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Utter “Noncesense” — a statistical study of nonce value distribution on the Monero blockchain

Utter “Noncesense” — a statistical study of nonce value distribution on the Monero blockchain This article covers a small side project from Noncesense Research Lab, a non-profit decentralized collective of developers, data scientists, and assorted blockchain nerds that work together to study interesting phenomena in consensus ecosystems. You are welcome to join our public discussion on IRC — feel free to introduce yourself, chat pseudorandomly, or just lurk and learn.

This week, I was looking for a lighthearted research project for the holidays, and thought it would be amusing to toy around with visualizing reported nonce values. Neptune Research (co-founder and developer for the Monero Archival Project) kindly provided a data dump of nonces from the Monero blockchain.

I expected that exploratory analysis on this data would be an entirely nonsensical endeavor, since possible winning values are scattered randomly through a huge input range that miners sample by brute force. In fact, I joked in the Monero Research Lab: My Jupyter notebook at the end will demonstrate that I spent an hour on a completely useless task, thus itself being a “proof of work”…

However, I encountered several very distinct patterns in the winning nonces. A few histograms and visualizations revealed signatures of multiple unique nonce search strategies being used by miners today! You can follow along with the analysis in this Jupyter Notebook.

Example Block

Consider this Monero block that showed up as I am writing this article. Here is a simplified version of some of the information that it contains:

HEIGHT: 1711798 PREVIOUS BLOCK: 4343ccb0eccf8beac6f95461fe5f5e3aa61b8b49a8d7e920e1f8103826a73908 TRANSACTIONS: 6b6abb2a046a694d5edc21eeb5a7ddb5aefa4ed494be870c4f19d3612456ea4d ccf04b4fe210c5c123d032de6bff200407d955248fdc155cac0414d6c137fb3d a813579edc10878ca5fd9d40a678e49db23ff6c1c863c78293549d13576dd522 37f76871ccd09e0085a85888e71936b9c2305de306aee0d0194be20052120...
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