Overview

About

The Blockchain Fundamentals DeCal is a comprehensive survey of relevant topics in cryptocurrency and the wider blockchain space. From a technological standpoint, we start with the basics of cryptography and economics, establish a solid fundamental understanding of Bitcoin by building it from the bottom up, then explore the myriad of ideas and technologies relating to blockchain technology. On the non-technical side, we start with the history of digital currency, then look at the laws, organizations, trends, and communities behind it to build a complete picture of the ecosystem surrounding blockchain technology.

Goal

Many people find it difficult to understand cryptocurrencies and blockchain, the product of coordination between many complex components; and it's hard to see the full picture until all the individual components are fully understood. Furthermore, since the field is technical and relatively new, cryptocurrency-related discussion by nature is full of jargon. Therefore, it is easy to get lost trying to follow nearly any conversation on crypto/blockchain if you have not built up the right background.

The goal of this course is to surmount the steep learning curve of cryptocurrency. By the end of this course you will understand how cryptocurrencies work and the ideas, technologies, and organizations sprouting from it.

Logistics

Units: 1
Day and Times: Wednesdays 6-8pm
Location: Evans 60
Course Staff: Brian Ho, Gillian Chu, Gloria Zhao
Class Format: 1 hour of lecture per week, 1 hour of interactive discussion
Communication: All of the necessary communication for this course will be done through Piazza. Weekly homework assignments will be distributed after class, along with the lecture slides.
Prerequisites: This course have no formal prerequisites. However, blockchain is very technical in nature, so coming into this course with knowledge of computer science or cryptography will be extremely helpful, although not required. If you have any concerns about the nature of this course, do not hesitate to reach out to the facilitators.
Class Entry Policy: By permission code. Students are required to attend the first lecture to receive a permission code and course number to enroll with.

Grading

Grading: P/NP. You must get at least a 70% to pass the class - to be clear, a lower score equates to a No Pass. Grading will be based on Reading and Quizzes (30%), Attendance (30%), a Final Paper (30%) and Participation (10%). There will be assigned readings each week, which you should complete in order to do well. If you have any questions regarding grades, email your discussion leader.
Reading and Quizzes (30%): There will be homeworks and quizzes dispersed throughout the course and will be weighted equally. Quizzes will be given during the first 5 minutes of class. Homework will be released after Saturday evening after lecture and will be due the following Saturday at 11:59 pm.
Quizzes: Quizzes are intended to be a quick, easy screen designed for you to demonstrate that you completed your readings for the current week's topic. We will administer quizzes on random weeks. They will be in the form of 6 multiple choice questions and administered in the first 5 minutes of class. You only have to get 4 of the 6 questions right to get a full score.
Attendance (30%): We will take attendance at the beginning of every class. Please go to only your ASSIGNED discussion section. No, you may not switch discussion sections, as we decide sections based on your availability in the beginning of the semester and have limited class sizes. If you are expecting an academic conflict such as a midterm, or have a medical/family emergency, please let your discussion leader know at least 24 hours in advance. We expect excused absences to be rare; we grant you 2 unexcused lecture absences and 2 unexcused discussion absences without grade penalty.
Final Paper (35%): All students will be required to write a 3-4 page final paper on a topic of their choice relating to the cryptocurrency and blockchain fields. This could relate to a topic covered explicitly in class or something else related to cryptocurrencies. Submitting a final paper is required to pass the class.
Participation (5%): If you actively pay attention and ask questions/contribute in discussion, you can expect a full score. Don't stress out over this.
You may find full details in our syllabus here.
Textbooks: You are free to read from these books, which are both freely distributed and available online. Please do NOT go out and buy them. Some readings may be pulled from these books during the course.
Bitcoin and Cryptocurrency Technologies (Princeton textbook) by Arvind Narayanan, Joseph Bonneau, Edward Felten, Andrew Miller, and Steven Goldfeder:
https://d28rh4a8wq0iu5.cloudfront.net/bitcointech/readings/princeton_bitcoin_book.pdf
(Optional/Additional) Mastering Bitcoin by Andreas Antonopoulos:
PDF: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B8lgcDXI8hEfbXFYcTh6aXNqRkk/view?usp=sharing
Source: https://github.com/bitcoinbook/bitcoinbook

Frequently Asked Questions

Where can I apply to the decal?
Apply here by September 2nd: https://goo.gl/forms/KbnLPP48dymjTEc92
When/where is the decal this semester?
We have just one class session, every Wednesday 6-8pm in Evans 90.
When is the first class?
The first class will be on Wednesday, September 5 at 6-8pm in Evans 90. You MUST attend to get an enrollment code.
How do I enroll on CalCentral?
You must receive an enrollment code from us at the first lecture, then enroll with the code on CalCentral normally.
Why is the class only 1 unit this semester?
Lectures this year have been shortened and assignments have also been significantly reduced. The course will still cover the same material.
What is the “Developers Decal?” Will it be offered?
Last year, we offered a separate Blockchain for Developers Decal that was focused on developing on blockchain platforms; the Fundamentals Decal was the prerequisite. The Developers Decal will no longer be offered. Sorry! Course materials from previous semesters are still available online at https://learnblockcha.in/.

Schedule

Week
Topic
Readings
Homework

9/12

Bitcoin and Blockchain History: From the Cypherpunk Movement to JPMorgan Chase

[LEC, PPT, DIS]

A Cypherpunk’s Manifesto by Eric Hughes
Coindesk: A Bot Named Willy: Did Mt. Gox's Automated Trading Pump Bitcoin's Price?
The DAO, The Hack, The Soft Fork and The Hard Fork
(Optional, to Get Ahead) Princeton Textbook 1.1 Cryptographic Hash Functions (pages 23-31)
(Optional) All You Need to Know About ICOs
(Optional) Digital Gold by Nathaniel Popper

9/19

Bitcoin Mechanics and Optimizations: A Technical Overview

[LEC, PPT]
Information on Double Hashing
Princeton Textbook 5.1-5.4 (pg. 131 - 157)
How to Choose the Best Wallet for You
(Optional) Bitcoin Developer Guide (There's a lot; don't try to read it all in one day)
(Optional) Bitcoin Hash Puzzles Explained
(Optional) Secure Hash Standard (Insane math: a blessing or curse depending on your preference)

9/26

Bitcoin IRL: Wallets, Mining, and More

[LEC, PPT, DIS]

10/3

Ethereum and Smart Contracts: Enabling a Decentralized Future

[LEC, PPT, DIS]

10/10

Game Theory and Network Attacks: How to Destroy Bitcoin

[LEC, PPT, DIS]

10/17

Cryptoeconomics and Proof-of-Stake

[LEC, PPT, DIS]

10/24

Distributed Systems and Alternative Consensus

[LEC, PPT, DIS]

10/31

Scaling Blockchain: Cryptocurrencies for the Masses

[LEC, PPT, DIS]

11/7

Enterprise Blockchain: Real-World Applications

[LEC, PPT, DIS]

11/14

Anonymity: Mixing and Altcoins

[LEC, PPT, DIS]

11/21

Thanksgiving Break

Thanksgiving Break

Thanksgiving Break

11/28

Conclusion: Cool Ideas, Blockchain Hype, and the Future

[LEC, PPT, DIS]