In my understanding (forgive me if i'm wrong) Bitcoin uses hash power to create SHA-256 algorithms thus creating more Bitcoins.
What bothers me from an economic perspective, is that we have right now 55 million tera-hash of computing power that are used to solve mathematic equations that are basically not used for anything else besides mining Bitcoin. Miners secure the network and create new bitcoins. In order to achieve this they solve a mathematical problem and chain together blocks of transactions. The problem here is that this mathematical problem is of no use for anything else. It is just a process added into the system in order to help with mining, making it just a timer more or less.

My first thought when I started reading about Bitcoin a few years ago was that these equations were used by some institution for a greater scientific cause. I felt a little disappointed this didn't happen. Recently after talking with my colleagues about bitcoin and trying to explain how it was produced by miners using mining equipment like Antminers that consume electricity etc.. , most of them had the same question:
So these computations Bitcoin network is making are used by some university or government institution to help with solving some difficult problem or equation?