Bitcoin and Blockchain Technology, February-April 2021

Department of Law, University of Milano-Bicocca

If you have an e-mail please join the 202102-bicocca channel in the Slack BBT workspace using your first and last name (no nicknames); a profile picture would be appreciated, but is not mandatory. Updates and conversations about the course will be posted in the Slack channel.

The course is for the students of University of Milano-Bicocca only; anyone else, please consider

Learning objectives

The course is an introduction to bitcoin and the associated blockchain technology.

Starting from a computationally focused approach to elliptic curves over finite fields and presenting the discrete logarithm problem as cornerstone of public-key cryptography, bitcoin is introduced as ingenious breakthrough innovation.

Its game theory, computer science (distributed systems, distributed consensus), and monetary theory elements are examined in the attempt to properly convey the interdisciplinarity of the topic and appreciate its relevance.

Technical and programming elements about digital signatures, blockchain, Merkle tree, addresses, transactions, and timestamping are also provided to assess features and limits of the Bitcoin protocol.


There are no strict prerequisites, even if a computer science mindset and some familiarity with algebra and finance might help to appreciate the course. While a rigorous formal approach is almost impossible in a course touching on so many and so different knowledge areas, intellectual curiosity is stimulated about the interplay between maths, cryptography, economic incentives, technology, monetary theory, regulatory issues, and politics.


  • Cash, Electronic Money, Central Bank Money, eCash
  • Internet Money
  • Bitcoin Transactions
  • About Money
  • Private Money and the Centralization Dilemma
  • The Double Spending Problem
  • Bitcoin as Digital Gold
  • Bitcoin as Investment Asset
  • Bitcoin Financial Services
  • Discrete Logarithm Problem on Finite Cyclic Groups
  • Modular Arithmetic
  • Finite Fields
  • Elliptic Curves Over Real Numbers
  • DLP on Elliptic Curves Over Finite Fields
  • Hash Functions
  • Partial Hash Inversion
  • Hash Pointer Data Structures: Blockchain and Merkle Tree
  • Design of A Simplified Digital Currency
  • Distributed Consensus
  • Mining
  • P2P Network
  • Protocol Governance
  • Elliptic curve digital signature algorithm
  • Elliptic curve Schnorr signature algorithm: Mu(lti)Sig(nature), threshold signature, batch verification
  • Addresses and WIFs
  • Hierarchical deterministic wallets: BIP32, BIP43, BIP44
  • Mnemonic phrase: BIP39 and Electrum
  • TxIns, TxOs, UTxO, nLockTime
  • Bitcoin script language
  • Transactions
  • Blocks
  • Wallets and Bitcoin Core
  • Testnet, regtest, and wallet workshop
  • Money and innovation: monetary and token engineering
  • Hayek money and dual asset ledger money
  • Blockchain beyond bitcoin
  • Finance and blockchain
  • Timestamping, notarization, and anchoring
  • Smart contracts
  • Distributed ledger technology

Teaching method

  • Slide based lessons with associated bibliography
  • Python 3 programming assignments and technology assignments
  • Workshop labs on Bitcoin Core, Electrum, and OpenTimestamps

Teaching language

Italian lessons, English slides.


To pass the exam each student must solve all the assignments for every lesson. Please send the homeworks to the e-mail that will be indicated with subject BBT202102-BICOCCA #1 for the first lesson, BBT202102-BICOCCA #2 for the second lesson, etc.

Lessons’ calendar and material

2021-02-25 Thursday 09:30-11:30

Assistant lecturer: Paolo Mazzocchi.

  1. 2021-02-22 Monday 11:30-13:30
    Bitcoin as Digital Gold
  2. 2021-02-24 Wednesday 11:30-13:30
    Bitcoin as Digital Gold
  3. 2021-02-25 Thursday 09:30-11:30
    Discrete Logarithm Problem on Finite Fields and Elliptic Curves
  4. 2021-03-01 Monday 11:30-13:30
    Hash Functions
    Blockchain, Mining, and Distributed Consensus
  5. 2021-03-03 Wednesday 11:30-13:30
    Blockchain, Mining, and Distributed Consensus
  6. 2021-03-04 Thursday 09:30-11:30
    Elliptic Curve Digital Signature Algorithm
  7. 2021-03-08 Monday 11:30-13:30
    Schnorr Signature Algorithm
  8. 2021-03-10 Wednesday 11:30-13:30
    Addresses, WIFs, and Bitcoin Message Signing
  9. 2021-03-11 Thursday 09:30-11:30
    Transactions and Scripts
  10. 2021-03-15 Monday 11:30-13:30
    Beyond Bitcoin: Between Hype and Reality
  11. 2021-03-17 Wednesday 11:30-13:30
    Beyond Bitcoin: Between Hype and Reality
  12. 2021-03-18 Thursday 09:30-11:30
    Wallets and Deterministic Key Chains
  13. 2021-03-22 Monday 11:30-13:30
    Wallets and Deterministic Key Chains
  14. 2021-03-24 Wednesday 11:30-13:30
    Diffie Hellman and Symmetric Cryptography
  15. 2021-03-25 Thursday 09:30-11:30
    The Cryptocurrency Frontier in Monetary Engineering
    Bitcoin: oro digitale per nuovi standard monetari
  16. 2021-03-29 Monday 11:30-13:30
    Hayek Money and Dual Asset Ledger
    Hayek Money: The Cryptocurrency Price Stability Solution
  17. 2021-03-31 Wednesday 11:30-13:30
    Digital Signature and Digital Identity
    with Emanuele Cisbani
  18. 2021-04-01 Thursday 09:30-11:30
    To be defined
    with Francesca Mattassoglio
  19. 2021-04-07 Wednesday 11:30-13:30
    To be defined
    with Filippo Annunziata
  20. 2021-04-08 Thursday 09:30-11:30
    To be defined
    with Andrea Conso
  21. 2021-04-12 Monday 11:30-13:30
    Timestamping and the OpenTimestamp Protocol
  22. 2021-04-14 Wednesday 11:30-13:30
    Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism
    with Vito Barbera
  23. 2021-04-15 Thursday 09:30-11:30
    The Fiscal Aspects of Crypto-Assets
    with Francesco Avella
  24. 2021-04-19 Monday 11:30-13:30
    Catch-up Lesson
  25. 2021-04-21 Wednesday 11:30-13:30
    Catch-up Lesson
  26. 2021-04-22 Thursday 09:30-11:30
    Catch-up Lesson
  27. 2021-04-26 Monday 11:30-13:30
    Catch-up Lesson
  28. 2021-04-28 Wednesday 11:30-13:30
    Catch-up Lesson
  29. 2021-04-29 Thursday 09:30-11:30
    Catch-up Lesson

In the last lesson anonymous course evaluation forms will be collected

Python library

Python scripts, Excel spreadsheets, and regtest lab material

Introductory reading

Technology references

Cryptography references

Monetary theory references