A recently-released set of early Satoshi emails contains some interesting insights into the network and its creator.
Hash Crashes As Miners Feel The Chill
Hashrate may have fallen by as much as a third from its peak, by some measures.
Winter weather has had a significant impact on the Bitcoin blockchain, as miners have been powering down their rigs to help balance the electricity grid in the hardest-hit areas.
Texas, where approximately one eighth of all global hashrate is located, has been experiencing an unusually harsh winter, but the Lone Star state is not alone in suffering from the cold.
Overall, hashrate has dropped by approximately one quarter from its highs, well above 500 Exahash per second.
Hashrate is difficult to measure directly, because Bitcoin is a decentralized network and there is no means of gathering data about all the rigs that secure the blockchain. However, it is possible to estimate hashrate in various ways. For example, if the hashrate of a set of rigs or a large pool is known, then total network hashrate can be extrapolated based on how long it takes these rigs to mine blocks.
While there is a high degree of variance in the short term, over the long run this gives a fairly reliable picture of network health.
One site, BitInfoCharts, suggests that hashrate has dropped as much as 13% in the last 24 hours, and may have declined by as much as a third over the past week.
A drop in hashrate means that blocks will be mined more slowly, until the next Difficulty adjustment. A 25% decline might realistically mean that blocks are mined at 13-minute intervals, rather than 10-minute intervals, on average. However, Satoshi's design means that this would only ever be a temporary situation, lasting at most two weeks, since Difficulty adjustments happen fortnightly.
Balancing The Grid
The episode does show how miners could have a pivotal role to play in helping to balance the power grid and adjust demand at critical times. It is far easier for miners to play this role, than for power stations to increase production at short notice.
After years of negative press for its environmental harms, Bitcoin is now emerging as a means of reducing emissions and managing energy use.
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