Explaining Things To Your Grandmother

Einstein supposedly once said that you don’t really understand a thing until you can explain it to your grandmother. While I think we can all agree that Einstein was reasonably bright this advice, in its unexpanded form, is fairly stupid.

It encourages people to digest shallow metaphors, maybe memorize a factoid or two from Wikipedia, and then confidently expound upon a subject about which they know literally nothing. I’m sure Einstein wasn’t trying to encourage that sort of behavior, but that’s what’s happened.

What this advice really means is that you should have run the fingers of your mind over the 3-dimensional shape of a concepts so much that you have an intimate acquaintance with its lines and edges. You aren’t just trafficking in facile analogies but can generate a whole host of images, anecdotes, and explanations at will, tailoring them on the spot to better connect with the knowledge already contained in your interlocutor’s head. If they have spotty knowledge of the subject you can skip over those places and drop down in any part of the map that’s still a blank.

Making quantum physics comprehensible to grandmother will not be the same as making it comprehensible to a graduate student in psychology. The grad student might be smarter than grandma, or might not, but that isn’t the only issue. Grandma has a radically different way of understanding the world, a whole host of concepts, intuitions, and biases which can help or hurt comprehension, depending on the context.

She might even surprise you and turn out to remember a good amount of that discrete mathematics class she took 600 years ago.

When you can take the shape of quantum physics in your hands, move it around to expose different faces, change the angle of your explanatory light so that it casts different kinds of shadows onto different kinds of surfaces, illustrate concepts with hand-rolled improvised expositions — with the end result being that your grandmother comes away with a reasonably intuitive grasp of this science, then you understand it.

Peripatesis: The Blockchain.

Doubtless all of you have heard of the cryptocurrency ‘bitcoin’, but this is merely one application built atop a deeper technology called ‘the blockchain’. Recently I have been doing some serious research on this emerging technology and I thought I’d collect the resources in one easily accessible place.

I will continue to update this page as my knowledge grows.

Videos

What is Blockchain“: Explains blockchain as a combination of open and distributed ledgers, and miners’ essential role in validating transactions on the blockchain network.

19 Industries the Blockchain Will Disrupt“:  Everyone is familiar with the disruptive potential of bitcoin for the banking industry, but have you considered what the blockchain could mean for the internet of things, supply chain management, decentralized prediction markets, insurance, charity, energy management, voting, or online music?

Blockchain 101 – A Visual Demo“: An outstanding demonstration of how the cryptographic elements and distributed nature of the blockchain make it extremely difficult to hack, clarifying terms like ‘hash’ and ‘nonce’ along the way.

Blockchain: Massively Simplified“: Elucidates the concept of a distributed, immutable ledger with an extended comparison to centralized, mutable ledgers in real estate. This talk makes it clear that what the blockchain is really changing is something more fundamental than money or any other surface-level economic phenomenon: it’s changing the way we trust. (SEE ALSO: “Sapiens“).

Dubai Blockchain Strategy“: The government of Dubai is using blockchain in a number of areas, possibly paving the way for future-oriented governments to do the same in other parts of the world.

Blockchain Demystified“: Covers much of the same material as other sources, and motivates the development of blockchain technology by noting that the original white paper debuting the concept appeared just months after the 2008 financial crisis.

Blockchain is Eating Wallstreet“: Lots of interesting graphs illustrating the impact blockchain technology will have on finance, accounting, and related value-storing/value-transferring industries.

How Bitcoin Works Under The Hood“: Is a detailed breakdown of how actual transactions occur on the bitcoin blockchain, complete with discussions of how various sorts of illegal maneuvers are avoided. (Written version)

Bootstrap a Blockchain Career“: Ivan on Tech discusses technical and educational pathways into a career utilizing blockchain technology.

Blockchain For Beginners“: Another blockchain tutorial for beginner’s from blockchain expert Andreas M. Antonopoulos. Interestingly, Antonopoulos advocates investing in learning the technical skills required to work with blockchains, he discourages speculative investing in bitcoin.

Code Implementations

Ivan on Tech walks us through a Java implementation.

Daniel Van Flymen builds a blockchain with Python.

SavJee does one with javascript.

Translations

Because I’m an aspiring hyper-poly-xeno-glot I thought I’d have a bonus section which contains blockchain discussions in some of the foreign languages I’ve studied.

(한국어)블록체인이란?

(한국어)블록체인

(Русский) Блокчейн

(Français) Blockchain

(Español) Cadena de bloques

(Deutsch) Blockchain