Here's something that flew down my Tweetdeck feed last week that I thought was extremely interesting; a chart of the historical distribution of nonces found by miners. As you may notice, there are some areas on the chart that have a non-random distribution of what is supposed to be a completely random process. No need to fret, this doesn't mean that anything is wrong with Bitcoin. What we are looking at may be evidence of an optimization found by a particular ASIC manufacturer that the rest of the mining industry isn't aware of yet.That's the beauty of Bitcoin. At the moment, we can't tell for sure which line(s) of ASICs is running with this optimization that the rest of the market is ignorant of. All we can do is look at the data and tell that someone has found an advantage somewhere, or else this chart would have an even distribution. Truly fascinating stuff, and it's not unique to Bitcoin either. Chains like Monero that attempt to be ASIC-resistant are not always successful, and the nonce distribution data proves it.
As you can see from the chart above, Monero definitely had covert ASICs start mining on their chain at some point after block 1,400,000 that coincided with a precipitous increase in hash rate. A "rip your face off" jump in hashrate. We can be pretty certain that this was driven by covert ASICs because the nonce data becomes extremely non-random during this period as well. In reaction, the Monero community decided to hard forked last October to make these ASICs obsolete. The chart perfectly depicts this hard fork event as you see hash rate gap down immediately and nonce distribution became completely random again.
Again, fascinating stuff, we're seeing the invisible hand of the market in the mining data. This also begs the question, is it even worth attempting to block ASICs at every turn? To me, it seems like ASICs are the most efficient and best way to solve the Proof of Work algorithms that secure these blockchains. It also seems that anyone who has tried to deny ASICs from participating in the mining of a particular chain has done so in vain, as the passage of time and enough tweaking by Wiley entrepreneurs has birthed workarounds that were not previously taken into consideration.
This will be interesting to follow in the coming years, especially as the people working on these blockchains begin to bifurcate and pick sides; ASIC-driven PoW v. ASIC-resistant PoW v. ASIC-resistant PoW + PoS v. Pure PoS. We here at the Ƀent will be reporting on these trends as they develop.
Double Doink!!! What a terrible way to end the season for the Bears.