What is bitcoin mining, really? What “math problems” do the bitcoin miners solve?

It is often said by journalists that bitcoin miners are rewarded blocks of bitcoin for solving hard math problems as fast as they can.  The math problems always get harder and harder too.

And that is how we know exactly where most journalists’ understanding of bitcoin ends.

Unfortunately, this rumor is spreading, and the editorials are getting more and more careless about the very details that make bitcoin so reliable.  A few days ago, I read a very dismissive editorial on  bitcoin in the New York Times by Andrew Sorkin in which the author appeared to be just guessing when he described bitcoin and its properties.  As usual, I giggled when I read yet another powerful journalist stumble through issues such as bitcoin’s price volatility, utility to merchants, and even the concept of currency itself. But I was particularly worried when he”rolled his eyes” at the notion of mining bitcoin.

Let’s clear this up once and for all.

The bitcoin miners verify all bitcoin transactions. Furthermore, the miners must ensure that everyone on earth agrees at all times about the entire transaction history of bitcoin from its inception. That is what they are doing. It is hard to keep the entire planet synced, so they are rewarded for doing so.  So to all journalists: you no longer have an excuse to miss this important detail.  Myth ended – please stop projecting the image that the miners earn bitcoin playing computer games and Magic the Gathering.


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