David has always had an analytic mind and often found solace in logic, science, measurements, and being certain of things he knew. It came as no surprise to his parents when he developed a love for computer science, nor when he chose a career as an experimental physicist. He simply enjoyed the process of growing and learning through trial and error, figuring things out on the go.
Besides working on physics, he was fascinated with complex systems and human ingenuity. Working on discovering new laws of physics may be an endless pit, but at least most of the systems humans build are a closed loop, and you can, with varying degrees of effort, understand them as a whole, he thought. One of those systems he took an interest in at some point around 2012 was blockchain. He was galvanized by how someone combined all this existing cryptography and bundled it all together into a unique whole, using the blockchain data structure to gain state immutability and traceability. He mined and bought some coins early on and, besides maintaining a node so he could privately keep track of his belongings, did not do much with it these days.
At this point in time he had a good-paying and fulfilling job, working mostly with high-energy lasers, experiments like entangling, teleporting, and similar things you could easily have read about in the news. He always found it kinda funny how the human civilization ended up using the Greek word atom as in "indivisible" wrongly, and it took us more than 100 years to figure out we were wrong, "Talk about naming problems in a civilization that is as old as ours. But this is what science is and maybe always will be - the best current model of the universe that we have. Our job is to re-iterate, and grow, and not to repeat the assumptions and errors blindly."
One Saturday David came to his lab early. He was one of the only people in the building, but he had hoped to do a long-planned high-energy experiment early on in the day, because any power fluctuations could disrupt active work during a regular work day. That’s why he booked a schedule for this day a few months in advance. This way he would also have an entire day to verify and analyze the early results of the experiment and not be interrupted. He turned on all equipment that needed time to start up and got himself a large double macchiato. He took a few large sips as he went through his experiment checklist, he double-checked everything, started the measuring equipment, and triggered the test. In a few seconds of nothing, an unexpected hum started to fill the room with ever-increasing frequency. In a split second, David put down the macchiato, took a glance over the experiment, the wiring, and the room, and just as he intended to hit the power supply killswitch, a flash of white and a loud bang surprised him.
When he regained his sight he was still on his feet, with a loud ring in his ears. Most of the lab was scorched black, and some of the equipment was scattered at the edges of the room.
I messed up badly, how did I mess this up, what just happened? David thought. "Fuck, fuck, fuck"- He said out loud. Within an hour the whole institute management was there wondering what happened and who was responsible. The damage was more or less localized to David's lab, and the ambulance gave him a clean bill of health, although they were confused that someone was in that room and had survived unscattered.
Besides a few million dollars worth of equipment, there were no casualties. "Good thing we are insured, ey? Please do not repeat this kind of stunt, we are just glad you are alive". One of the management of the Institute said jokingly, "Was the experiment at least a success?" Laughed a co-worker.
After a few days, David was helping with the cleanup of the lab, almost good to go. He noticed one of his private workstations on the floor. Well this took a beating, might as well check if it will boot right now. He plugged it in and started it ... And it worked, a Linux device running a Bitcoin daemon booted up. David brought it to the lab some time ago to make use of the free internet connection he had at the institut. This was not the only personal belonging that he had there, over the years he has spent quite a lot of time in the workspace, so the staff turned a blind eye to him bringing some personal items.
David checked the status of the machine and saw that peer nodes were available and left the node to sync. When he looked at the screen next time he saw that there was a sync error, so he checked the block height. At first glance the node was 658 blocks behind, but as he checked the last synced blocks against the block explorer none of them were valid. David checked the hashes of more and more blocks. He switched to a binary search method and eventually found the fork. 64843 blocks, that is more than a year of blocks! “What the !? But I checked on it last week."
Turns out the number of mismatched blocks went a year and a half in the past, funny because he was sure that the node was up to date.The state in his wallets also changed by a small margin from what he remembered. "Hm, it could not be that… Either I have lost my mind, or this implies that my Bitcoin node was in sync with another network for the past year and with these address difficulties this could have not even been mined by a smaller network in the time. A parallel Bitcoin network? What actually happened during my experiment?"