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The Science of the Blockchain Paperback – January 27, 2016
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About the Author
Roger Wattenhofer is a professor at ETH Zurich. Before joining ETH Zurich, he was at Brown University and Microsoft Research. His research interests include fault-tolerant distributed systems, efficient network algorithms, and cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin. He has published more than 250 scientific articles.
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It's a mix of writing done in a casual style, that can be a bit careless about precision and completeness, intermingled with classically formatted Definitions, Algorithms, Theorems and Lemmas, where the Algorithms are a written in an Algol-like pseudo-computer language, sometimes missing key little details such as how some variable gets initialized or what means what.
The reader should be comfortable with such mathematical symbols as those for subset, set membership, union, intersection, universal and existential quantifiers, power set (the number "2" followed by a superscript such as for example "V" would denote the set of all subsets of "V"), empty set, and so forth.
The book covers various state replication algorithms. These algorithms enable multiple communicating nodes to come to a common agreement on some shared state, with some provable degree of tolerance for nodes failing or lying.
The main chapter headers are:
- Fault-Tolerance and Paxos
- Byzantine Agreement
- Authenticated Agreement
- Quorum Systems
- Eventual Consistency and Bitcoin
- Distributed Storage
. Assumes some understanding of the overall operation of Blockchain implementations, requiring colateral references.
Type A: Good books that use mathematics and mathematical notation to support the natural flow of arguments and hence help the reader to gain a deeper understanding as compared to the insights achieved based on verbal non-mathematical explanations only.
Type B: Bad books that use mathematics and mathematical notation just for the sake of using them or for bragging, which as a result disturbs the natural flow of arguments and causes artificial hurdles for the reader by making things appear more complicated then they actually are.
Concerning the use of mathematics and mathematical notation this book is more on the Type B kinds of books. An overarching didactical concept that guides the reader is missing. The mathematical notation neither support the natural flow of arguments nor does is provide deeper insights than those of less formal texts. If mathematics does not provides access to deeper insights than those achievable with a non-mathematical text, why to use mathematical notation in the first place?
The book can provide some helpful points for readers already familiar with mathematical notation used in computer science and algorithms context.
For those who are not familiar with the mathematical notation used in the book, it is not worth the time to learn the mathematics up-front in order to understand this book. A good non-mathematical explanation of blockchain serves the same insides.