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Iranian Authorities Allow 1000 Bitcoin Miners to Operate

Iranian

  • The Iranian government is issuing 1,000 licenses to crypto miners.
  • Iran banking on cryptocurrencies to avoid US sanctions.

The Iranian government is changing its stance towards cryptocurrencies and has recently given licenses to over 1,000 Bitcoin miners in the country to operate. The move comes after the government is exploring new options to circumnavigate the crippling US sanctions placed on its trade and industry.

Iranian regulating body Ministry of Industries, Mining and Trade announced this move according to state-run Iran’s Banking and Economic System Reference Media (IBENA). Since the cryptocurrency mining is an industry of its own and consumes a considerable amount of energy, Iran thought it best to give licenses to this sector through the Industry ministry rather than the banking regulators.

Amir Hossein Saeedi Nai, a local member of a blockchain commission and guild announced that several mining farms have already started operations. Overall, a total of USD 8.5 billion will be added to the sector through this approach, Nai said.

Iran has some of the lowest power tariffs in the world due to its free-falling currency (around $0.07) and miners are looking to take advantage of these prices and easy availability to get decent profitable returns in the country. Iran is also looking to use Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies to circumnavigate the crippling sanctions imposed on it by the USA. However, it remains to be seen how the USA will respond to this development.

 

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Some Crypto Can Still Be Mined With a CPU

CPU mining

  • Monero, Ravencoin, Nerva, Haven, and Webchain are among some popular crypto that can still be mined profitably with a CPU

Mining Bitcoin and most other major cryptocurrencies with a computer processing unit (CPU) essentially yields nothing and is unprofitable due to electricity costs and difficulty levels. However, there are still a handful of cryptocurrencies that can be successfully mined with a CPU.

The only major cryptocurrency that can be profitably mined with a CPU is Monero, which is the top stealth cryptocurrency. This is because Monero had a hard fork in November which disabled application specific integrated circuits (ASICs) and graphics processing unit (GPU) miners, leaving only CPU miners. A high-performance computer processor can mine Monero at 23 KH/s, which is enough to yield 11 Monero in a year.

Other cryptocurrencies that can be mined with a CPU include Nerva, which does not allow mining pools, and Ravencoin, which has a special algorithm that only works for CPUs. Webchain is another option, mostly because it has fewer than 150 miners. Finally, Haven can be successfully CPU mined, since it uses an obscure algorithm that was previously abandoned by Monero and is therefore no longer popular among miners.

Thus, although Bitcoin cannot be mined with a CPU anymore, there are still some options left for CPU miners.

 

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China Global Bitcoin Hash Rate Share At New High of 66%

  • China now controls 2/3 of the total Bitcoin mining hash rate

A report from CoinShares has found that China’s share of the global Bitcoin mining hash rate has increased to 66%, which is the highest level recorded since CoinShares began publishing these reports in 2017. Further, over 50% of the global Bitcoin mining hash rate is concentrated in a single province, Sichuan, which is located in southwest China and has abundant hydroelectric power resources.

Other mining hotspots in China include Xinjiang and Inner Mongolia. CoinShares’ speculates that China’s hash rate has achieved new heights due to the widespread deployment of top of the line mining rigs, and this especially makes sense since the top Bitcoin mining manufacturers in the world are located in China, including Bitmain, Canaan, and MicroBT.

Notably, the government of China was close to banning cryptocurrency mining, but decided not to last month, at least for now. It could be argued that having so much of Bitcoin’s hash rate located in a country that does not favor Bitcoin could be a centralization concern. Theoretically, the Chinese government could seize the Bitcoin mining operations across the country and take over the Bitcoin network if they desired to.

As for the other 34% of the global Bitcoin mining hash rate, it is concentrated in the United States, Russia, and Kazakhstan.

 

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Bitcoin Mining Rig Maker Canaan Seeks $100 Million US IPO

Canaan, a Bitcoin mining technology manufacturing company based in Hangzhou, China, is aiming to become the first public company in the cryptocurrency mining sector via a USD 100 million initial public offering (IPO) in the United States. This is according to an amended application filing submitted to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). The USD 100 million IPO price is actually a downward revision from an IPO price of USD 400 million when the application was first submitted to the SEC in late October.

Canaan is the second-largest manufacturer of cryptocurrency mining rigs and is the primary rival of Bitmain. Aside from producing mining technology, Canaan also produces artificial intelligence (AI) technology and supercomputers.

Notably, Canaan has tried before to go public via an IPO in both China and Hong Kong. These attempts were rejected by regulators due to market uncertainty. Likewise, Bitmain has tried to launch an IPO as well, but the 2018 crypto bear market caused its application to be rejected.

It remains to be seen if the SEC will accept Canaan’s application, and the IPO price may be lowered further before a final listing occurs, especially because regulators are more likely to approve the IPO if it raises less money since that is equivalent to less risk for investors.

 

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Thieves Drill Through Wall to Steal 85 Mining Rigs

A crypto mining rig warehouse got cleaned out by a sophisticated group of thieves in Malaysia. Five people rented a building next to the crypto mining rig warehouse for one day and monitored the movement of the mining rigs. The thieves waited for the moment when everything was clear and proceeded to drill through the wall and steal 85 mining rigs. Apparently these mining rigs were top of the line, which each rig being worth USD 10,300, bringing the total haul to USD 875,500.

The police believe that this group of thieves planned on using the machines themselves and starting a crypto mining farm. The thieves did not get far, however. The police searched the area and arrested all five suspects red-handed, since when the police seized their car they found drilling equipment.

At this point, the perpetrators are being held as the investigation continues, and charges have not been filed yet.

Although they were unsuccessful in their endeavor to start a crypto mining farm by drilling through a wall and stealing 85 rigs, this saga is certainly a unique new type of cryptocurrency scam.

 

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Scientists Fined for Mining Bitcoin at Russian Nuclear Lab

In February 2018, three scientists at a top-secret Russian nuclear lab were caught mining Bitcoin on government supercomputers. The lab where the scientists work is where the first Soviet nuclear bombs were created, and has some of the most powerful supercomputers in all of Russia.

Specifically, the supercomputer illegally used for Bitcoin mining could perform 1 trillion operations per second, although it is unknown what hash rate this is equivalent to.

Aside from the illegal use of government property, Bitcoin mining is highly energy intensive and it would be equivalent to stealing for the scientists involved in this scheme to not pay for the electricity that the supercomputer consumed while mining Bitcoin.

One of the three scientists caught in this illegal Bitcoin mining scheme has been fined RUB 450,000, equivalent to USD 7,000. The other two scientists are still awaiting sentencing.

It is speculated that the scientists made far more money mining Bitcoin than the USD 7,000 fine. That being said, it remains to be seen how much the other two scientists will be fined.

 

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Iran to Regulate Crypto Mining Industry via Licenses

A draft proposal for an Iran crypto mining license is being reviewed by the central bank.

Cryptocurrency mining has proliferated in Iran over the last two years due to state-subsidized electricity. Essentially, electricity is one of the most important factors in determining whether a cryptocurrency mining operation is profitable, and in Iran, electricity is cheaper than in most other places in the world.

In July, the Central Bank of Iran recognized the burgeoning cryptocurrency mining industry and promised to legalize it and regulate it. Essentially, miners will have to get their license renewed every year, and will have to disclose all of the details about the mining operation. At this time, it is undisclosed as to how much the license will cost.

This is perhaps good news for cryptocurrency miners in Iran, since the government is taking the route of regulating it instead of making it illegal. However, it is expected that there will still be numerous underground mining operations even after the license is available, since some people will prefer to stay anonymous and not pay taxes. It remains to be seen how the state will enforce the new regulations for an Iran crypto mining license.

 

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Bitcoin Hash Rate Hits New All-Time High of Nearly 100 EH/s

The Bitcoin mining hash rate has hit a new all-time high of 98.5 EH/s as of 10 September 2019. This is up roughly 300% since December when the hash rate dropped as low as 32 EH/s, coinciding with Bitcoin’s bear market low near USD 3,000.

Additionally, this new all-time high hash rate is 60% higher than the peak of 62 EH/s recorded in August 2018 before the bear market began to cause the mining industry to contract. In other words, the Bitcoin mining industry is now far healthier than ever before, and the security of the Bitcoin network is higher than ever before.

Bitcoin mining difficulty is also at a new all-time high of nearly 12 trillion, meaning it is harder than ever before to mine Bitcoin, or equivalently each unit of hash rate earns less Bitcoin. This is due to a new line of application-specific integrated circuits (ASICs) with 55 TH/s of mining power hitting the market this summer. If it is assumed that the hash rate rise since June is all due to these new 55 TH/s ASICs, that means over half a million of these top of the line mining rigs have come online, which would generate USD 1 billion of revenue for Bitcoin mining manufacturers.

It remains to be seen if the Bitcoin mining hash rate continues to rise from this all-time high. The Bitcoin price will have to rise off of the $10,000 level in order to make that happen.

 

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Is Bitcoin Mining Detrimental to the Environment? What Are the Solutions?

Is Bitcoin Mining Detrimental To The Environment? What Are The Solutions?

The Bitcoin mining hash rate hit a new all-time high this past month of 80 EH/s, which is equivalent to 80,000,000 TH/s. This hash rate represents an ensemble of mining rigs spread all over the world that are performing hashing operations 24/7, in order to secure and sustain the Bitcoin network and to earn profits via block rewards. Bitcoin mining is highly competitive, and as long as Bitcoin’s price continues to rise long term, then Bitcoin’s hash rate will only increase from here.

China has recently proposed to eliminate Bitcoin mining, saying it uses an incredible amount of electricity and is wasteful. This would have a major impact on the distribution of Bitcoin mining in the world since most Bitcoin miners are located in China. That being said, China has not banned Bitcoin mining yet.

Also, speculation that Bitcoin mining contributes to global warming has led to numerous Twitter posts like the one below.

Study: Bitcoin Mining Could Push Global Warming Over the 2C Threshold https://t.co/F4kch36Qa7 via @WattsUpWithThat

— Marlene Katz (@marlene676) July 25, 2019

The following article investigates whether Bitcoin mining truly is detrimental to the environment, as well as explores the solutions that could mitigate environmental damage.

A Single Mining Rig Can Release 14.8 Metric Tons Of CO2 Per Year

To put Bitcoin mining energy usage into perspective, the Antminer S17 uses 2,385 Watts of power to generate 53 TH/s, which is equivalent to 20,893 Kilowatt Hours (kWh) used per year. This is 100% more than the 10,400 kWh an average American household uses in a year.

A calculator provided by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) indicates that the 20,893 kWh used per year by an Antminer S17 requires 34.2 barrels of oils, 1,662 gallons of gas, or 16,152 pounds of coal to be burned, releasing 14.8 metric tons of Carbon Dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere as well as other pollutants.

The Basic Science Of Anthropogenic Global Warming

Anthropogenic CO2 emissions are the primary cause of global warming. This is because CO2 is a greenhouse gas, meaning that it blocks thermal radiation emitted by the Earth from escaping into space, causing the average temperature of the Earth to increase.

Chart showing CO2 measured at Mauna Loa Observatory courtesy of the Earth System Research Laboratory (ESRL) and the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

There is no doubt that the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere is increasing significantly long term due to human activities, as shown by measurements of atmospheric CO2 on top of Hawaii’s Mauna Loa Volcano, and this long term rise in CO2 corresponds to a long term rise in Earth’s average temperature.

The question is how much of total global CO2 emissions can be attributed to Bitcoin mining?

Bitcoin Mining Accounts For Roughly 0.1% Of Total Global CO2 Emissions

Assuming that the entire Bitcoin mining network is comprised of Antminer S17s, it would take 1.51 million Antminer S17s to yield the 80 EH/s hash rate of the Bitcoin network. This would consume 31.5 billion kWh of electricity per year, releasing 22.278 million metric tons of CO2 into the atmosphere every year.

According to the United States Geological Survey (USGS), the automotive and industrial sectors of the economy release 24 billion tons, equivalent to roughly 22 billion metric tons, into the atmosphere each year. A more comprehensive estimate is that humans release 40 billion metric tons of CO2 per year. This means that CO2 emissions from Bitcoin mining account for approximately 0.05% to 0.1% of total human emissions.

This calculation makes a couple of critical assumptions. It is assumed that all Bitcoin mining rigs are Antminer S17s when in reality there are many different types of rigs. The Antminer S17 is top of the line, and probably more energy efficient than most mining rigs, so the amount of electricity usage and CO2 emission due to Bitcoin mining is likely underestimated in this example.

A website called Digiconomist attempts to estimate the CO2 emissions of the Bitcoin network by estimating the total amount of money that miners spend on electricity, and this is derived from total Bitcoin mining revenue via a series of assumptions.

Digiconomist estimates that Bitcoin’s energy consumption is between 39.7 billion and 73.1 billion kWh per year, releasing 34.7 million metric tons of CO2 into the atmosphere per year. it also estimates that Bitcoin’s total energy consumption is similar to the nations of Venezuela and Austria.

Based on the data discussed in the article so far, it seems safe to say that Bitcoin mining uses tens of billions kWh of electricity per year, releasing tens of millions of metric tons of CO2, although this is only a tiny fraction of the amount of CO2 emitted by all human activities.

Renewable Energy Decreases The Environmental Impact Of Bitcoin Mining

However, an incorrect assumption that is used for both the Antminer S17 and Digiconomist calculations, is that Bitcoin mining solely relies on fossil fuels for electricity. Solar power, wind power, geothermal power, nuclear power, and hydrothermal power are all clean energy sources that can be used to power Bitcoin mining.

For example, Soluna purchased a 37,000-acre swath of land in Western Sahara, an ideal location for generating electricity via wind power. Soluna hopes to have installed 36 megawatts of power generating capacity by 2020 and to have 900 megawatts installed within the next 5 years. All of this electricity will be used by an on-site cryptocurrency mining farm.

Another example is Northern Bitcoin, which uses the hydrothermal energy of a glacial fjord to power an underground Bitcoin mining farm. Additionally, the coldness of the fjord significantly reduces cooling costs.

In fact, a CoinShares study from June 2019 claims that 74.1% of Bitcoin mining is powered by renewable energy. The study found that Bitcoin mining concentrates near sources of abundant renewable energy, such as hydrothermal power in China and geothermal power in Iceland since electricity costs are lower in such regions.

Proof of Capacity (PoC) And Proof of Stake (PoS) Reduce Energy Usage

Aside from reducing the environmental damage caused by Bitcoin mining via the use of renewable energy, cryptocurrency miners can also choose to mine a different cryptocurrency with a more energy-efficient algorithm.

For example, Proof of Stake (PoS) does not require any mining rigs and barely uses any electricity. This is why the Ethereum Foundation is planning on switching Ethereum to PoS eventually, since that would get rid of the Ethereum mining community, and would reduce the environmental impact of the Ethereum network to basically zero.

The caveat is that PoS generally centralizes power into the most wealthy holders of a cryptocurrency since the amount of cryptocurrency in a wallet determines the amount of voting power. This is less ideal than the highly decentralized Proof of Work (PoW) algorithm that Bitcoin uses.

A better option than PoS is Proof of Capacity (PoC), which uses hard drives to mine cryptocurrency. PoC uses practically no electricity in comparison to PoW, but simultaneously maintains a decentralized network of miners, versus PoS which gets rid of the decentralized network of miners.

The best example of a PoC cryptocurrency is Burstcoin, and another cryptocurrency called Chia is planning on using PoC once it launches.

To be clear, it is highly unlikely that Bitcoin will ever stop using PoW, since PoW is essential for the decentralization of the Bitcoin network. Miners do have the option however of mining a different cryptocurrency that uses far less electricity.

Bitcoin Mining Has A Relatively Small Impact On The Environment, And There Are Solutions To Further Reduce This Impact

In summary, Bitcoin mining releases roughly 0.1% of total man-made CO2, which means it is responsible for a small fraction of anthropogenic global warming. However, it is still important to try and reduce CO2 emissions from Bitcoin mining. Also, when fossil fuels are burned, other toxins besides CO2 are released. One solution is renewable energy, which is widely used by Bitcoin mining farms and drastically lowers the environmental impact of Bitcoin mining. Another solution is to mine cryptocurrencies that have algorithms which are less energy intensive, such as PoS or PoC.

As for the future, it seems likely that the energy consumption of Bitcoin mining will increase long term, but this does not have to translate to increased environmental damage, as long as Bitcoin miners gravitate towards renewable energy sources.

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Bitcoin Mining: 1960s Computer, Punch Card Machine, Hand, Breath, Body Heat

Bitcoin Mining: 1960s Computer, Punch Card Machine, Hand, Breath, Body Heat

Bitcoin mining began with computer processing units (CPUs), and then evolved to use graphics processing units (GPUs), but with the exponential rise of Bitcoin mining difficulty, the only profitable way to mine Bitcoin is with Application Specific Integrated Circuits (ASICs).

Mining actually involves the solving of cryptographic puzzles — in the case of Bitcoin, highly complex puzzles that require a lot of computing power. However, it is technically possible to mine Bitcoin with anything that has processing power, as Ken Shirriff has proven. Shirriff has mined Bitcoin with an Apollo Guidance Computer from the 1960s, a 55-year-old IBM punch card computer, a Xerox computer from the 1970s, and even by hand.

If you really wanted, there are other exotic ways to mine Bitcoin, such as with human breath and body heat. All of this will be explored in this article.

Bitcoin mining with a 1960s computer

On July 21 1969 Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first humans to walk on the Moon as part of the Apollo 11 mission. The Apollo Guidance Computer was installed on both the command module and lunar modules during this mission, and all other Apollo missions. It weighs 70 pounds and is under a cubic foot in size, during an era when computers were typically the size of refrigerators or even filled rooms. This made the Apollo Guidance Computer weaker than other computers at the time, but the important thing is it was small enough to fly onboard a spaceship. It has 2.048 MHz of processing power and 4 KB of RAM, as opposed to a 2010 iMac which has 3 GHz of processing power and 8 GB of RAM.

Shirriff went through the complex process of coding up a Bitcoin mining program on the Apollo Guidance Computer. This was an extremely difficult task since the machine is 15-bit, while Bitcoin’s SHA-256 mining algorithm is 32-bit. Also, the computer has a pre-set program that is written on ropes of tape fed into the computer, and a new program for Bitcoin mining had to be written on a simulator and fed into the computer.

In the end, Shirriff succeeded, and the Apollo Guidance Computer mined Bitcoin at a rate of 10.3 seconds per hash. Compare this to Bitmain’s Antminer S9 which mines Bitcoin at up to 14 TH/s. This is 1.442 X 10^14 times faster than the 1960s device. Shirriff estimates it would take about 1 billion times the age of the universe for the Apollo Guidance Computer to find a Bitcoin block.

A punch card machine and copy machine

Perhaps even more impressively, Shirriff mined Bitcoin on a 55-year-old IBM punch card computer, specifically the IBM 1401. Shiriff had to create 85 punch cards for a single SHA-256 Bitcoin mining hashing cycle, and the computer was able to generate one hash every 80 seconds, about 8 times slower than the Apollo Guidance Computer. For each hashing round, the punch cards had to be fed back through the machine, making it a difficult physical task, versus modern Bitcoin mining rigs which are essentially plug and play. Shiriff speculates that it would be possible to set up a Bitcoin mining network with an IBM 1009 Data Transmission Unit, which is the size of a refrigerator and sends 300 characters per second over a phone modem to another computer.

Also, Shirriff mined Bitcoin on a Xerox Alto from the 1970s, which has a processing power of 5.88 MHz and 96-512 KB of RAM. This was difficult due to the Xerox Alto using 16-bit instead of 32-bit, and the programming language is BCPL which is obsolete. The Xerox Alto was ultimately able to mine 1.5 hashes per second, much faster than the Apollo Guidance Computer and the IBM 1401, but it would still take the age of the universe to find a Bitcoin block.

Human hash power

Shirriff has also experimented with mining Bitcoin by hand, and managed to do 1 round of SHA-256 hashing in 16 minutes and 45 seconds. However, a Bitcoin mining hash requires 64 rounds of SHA-256 hashing, so the estimated hash rate when mining Bitcoin by hand is 0.67 hashes per day, and that’s for an expert like Shirriff who knows exactly what do. It is quite complex to do SHA-256 Bitcoin mining by hand, and anyone who is not an expert would likely generate a much smaller hash rate. The complex process of mining Bitcoin by hand can be watched in the below video.

Shirriff is not the only one who has experimented with exotic ways to mine Bitcoin. Max Dovey, a researcher at the Institute of Network Cultures, built a Bitcoin mining rig called Breath that uses breathing to mine Bitcoin. Breath uses a spirometer, a medical tool which measures how much air is inhaled and exhaled by the lungs. The rate of breathing determines the computer’s hash rate, with 1 breath per second generating 1,000 hashes per second. This is notably much faster than the Apollo Guidance Computer, the IBM 1401, and the Xerox Alto, but it is important to note that a modern computer was used for Breath.

Breath generated less than USD 1 of cryptocurrency in several months, and it is more of an artistic exercise to show that Bitcoin mining could be powered by basically anything, rather than a serious way to make money.

Another interesting and exotic way to mine Bitcoin is with human body heat. The Institute of Human Obsolescence hooked up people to special equipment that generates electricity from body heat, and on average 0.6 watts per hour was generated from each person. This is actually less than 1% of the 80 watts per hour generated by an average resting person. Scaling this up, if 44,000 people laid still for an entire month and their heat was harvested, it would generate 1 Bitcoin (at the time).

During this experiment, people who volunteered their body heat received 80% of the cryptocurrency mined. Due to the low energy output, altcoins like Vertcoin and Startcoin were mined instead of Bitcoin. That being said, this experiment started in 2015, and cryptocurrencies have gained tens of thousands of percent of value since then, turning pennies of cryptocurrency into more significant amounts of money.

Shirriff’s experiments with mining Bitcoin by hand, an Apollo Guidance Computer, an old IBM punch card computer, and a Xerox Alto, combined with the experiments which mined Bitcoin from human breath and human body heat, prove that Bitcoin can be mined with literally any device, and powered with literally anything.

Although Bitcoin mining is impractical with weak devices or such low power output, it is perhaps possible to mine low-value alternative cryptocurrencies with such methods, exchange them for Bitcoin satoshis, and perhaps one day those satoshis will become quite valuable.

 

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