It’s safe to assume that anyone reading this knows what Bitcoin is. But did you ever stop and wonder how Bitcoin’s underlying technology really works? Bitcoin relies on cryptography to control the currency’s creation and transfer. It uses a cryptographic hash function called SHA-256, widely considered to be very secure. But just what does that mean, and why is it important? How does cryptography even work? If you’ve ever asked yourself these questions, Stanford University has you covered.
The California-based university, well-known for its engineering programs, has recently partnered with Coursera, a free, online education platform. Through Coursera, Stanford is providing two entire courses on cryptography for free. These courses will be taught by the head of the university’s applied cryptography group – Dan Boneh. The class will include lecture videos as well as quizzes and homework. The course description states that some programming background will be helpful, but Boneh will provide lots of starter code to help students complete assignments. In addition, some knowledge of discrete probability would be helpful, but the course is mostly self-contained. After students complete the course, they will receive a signed certificate of completion from Dan Boneh.
If you’re a bit of a nerd and enjoy computer science, you should definitely check out Stanford’s free cryptography course to gain a better understanding of Bitcoin’s underlying technology. The first week of Cryptography I has already started, but it’s only been three days, so catching up shouldn’t be too difficult. The second part, Cryptography II will begin on July 21st. And anyway, once you complete the course, you can brag to your friends about receiving a Stanford education (sort of).
Image credit: Kathi Kaiser