Semestre 2022-18

Nombre del curso: Deciphering Bitcoin
Créditos: 4
Profesores: Dr. Jan-Willem Burgers
Fechas y horario: Fri June 10 18.00-20.50

Tue June 28 18.00 – 20.50
Wed June 29 18.00 – 20.50
Thu June 30 18.00 – 20.50
Fri July 1 18.00 – 20.50
Sat July 2 15.00 – 17.50

Tue July 5 18.00 – 20.50
Wed July 6 18.00 – 20.50
Thur July 7 18.00 – 20.50
Fri July 8 18.00 – 20.50
Sat July 9 15.00 – 17.50

Tue July 12 18.00 – 20.50
Wed July 13 18.00 – 20.50
Sat July 16 15.00 – 17.50
Mon July 18 18.00 – 20.50


The Bitcoin system, with the bitcoin currency at its core, is a fascinating subject of enquiry and offers opportunities for those with an entrepreneurial mindset. But where do you start? Attempt to decipher it all on your own and you will probably get lost in a seemingly endless sea of rabbit holes. So, you need the right foundation. One that allows you subsequently to explore and experiment on your own, and even contribute to this flourishing ecosystem. This course is specifically designed to offer such a foundation for engineers, computer scientists, and cybersecurity specialists. Particularly, it seeks to offer insight into fundamental, interrelated questions about Bitcoin’s design and societal value.


Dr. Jan-Willem Burgers: He has been active in the Bitcoin ecosystem for nearly a decade. From 2016 until 2019, he served as the technology lead for Capgemini’s Distributed Ledger Practice in Europe. Currently, he is active in the Bitcoin ecosystem as an investor, consultant, and educator. Next to his Bitcoin-related activities, Jan-Willem also serves as a partner in Great Stuff Ventures, an early-stage investment fund, and as an advisor to startup companies. Dr. Burgers holds a Ph.D. from the Australian National University.

Plan de temas

This course is an exploration into interrelated questions about the design and societal value of the Bitcoin system.

It starts with a review of cryptography. The Bitcoin system is, then, discussed within six themes. These are as follows:

  • Theme 1. A bird’s eye-view of the Bitcoin and blockchain ecosystem
  • Theme 2. Bitcoin transactions, Script, and smart contracts
  • Theme 3. Bitcoin proof-of-work mining and consensus
  • Theme 4. Bitcoin wallets and storage
  • Theme 5. Bitcoin governance
  • Theme 6. Bitcoin’s value

Theme 1 gives you a snapshot of the entire Bitcoin and blockchain ecosystem. It first of all gives you a basic overview of the Bitcoin system, its purpose, and key concepts. In addition, we will cover Bitcoin usage across the globe, various Bitcoin businesses, the regulatory and legal climate, and public perceptions of Bitcoin. We will also place Bitcoin within the context of the blockchain ecosystem as a whole. At the end of this theme, you will also have a good high-level understanding of the different types of projects and technologies in the blockchain ecosystem.

Theme 2 covers the legacy and segregated witness transaction formats, as well as the standardized smart contract types. In addition, you will learn about the language used with Bitcoin transactions called Script.

Theme 3 delves into the network architecture, and explains the concept of proof of work mining and how it is used to achieve consensus over the Block Chain by all the full nodes in the ecosystem. We will dive into various attack vectors that can disrupt the Bitcoin consensus mechanism as well as the societal discussion on its environmental impact.

Theme 4 describes hardware and software wallets as well as the main standards which govern them. We will discuss options for secure storage of bitcoin as well as challenges, particularly the current challenges to multisignature solutions.

Theme 5 discusses how the Bitcoin protocol governs the existing system and how changes to that protocol can be made. It explicitly explores the balance of power in the Bitcoin system and reflects on the Bitcoin Civil War which was fought most intensely between 2015 to 2017.

Theme 6 completes our journey with a discussion of Bitcoin’s value. While we will explore Bitcoin’s value throughout the course, all the insights will be wrapped together in this theme.



Good foundational knowledge about cryptography is a hard requirement for entry into this course. Particularly, you should have an intimate understanding of asymmetric cryptography and hash functions.

We will offer a review on cryptography in the first lecture of the course, and you will have to complete some cryptography assignments as part of your grade for this course.


While knowledge of computer programming is certainly helpful, it is not a hard requirement for this course.

There is one small programming assignment as part of the cryptography review, which even someone without much programming knowledge should able to complete. For the rest of the course we will not write any code.

Philosophy, Economics, Finance, and more

What makes Bitcoin both fascinating and challenging is that you can analyze it from many different angles. This eclectic nature of our subject matter is reflected during the course. While the technical details of Bitcoin are central, you will definitely be confronted, for instance, with discussions about how money is actually created and managed in modern economies.

Obviously, you are not expected to have extensive knowledge about all the fields of enquiry we dabble in during our Bitcoin journey. You are only expected to be curious.