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This blockchain-themed maths puzzle can earn you a share of $100,000

Supposedly, the answer will help Ethereum transition to Proof-of-Stake

proof of stake, ethereum, blockchain, cryptocurrency, hard fork, fork, update, scaling

There’s a (supposed) problem with blockchain: it’s too resource-intensive, so Amazon Web Services (AWS) has backed a $100,000 maths competition to “forever change” the technology.

Given 1024-bit input x, compute the verifiable delay function ‘h=x^(2^t) mod N’ as fast as possible.

t=2^30

N=12406669568412474139879892740481443274469842712573568412813185506497689533
7309138910015071214657674309443149407457493434579063840841220334555160125016
3310409336906745695712173376302391915172057213101976083872398463643608502208
9677296497856968322944926681990341411705803010652807392863301711868982662559
4484331

If it helps, the puzzle above relates specifically to Verifiable Delay Functions (VDFs), which AWS describes as “low-level building blocks” for cryptography.

Once properly developed, ADFs are thought to remove some of the trust problems associated with Proof-of-Stake (PoS) blockchains, particularly when working with pseudorandom numbers (which are neither trustless or truly random).

“The Ethereum ecosystem alone currently uses on the order of 850 megawatts to extend blocks. That’s about $460 million in running costs per year,” said Tim Boeckmann of AWS. “With VDFs in Ethereum, there is an opportunity to bring down that cost to less than $0.13 million for the 0.25 megawatts of energy to power the hardware random beacons.”

Anyone that completes the puzzle is promised a share of the $100,000 prize, but exactly how much will depend on how fast their algorithm computes it.

A maths competition to save Ethereum’s PoS plans?

Ethereum devs have been preparing to transition the blockchain from a consensus mechanism that leverages Proof-of-Work (like Bitcoin) to one that relies heavily on PoS.

So far, it’s been no easy feat. Critics have slammed the idea, and some analysts have previously warned the proposed incentive model simply won’t work.

With this in mind, it begins to make sense that AWS, along with startups like the Ethereum Foundation and Protocol Labs, would turn to outsourcing the solutions to some of the trust problems associated with PoS.

“It’s a new way of designing hardware, of open-sourcing it.” said Justin Drake of the Ethereum Foundation. “It’s something that has never been tried. Hopefully, it will not only push forward a culture of collaboration between all kinds of blockchain projects, but open up the hardware design industry as well.

One hundred thousand dollars to solve math puzzles is certainly cool, but one can’t help but suspect it’s an expensive cry for help from an overwhelmed Ethereum camp tasked with saving “trustlessness” in a (potentially) trustful system.

Either way, you can read more about the competition here.

Published August 2, 2019 — 19:13 UTC