Episode 172: ZK languages with Alex Ozdemir

In this week’s episode, Anna has a one-on-one chat with Alex Ozdemir, a PhD student at Stanford researching formal methods, cryptography and distributed systems. Alex’s work is closely tied to the world of generalized computations within zero knowledge systems. He is one of the main developers of CirC, an infrastructure framework for building zero knowledge languages.

In their conversation, Alex and Anna take a bird’s eye view of the current landscape of zk languages and libraries. Alex explains the history and current state-of-the-art of circuit-building tools, touching on libraries like Libsnark, Bellman and more comprehensive tools like Arkworks; hardware description languages like Circom; and the more dev-friendly family of RAM-register languages like ZoKrates, Pequin, Cairo, Leo and many more. Here, the race is still on as a number of academic and business-oriented teams grapple with limitations to memory access & performance given by zero knowledge proving systems.


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Thanks to this week’s sponsor, Mina Protocol.

Mina is the world’s lightest blockchain, creating a private gateway between the real world and crypto.
The layer-one protocol replaces the traditional blockchain with a zero-knowledge proof, ensuring a super-light and constant sized chain that allows participants to quickly sync and verify the network.
The entire chain is, and always will be, about 22kb — even as it scales. And SNARK-powered dApps, called Snapps, allow access to verified real world data from any website for on-chain use.
The ecosystem is growing fast ahead of Mina's upcoming mainnet launch, with validators and community members in more than 120 countries.

There are still opportunities to get involved at the ground level. Visit minaprotocol.com to find out more.

Join the community at Mina’s free virtual Illuminate Summit on March 28th, visit illuminate.minaprotocol.com to secure your spot.


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Previous Episodes

Episode 325: Web Proofs with Tracy from Pluto

In this week’s episode Anna chats with Tracy Livengood, co-founder of Pluto; an applied cryptography org building developer tools which add verifiable data from web data to an on-chain application, using ZK.

They discuss Tracy’s move from being an engineer in Web2, what prompted his move into the decentralized web and how he eventually found his way into the ZK space. He shares the concept of ‘Web Proofs’, and how Pluto can use some of the TLSNotary stack to bring private web data into on-chain applications, as well as a future tool set he hopes to develop with the project.

Episode 324: Discovering New Elliptic Curves with Antonio Sanso and Youssef El Housni

This week, Anna and Nico catch up with Antonio Sanso, Researcher at the Ethereum Foundation and Youssef El Housni, Engineer at ConsenSys and builder of Linea.

They discuss Antonio and Youssef’s new work, Families of prime-order endomorphism-equipped embedded curves on pairing-friendly curves, and dive into Elliptic Curve cryptography, Bandersnatch and Verkle Tries amongst much more, before dissecting what terms in the title of this paper truly mean. After getting into the weeds of cryptographic technicalities, the group explores where this work could be used and what it would enable.

Episode 323: The Role of Reth with Georgios

This week, Anna and Tarun catch up with Georgios Konstantopoulos, CTO of Paradigm and long-standing friend of the ZK Pod!

First they cover the work Georgios has been doing since he last appeared on the show, covering everything from updates on Foundry to the more recent work on Reth. They then dig into what makes it different, what inspires its design, where it is heading and the eventual end goals of the project. They also chat about the general client node landscape, from the ETH 2.0 research days to present day, before diving into discussing different clients from different teams, how this diversity can protect a chain and how each client can differ.

Episode 322: Definitions, Security and Sumcheck in ZK Systems with Justin Thaler

In this week’s episode, Anna and Guillermo catch up with Justin Thaler, Associate Professor at Georgetown and Research Partner at a16z.

The group dive into a handful of points from Justin’s ‘17 Misconceptions about SNARKs’ article, discussing if his views have changed since it was published back in 2023 and whether some points have become common knowledge since the article first rippled through the ZK community. They then dive into his new zkVM Jolt, which was initially described along with Lasso in 2023, but has now been implemented and is open to contributions from the community.

Episode 321: STIR with Gal Arnon & Giacomo Fenzi

In this week’s episode, Anna and Kobi chat with Gal Arnon, Ph.D student from the Weizmann Institute of Science & Giacomo Fenzi, Ph.D. student in the COMPSEC Lab at EPFL.

Gal and Giacomo are amongst the co-authors of ‘STIR: Reed–Solomon Proximity Testing with Fewer Queries’ and in this conversation, they discuss how their research led them to work on these topics and where the thesis for this particular work sparked from. They set the stage by exploring the history of FRI and discussing some hidden nuances in how FRI works. And then they introduce STIR, a system that can be used in place of FRI, which incorporates various optimisations to improve the performance.

Episode 320: A Deep Dive into Shared Sequencers with Espresso’s Ben Fisch

In this week’s episode, Anna and Brendan Farmer catch up with Ben Fisch, CEO of Espresso Systems. They explore the inner workings of the current L2 sequencing landscape and then discuss how a shared sequencing marketplace like Espresso works. They touch on how MEV plays a part in the new system, how the role of the sequencer can be separated into subroles, how all these parts will work together in such a system and much more.

Episode 319: The Past & Present of the L2 Landscape with Jordi Baylina

In this week’s episode, Anna catches up with Jordi Baylina, OG Ethereum contributor and Polygon zkEVM Technical Lead. They cover what Jordi has been working on since he was last on the show in 2021. Back then, zkEVMs were still just an idea. Now that many of these systems have launched, they have a chance to look at how these fit into the general L2 landscape.

They cover Jordi’s view on engineering decentralized systems and how these are rolled out, and the recent research from Polygon, including their AggLayer proposal. They wrap up on what inspires him to keep contributing in the space.

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