There’s a lot of excitement about Bitcoin, but also a lot of confusion about what Bitcoin is and how it works. We’re offering this course focusing on the computer science behind Bitcoin to help cut through the hype and get to the core of what makes Bitcoin unique.
To really understand what is special about Bitcoin, we need to understand how it works at a technical level. We’ll address the important questions about Bitcoin, such as:
How does Bitcoin work? What makes Bitcoin different? How secure are your Bitcoins? How anonymous are Bitcoin users? What determines the price of Bitcoins? Can cryptocurrencies be regulated? What might the future hold?
After this course, you’ll know everything you need to be able to separate fact from fiction when reading claims about Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. You’ll have the conceptual foundations you need to engineer secure software that interacts with the Bitcoin network. And you’ll be able to integrate ideas from Bitcoin in your own projects.
Introduction to Crypto and Cryptocurrencies
Learn about cryptographic building blocks (“primitives”) and reason about their security. Work through how these primitives can be used to construct simple cryptocurrencies.
Graded: Scrooge Coin
How Bitcoin Achieves Decentralization
Learn Bitcoin’s consensus mechanism and reason about its security. Appreciate how security comes from a combination of technical methods and clever incentive engineering.
Mechanics of Bitcoin
Learn how the individual components of the Bitcoin protocol make the whole system tick: transactions, script, blocks, and the peer-to-peer network.
How to Store and Use Bitcoins
This week we’ll explore how using Bitcoins works in practice: different ways of storing Bitcoin keys, security measures, and various types of services that allow you to trade and transact with bitcoins.
Graded: Consensus from Trust
We already know that Bitcoin relies crucially on mining. But who are the miners? How did they get into this? How do they operate? What’s the business model like for miners? What impact do they have on the environment?
Bitcoin and Anonymity
Is Bitcoin anonymous? What does that statement even mean—can we define it rigorously? We’ll learn about the various ways to improve Bitcoin’s anonymity and privacy and learn about Bitcoin’s role in Silk Road and other hidden marketplaces.
Community, Politics, and Regulation
We’ll look at all the ways that the world of Bitcoin and cryptocurrency technology touches the world of people. We’ll discuss the community, politics within Bitcoin and the way that Bitcoin interacts with politics, and law enforcement and regulation issues.
Graded: Block Chain
Alternative Mining Puzzles
Not everyone is happy about how Bitcoin mining works: its energy consumption and the fact that it requires specialized hardware are major sticking points. This week we’ll look at how mining can be re-designed in alternative cryptocurrencies.
Bitcoin as a Platform
One of the most exciting things about Bitcoin technology is its potential to support applications other than currency. We’ll study several of these and study the properties of Bitcoin that makes this possible.
Altcoins and the Cryptocurrency Ecosystem
Hundreds of altcoins, or alternative cryptocurrencies, have been started, either to fix Bitcoin’s perceived flaws or to pursue different goals and properties. We’ll look at everything that goes into an altcoin and how they interact with Bitcoin.
The Future of Bitcoin?
The use of Bitcoin technology for decentralizing property, markets, and so on has been hailed as a recipe for economic and political disruption. We’ll look at the technological underpinnings of these proposals and the potential impact on society.
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