements of hash functions almost perfectly. “I did not expect it to work well,” he said. “When it seemed to satisfy all the properties of a hash function, I began to feel really excited.” It suggests that something more fundamental is happening with the way chaotic mathematics are acting. ”
According to the physicist, this relationship in the “Chaotic Mix” property could even influence the production of medicines. Giplin is excited about the possibility of joining the physical and computer field with bioengineer Manu Prakash.
So what I have stressed so much about the importance of coffee for Bitcoin, it turns out to be true.
Writer by birth, curious by profession … I learn a little more every day from the cryptocurrency.