François Chung, Ph.D.
Bitcoin and cryptocurrency technologies

Bitcoin and cryptocurrency technologies

Coursera training, MOOC (2019). Given online by Princeton University (US), this training explains how Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies work at a technical level, and provides the conceptual foundations to engineer secure software that interacts with the Bitcoin network. Other important topics covered are how secure Bitcoins are, how anonymous Bitcoin users are, what determines the price of Bitcoins and whether cryptocurrencies can be regulated.

Week 1: Introduction to crypto and cryptocurrencies

Main topics:

  • Cryptographic hash functions;
  • Hash pointers and data structures;
  • Digital signatures;
  • Public keys as identities.

Week 2: How Bitcoin achieves decentralization

Main topics:

  • Centralization vs. decentralization;
  • Distributed consensus;
  • Consensus without identity: the blockchain;
  • Incentives and proof of work.

Week 3: Mechanics of Bitcoin

Main topics:

  • Bitcoin transactions;
  • Bitcoin scripts;
  • Bitcoin blocks;
  • Bitcoin network.

Week 4: How to store and use Bitcoins

Main topics:

  • Online wallets and exchanges;
  • Payment services;
  • Transaction fees;
  • Currency exchange markets.

Week 5: Bitcoin mining

Main topics:

  • Mining hardware;
  • Energy consumption and ecology;
  • Mining pools;
  • Mining incentives and strategies.

Week 6: Bitcoin and anonymity

Main topics:

  • How to de-anonymize Bitcoin;
  • Decentralized mixing;
  • Zerocoin and Zerocash;
  • Tor and Silk Road.

Week 7: Community, politics and regulation

Main topics:

  • Consensus in Bitcoin;
  • Bitcoin core software;
  • Governments notice Bitcoin;
  • Anti money-laundering.

Week 8: Alternative mining puzzles

Main topics:

  • ASIC resistant puzzles;
  • Proof-of-useful-work;
  • Nonoutsourceable puzzles;
  • Virtual mining.

Week 9: Bitcoin as a platform

Main topics:

  • Bitcoin as an append-only log;
  • Bitcoin as smart property;
  • Multi-party lotteries in Bitcoin;
  • Bitcoin as randomness source.

Week 10: Altcoins and the cryptocurrency ecosystem

Main topics:

  • Short history of Altcoins;
  • Interaction between Bitcoin and Altcoins;
  • Lifecycle of an Altcoin;
  • Sidechains.

Week 11: The future of Bitcoin

Main topics:

  • The blockchain as a vehicle for decentralization;
  • Blockchain integration;
  • What can we decentralize?
  • When is decentralization a good idea?


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