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via Brilliant


Cryptocurrencies represent a fundamentally new way for people to exchange goods and services. They're powered by blockchains — data structures that are enabled by cryptographically secure hash functions. Proponents of cryptocurrencies argue that they'll lower transaction fees and democratize monetary policy, while detractors argue that they're a mathematician's pipe dream repackaged into a scam.

In this course, you'll learn about the math and technology behind cryptocurrencies through hands-on puzzles. You'll also explore the mechanics of maintaining and securing a cryptocurrency, so that you can decide for yourself if cryptocurrencies are a passing fad or the next big thing.


  • Introduction: Follow the fable of Cryptonia, an enlightening analog to today's cryptocurrencies.
    • A Brief History of Currency: Trust is the backbone of all currencies, from commodity monies to crypto.
    • The Fable of Cryptonia: Learn about a primitive parallel to cryptocurrencies, developed in the mythical land of Cryptonia.
    • Cryptographic Signatures: Want to spend your DragonBucks but can't cast a spell? You need the magic of modular arithmetic.
    • Decentralizing Cryptonia: Don't trust a currency with a single point of failure? Time to dive into decentralization.
    • Cryptonian Vulnerabilities: CryptoniaCoin needs some shoring up before we can trust that it's truly secure.
  • Building Blocks: Hash functions form the data structures that we need to create a cryptocurrency.
    • Cracking Cryptonia: The math behind CryponiaCoin isn't secure, but with a modification it could be.
    • Cryptographic Hash Functions: Learn about hash functions and the properties they need in order to be cryptographically secure.
    • Exploring Hash Functions: The binary registers inside a computer are well suited for constructing hash functions.
    • Inverting Hash Functions: If you can run a hash function in reverse, it isn't secure.
    • Securing Hash Functions: How can we make a hash function secure? By weaving it from a tangled web of operations.
    • Blockchains: Hash functions can transform a linked list into a tamper-proof log.
    • Merkle Trees: Want to confirm your blockchain without computing hashes all day? Look no further than the Merkle tree.
  • Creating ZooCash: Learn how real cryptocurrencies are structured by helping Director Hayzos with his latest horse-brained scheme.
    • Introducing ZooCash: "HODL" on, the adventure into real cryptocurrencies starts here.
    • Account Management: How can we make sure your account is yours alone? We need to solve the birthday problem.
    • Blockchain Ledger: Combining a blockchain with Merkle trees leads to a ledger that readily reveals the information you're interested in.
    • Double Spending: A ledger that's easy to audit prevents people from spending ZooCash they don't have.
    • Proof of Work: Everyone wants to play by the rules if the rules reward those who can prove their work is honest.
    • Robustness of ZooCash: Witness the resilience of ZooCash by determining what you'd need in order to take it down.
    • Smart Contracts: ZooCash's game changing potential lies in the power of smart contracts.


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