Hashtags dominate social media and hold all sorts of metadata making it possible for internet users to track, group together or search for specific content. When the hashtag is added to a piece of information, like a document or video, the data is mathematically transformed into something unique and identifiable.
Now imagine vigorously stirring cream into a black coffee, each stir is unique and its signature and pattern replicates the chaotic nature of what's needed to make a cryptographic hashtag work.
"We show that chaotic stirring of a viscous fluid naturally produces a characteristic signature of the stirring process in the arrangement of particles in the fluid, and that this signature directly satisfies the requirements for a cryptographic hash function," the scientific abstract states.
Finding a parallel between the maths behind a cryptocurrency like Bitcoin and natural processes will, according to applied physics doctoral student William Gilpin of Stanford University help scientists develop more advanced digital security.
"Having an actual physical model and showing that this is a naturally occurring process might open up new ways to think about those functions" Gilpin says
"Something as ordinary as a fluid is still performing computations. It's not something only humans tell computers to do." Gilpin adds.
According to an article written by Amy Adams, director of science communications at Stanford University, "modern hash functions are an ongoing area of research, as cryptocurrencies and similar applications such as digital signatures are becoming increasingly common for credit card transactions and legal documents."
The study, 'Cyrptographic hashing using chaotic hydrodynamics' is published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.