It’s always fun to hear about new grants as they’re awarded, but what happens after the announcement? In this series, we’ll check in on a couple of projects that are well underway – or already at the finish line. Read on to learn about some recent milestones and achievements by grantees!
Gas costs in Ethereum are a constant topic of debate and improvement. The average user only sees what they pay to send a transaction – whether the gas limit is very high, very low or just volatile. But where do those suggested gas limits come from?
No two smart contracts are alike; each contains a different set of instructions, or OPCODEs, to be executed in the EVM. Gas is used to compensate miners or validators for the computational cost of executing these OPCODEs, i.e. the work that their machine has to perform. Computation costs are highly variable, even between different validators executing the same smart contract. The OPCODE instructions, program context, and the node’s hardware and software configuration all factor into the actual cost.
The imapp team set their sights on more accurately estimating real-life computation costs, providing important data that will inform discussions among core devs about adjusting the OPCODE prices. Accounting for all of these factors to improve the accuracy of gas cost estimates means being able to do more within the gas limit, as well as:
- Ensuring that developers who want to optimize for gas costs are also optimizing for real computational costs imposed on nodes
- Keeping the network diverse by ensuring miners and validators are sufficiently incentivized to keep the network secure even if they are running on consumer (rather than highly optimized) hardware
- Preventing DoS attacks or other code that exploits mismatches between estimated and actual cost
- Mitigating factors that could lead to a more unpredictable fee market for users, such as miners preferring certain contracts over others for inclusion in a block
Imapp first received a grant in late 2020 for Stage I of the project, which consisted of preliminary experiments, research and analysis and was completed earlier this year. A second grant was awarded to fund Stage II, building on the work from Stage I. The approach in Stage II is structured into three primary domains:
- Program generation: generation of EVM bytecode programs from which measurements will be gathered
- Instrumentation and measurement: running the generated programs in a controlled environment and measuring the time to compute each instruction
- Analysis: statistical analysis and validation of measurement data
The Gas Cost Estimator Stage I Report contains a thorough breakdown of the project background, findings from Stage I, and plans for Stage II. You can follow progress on Github, or keep up with the imapp team on Twitter.
Rock Logic for Stereum
As Ethereum transitions to Proof of Stake, the security of the network depends on a large and decentralized validator set. Eth2 client teams have focused on lowering barriers to entry like hardware limitations or technical expertise, while numerous community efforts are underway to make staking as accessible as possible to anyone who holds the requisite 32 ETH. One of these efforts is Stereum, which aims to reduce technical friction for solo stakers by streamlining the process of setting up a validator node.
The idea behind Stereum was first realized as prysm-docker-compose. Using Stereum’s docker images (software packages that combine code and configurations for easy setup) solo stakers could install and configure the Prysm eth2 client, server environment and monitoring services in one go. The team received funding in late 2020, and a second grant in 2021, to extend that functionality to more clients and create additional tools and resources for stakers.
Finalized no. 36 | Ethereum Foundation Blog
Merge sequence engaged 🚀
Mainnet Merge incoming
Yesterday on the Consensus Layer call, client engineers agreed on Mainnet parameters for the Merge – a Bellatrix epoch of
144896 and a Paris TTD of
58750000000000000000000 (tentative). The TTD is based on Proof-of-Work difficulty and is thus a bit hard to estimate precisely. The target date is September 15, 2022, but this estimate might have even a week of error. On this coming week’s All Core Dev call estimates will be re-checked, and the TTD will either be confirmed or a final adjustment will be made to better hit the target date.
Reminder💡: The Merge consists of a sequence of two upgrades – Bellatrix on the Consensus Layer followed by Paris on the Execution Layer.
Bellatrix upgrades the Beacon Chain to be “Merge aware”, embedding the Beacon Chain with the Merge logic as validators begin dilligently monitoring the Proof-of-Work chain to initiate the Merge transition. Bellatrix is activated at the chosen epoch.
Paris is the Merge transition itself, in which Ethereum Mainnet hot-swaps its consensus from Proof-of-Work to the Beacon Chain’s Proof-of-Stake. The Paris upgrade activates at the chosen Terminal Total Difficulty (TTD).
⚠️ All hands on deck ⚠️
Stakers, infrastructure providers, users, and community members –
this is your warning. The Merge mainnet sequence is engaged. For the next ~5 weeks, stay tuned, watch for updates, remain agile, and be ready for anything. The following is the high level of dates and events expected to unfold:
[2022/08/18]– TTD reassessed and finalized on All Core Devs call
[2022/08/18 to 2022/8/22]– EL and CL teams cut Mainnet software releases
[2022/08/23]– Client resources, EF blog, and other community and infrastructure announcements of final parameters and releases
[2022/09/06 11:34:47am UTC]– Bellatrix Mainnet upgrade
- All stakers must upgrade to EL+CL Merge-ready nodes before this time
- All infrastructure providers, users, and community members should upgrade PoW nodes to EL+CL Merge-ready nodes before this time
[Estimated: 2022/9/15]– Paris Mainnet Merge transition
- All infrastructure providers, users, and community members must upgrade to EL+CL Merge-ready nodes before this time. Plan on configuring systems at least one week in advance and ideally before Bellatrix
Between initial mainnet release announcements and the final Merge transition, users must remain diligent – monitoring client channels, the EF blog, and other public resources for any new information. Specifically, client teams might release final hardened versions of their software in this time frame and, if possible, users should upgrade.
Huge shout-out to the engineers, researchers, and community members that have worked tirelessly, putting countless hours into this. Merge sequence engaged 🚀
Sepolia Post-Merge Upgrade Announcement | Ethereum Foundation Blog
- The Sepolia testnet will undergo a post-merge execution layer (EL) upgrade at block
1735371, expected on August 17, 2022
- The upgrade will cause EL clients on the network to disconnect from peers which have not transitioned to proof-of-stake. It does not add additional functionality beyond this.
- Sepolia node operators must upgrade their execution layer client prior to block
- A similar upgrade is expected on Goerli and the Ethereum mainnet once these networks have transitioned to proof-of-stake
In order to maintain a healthy peer list, nodes on Ethereum’s execution layer will automatically disconnect peers who do not have the same upgrade sequence as them. On the Ethereum mainnet, this means checking whether a peer upgrded to Frontier Thawing at block 200,000, then Homestead at block 1,150,000, and so on all the way to the latest upgrade, Gray Glacier, which happened at block 15,050,000. EIP-2124 specifies how this is handled. In typical network upgrades, which are triggered by a block height, this happens automatically as nodes use the block height of upcomming upgrades to filter peers.
For The Merge, this was not possible because the upgrade was triggered using a
total difficulty value rather than a block number. The rationale for this choice is explained in EIP-3675:
Using a pre-defined block number for the hardfork is unsafe in this context due to the PoS fork choice taking priority during the transition.
An attacker may use a minority of hash power to build a malicious chain fork that would satisfy the block height requirement. Then the first PoS block may be maliciously proposed on top of the PoW block from this adversarial fork, becoming the head and subverting the security of the transition.
To protect the network from this attack scenario, difficulty accumulated by the chain (total difficulty) is used to trigger the upgrade.
To minimize changes to the protocol during its most complex upgrade since launch, the design for The Merge excluded EIP-2124 compatibility. This means an additional upgrade must now be done to add this. It is important to note that the only change introduced as part of this upgrade is specifying a block number that nodes can use to identify peers who have gone through The Merge. No other functionality is introduced or deprecated as part of this upgrade.
This upgrade will happen on Sepolia at block
1735371, expected on August 17, 2022.
Note that a similar upgrade will be announced for Goerli and mainnet after these networks have transitioned to proof-of-stake.
Ropsten will not be upgraded since it is now considered deprecated, along with Rinkeby and Kiln. See this post for more details on their deprecation schedule.
Only execution layer clients need to be updated for this upgrade. Node operators can keep running their current consensus layer client release on Sepolia through the transition.
Note that client releases used for the Goerli/Prater merge all support this upgrade on Sepolia. In other words, if you already downloaded a release for the Goerli/Prater merge, you can use that same version on Sepolia for this upgrade.
The specification for this change is tracked as part of the Paris specifications, under the
FORK NEXT Upgrade section.
As a node operator, what should I do?
You should upgrade your execution layer client to one of the versions listed above before August 16, 2022. Your consensus layer client does not need to be upgraded.
As a staker, what do I need to do?
The validator set on Sepolia is permissioned. If you are part of the current Sepolia validators, you must update your execution layer client to one of the versions listed above on August 16, 2022 at the latest.
If you are not part of the current Sepolia validator set, you do not need to do anything at this time.
Goerli/Prater and mainnet validators will need to follow the same steps when this upgrade is announced on those networks.
As an application or tooling developer, what should I do?
Nothing, unless you are also running a node. If so, please upgrade your execution layer client to one of the versions listed above before August 16, 2022.
As an Ethereum user or Ether holder, is there anything I need to do?
No. The Ethereum mainnet is not affected by this upgrade. Even when this upgrade will be applied to mainnet, there won’t be any action needed.
Thank you to Justin Chrn for the original cover image and Tomo Saito for the modifications.
Academic Grants Round grantee announcement
We are thrilled to announce the 39 grantees selected for the recent Academic Grants Round. This grants round invited researchers, think-tanks, Ph.D. students, and all those interested in advancing knowledge around the Ethereum ecosystem to submit academic proposals.
Thank you to all those who submitted proposals, and congratulations to all the grantees. We are pleased with the number of quality applications that we received, which surpassed our initial expectations. Given the extraordinary potential of many project proposals, we have more than doubled the initial budget from $750,000 to $2 million.
The granted projects vary broadly in scope and geographic representation with research teams from Australia, Canada, China, Costa Rica, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Nepal, Pakistan, Romania, Singapore, South Korea, Spain, Switzerland, The Netherlands, the United Kingdom the United States and Vietnam.
We look forward to the results from the many academic projects supported in this round! If you missed this round and are researching something in this space, consider submitting a project inquiry to the Ecosystem Support Program.
More than $2 million has been allocated across 39 grants in 7 different categories:
|Category||# of projects||amount (USD)|
|Consensus Layer||9||$ 483,477.81|
|P2P Networking||5||$ 386,592.00|
|Maximum Extractable Value||5||$ 351,659.00|
|Formal Verification||4||$ 283,165.51|
|Cryptography and zero knowledge proofs||2||$ 120,000.00|
|Other domains||5||$ 194,807.00|
|Analysis of the Dynamic Interplay between Ethereum and Ethereum Rollups: Transaction Fees and Demand Trends||Aysajan Eziz; Guneet Kaur Nagpal||Independent||To research the dynamic interplay of transaction fees and demand trends between base layer and layer 2 rollups.|
|Equilibrium staking rewards: Implications for POS blockchain security||Prof Talis Putnins; Tra Nguyen, Ph.D. candidate; Lecky Lao, Ph.D. candidate||Independent||To research and propose economic modeling of “opportunity costs of capital”, the dynamics of how capital flows between staking opportunities, and what that implies for the security of Ethereum (and other POS blockchains) as it transitions to POS and the optimal design of the staking incentive mechanisms.|
|Monetary Policy in the Age of Cryptocurrencies||Prof. Thai Nguyen; Prof. Tra Pham; Dr. Binh Nguyen Thanh; Dr. Linh Nguyen Thi My; Dr. Tuan Chu; Dr. Seng Kok; Dr. Phong Nguyen||RMIT Vietnam||To shed light on the possible economic development of countries when cryptocurrencies are used as legal tender, particularly in light of the fact that the central banks would lose most of the monetary policy tools.|
|Time series analysis for transaction fee market||Huisu Jang YunYoung Lee, Ph.D; Seongwan Park, Ph.D; Seungju Lee Woojin Jeong; Advisor: Jaewook Lee||Soongsil University and Seoul National University||To perform a time series analysis of the Ethereum gas fee market after the introduction of EIP-1559.|
|The Influence of Transaction Costs on Economic Activity on the Ethereum Network||Dr. Lennart Ante||Blockchain Research Lab gGmbH||To investigate the extent to which transaction costs interrelate with different economic activities on the Ethereum network.|
|The Market for Music Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs): Price, Volume, and Risk||Danling Jiang, Ph.D.Keli Xiao, Ph.D. Lolita Nazarov, B.S Haixiang (Diego) Zhu, MS||Stony Brook Foundation||To understand the market for the music content non-fungible tokens (music NFTs) and the determinants of price, volume, and risk dynamics of such NFTs traded on OpenSea, powered by the Ethereum blockchain.|
|The Microeconomic Foundation of DAO||David Yang, Ph.D||Independent||To understand the economic conditions that justify the emergence of a DAO structure in governing community decisions.|
|Towards scalable incentive machines: attributing value to individual agents in multi-player games||Tal Kachman||Donders Institute of Brain and Cognition||To bridge coalitional game theory with the approximation power of deep learning to construct payoff machines: large-scale estimators capable of measuring every agent’s contribution to a multi-agent system according to different underlying principles.|
|Understanding Waiting Time in Transaction Fee Mechanisms||Prof Luyao Zhang, Ph.D; Prof Fan Zhang, Ph.D.||SciEcon CIC||To systematically study and then develop a practical policy that can further reduce the users’ waiting time in Ethereum TFM.|
|(Danksharding + PBS) Builder centralization: Is it really safe?||Huisu Jang; YunYoung Lee, Ph.D candidate; Seongwan Park; Seungju Lee; Woojin Jeong; Advisor: Jaewook Lee||Statistical Learning & Computational Finance Lab, Seoul National University||To explore two potential risks of centralizing block production in PBS and propose proper modifications to the current PBS scheme to ensure safety against the suggested risks.|
|Amplification Messaging for Short-Term Slot Finality and Improved Reorg-Tolerance||Hammurabi Mendes, Ph.D.; Jonad Pulaj, Ph.D.||Davidson College||To formalize and evaluate relatively unobtrusive changes in GASPER for shorter-term finality and decreased likelihood of reorgs.|
|Analyzing and Securing Ethereum PoS in the Fully Asynchronous Network||Dr. Qiang Tang; Zhenliang Lu, Ph.D.; Dr. Yuan Lu||The University of Sydney||To study the security of Ethereum PoS in the fully asynchronous network, in which there is no guaranteed delivery time, and to make design suggestions on how to make Ethereum PoS more secure in an asynchronous network.|
|Combining Accountability and Game Theory to Strengthen Blockchain Security||Prof. Vincent Gramoli||The University of Sydney||To design novel algorithms that we will implement and evaluate in a large-scale distributed environment to demonstrate that blockchains can be made more secure with a practical combination of accountability and game theory.|
|Disentangling Transaction Privacy and Consensus in Ethereum||Prof. Kartik Nayak; Prof. Fan Zhang||Duke University||To study the dilemma between desirable properties such as (pre and failed trade) transaction privacy and the properties of the underlying consensus mechanism provided by Ethereum.|
|Improving Ethereum Communication Efficiency through Accountability and Flexible Quorums||Prof. Kartik Nayak||Duke University||To analyze 2 possible avenues to still obtain the same desirable security guarantees while improving efficiency. Firstly, using smaller quorums with accountability to obtain a more communication efficient protocol; and secondly using flexible quorums to obtain stronger security guarantees (of up to ⅔ fraction rational corrupt validators).|
|PoS Ethereum Agent-Based Model||Prof. Claudio J. Tessone; Nicolò Vallarano, Ph.D.||University of Zurich||To provide an abstract Agent Based Model to simulate Ethereum Proof-Of-Stake consensus.|
|REVOKE: Consensus-layer mitigations for validator ransomware attacks||Dr. Dan O’Keeffe; Dr. Darren Hurley-Smith; Alpesh Bhudia, Ph.D. candidate||Royal Holloway University of London||To explore consensus protocol adaptations to mitigate the risks of ransomware attacks on Ethereum 2.0 validators. It will aim to design a new revocation mechanism that will allow validators to improve their operational security by quickly changing their signing key without having to withdraw their stake.|
|Staking Mechanism Design: Ethereum 2.0 for Good||Dr. Luyao Zhang; Dr. Yulin Liu; Research Fellows: Xinyu Tian; Tianyu Xin; Zesen Zhuang||SciEcon CIC||To investigate the impact of the Ethereum 2.0 upgrades, mainly including its policy upgrade and the switch from proof of work to proof of stake, on its overall security, degree of decentralization, and scalability.|
|Coded Transaction Broadcasting for High-throughput Blockchains||Prof. Mohammad Alizadeh; Lei Yang, Ph.D. student||Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)||To design and build a new scheme for broadcasting new pending transactions in a blockchain network, with the goal to reduce the bandwidth usage and the latency to propagate transactions.|
|DoS-secure transaction propagation on Ethereum: Exploit generation and attack detection||Prof. Yuzhe Tang; Kai Li, Ph.D. student; Jiaqi Chen, Ph.D. student; Yibo Wang, Ph.D. student; Jack Willis; Nicholas P. Sweet; Mingyan Zhang||Syracuse University||To research and build an automated exploit generator to systematically evaluate the security/insecurity of current and future Ethereum clients under the low-cost DoS attacks as well as build DoS-secure mempool and transaction propagation protocols. Particularly, we will present a two-buffer mempool mechanism to support different transaction admission priorities.|
|Eclipse and DoS-Resilient Overlays for High-Performance Block Dissemination||Prof. Spyros Voulgaris; Evangelos Kolyvas, Ph.D.; Alexandros Antonov, Ph.D.||Athens University of Economics and Business||To design, implement, and evaluate a fully decentralized, self-organizing, self-healing, resource conservative, and dependable dissemination mechanism that delivers messages faster than is currently planned to be employed, while guaranteeing high reliability even in the case of failures or high node churn; and to shield our proposed protocol from Eclipse and DoS attacks, such that it becomes too hard for an attacker to obstruct message dissemination.|
|Privacy-enhanced and efficient P2P routing algorithms for the Ethereum network||István András Seres, Ph.D. student; Domokos Kelen, Ph.D. student; Ferenc Béres, Ph.D. student; András A. Benczúr, Ph.D||Independent||To design, implement and evaluate a privacy-enhanced routing algorithm for the Ethereum network that provably outperforms state-of-the-art proposals.|
|Tikuna: an Ethereum blockchain network security monitoring system||Dr. Andres Gomez Ramirez, Ph.D.; Loui Al Sardy, Ph.D. candidate||Sistemas Edenia Internacional||To build a proof-of-concept P2P network security monitoring system for the Ethereum blockchain for early detection of relevant incidents.|
|Battle of the Bots: Miner Extractable Value and Efficient Settlement||Prof. Alfred Lehar; Prof. Christine Parlou||University of Calgary||To examine how MEV and private transactions change blockchain economics, and impact socially desirable arbitrage such as loan liquidations and the alignment of DEX prices.|
|Catching the ephemeral: Understanding blockchains through mempool data||Prof. Fan Zhang; Prof. Kartik Nayak||Yale University||To empirically study critical aspects of the Ethereum blockchain such as the fee markets and ordering fairness, by using mempool data.|
|M2EV: Multi-block MEV games||Bruno Mazorra, Ph.D. student; Prof. Vanesa Daza||Pompeu Fabra University||To formalize the Reorg MEV game through a game theoretical perspective and understand the negative externalities induced by rational validators.|
|Mechanism Design and Empirical Analysis of MEV Prevention Mechanisms||Prof. Agostino Capponi||Columbia University||To study the design of Maximum Extractable Value (MEV) prevention mechanisms, such as relay and sequencing service, develop an econometric analysis of MEV prevention mechanisms, and quantify their impact on gas fees and value of ecosystem participants.|
|Optimal Design of Miner Extractable Value Auctions||Dr Peyman Khezr; Dr Vijay Mohan||Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT University)||To investigate the optimal design of auctions that, first, allocate the block space to potential transactions, and second, provide an efficient transaction ordering in a Miner Extractable Value Auction (MEVA).|
|Bounded Model Checking for Verifying and Testing Ethereum Consensus Specifications||Dr. Youcheng Sun; Dr. Lucas C. Cordeiro||University of Manchester||To verify and test Ethereum consensus specifications, i.e., the Python reference implementation, by applying Bounded Model Checking (BMC).|
|Formally verified Ethereum 2.0 Beacon Chain||Hamra Afzaal; Muhammad Umar Janjua; Muhammad Imran||Information Technology University of the Punjab||To find and correct bugs in the Beacon Chain using model checking technique.|
|FORVES (FORmally VErified block optimizationS)||Prof. Elvira Albert; Prof. Samir Genaim; Prof. Enrique Martin-Martin||University Complutense of Madrid||To develop a fully automated and formally verified tool, in Coq, that is able to verify the semantic equivalence of two loop-free fragments of EVM code.|
|Trustworthy Formal Verification for Ethereum Smart Contracts via Machine-Checkable Proof Certificates||Prof. Grigore Rosu; Xiaohong Chenm, Ph.D. student||University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign||To study trustworthy formal verification for smart contracts via machine-checkable proof certificates.|
Cryptography and zero knowledge proofs
|Efficient Private Information Retrieval for Ethereum Light Clients||Prof. Xun Yi; Prof. Son Hoang Dau; Nhat Quang Cao, Ph.D. student; Prof. Chen Feng||Independent||To develop cryptographic solutions that allow Ethereum light clients to perform data acquisition in a way that is not only efficient but also private.|
|ZK-SNARKs as a Service||Prof. Abhishek Jain||Johns Hopkins University||To design secure protocols that can be executed by a group of servers to jointly compute ZK-SNARG proofs.|
|Cross chain authenticated queries||Dr. Damiano Di Francesco Maesa||University of Pisa & University of Cambridge||To study how it is possible to adopt, and adapt, authenticated query protocols for blockchains to allow for cross chain communication between different Ethereum side chains (and the main net).|
|Feasibility Study of Pipelining in Ethereum Virtual Machine Architecture||Gopal Ojha||Independent||To research and develop for optimization of Ethereum network by increasing transaction throughput in the EVM.|
|Governance Based On Preferences, Incentives, and Information||Prof. Bo Waggoner||University of Colorado, Boulder||To investigate governance methods of making collective decisions as a group.|
|Rollups as Subsidiary Political Units – A Diversity of Layer 2 Networks Subject to Layer 1’s Constitutional Authority||Eric Alston; Prof. Bo Waggoner||University of Colorado, Boulder||To research the ways in which networks subsidiary to a given primary blockchain network share features with subsidiary political units in national constitutional orders.|
|S-CCSC: Security of Cross-chain Smart Contract||Prof. Yang Xiang; Dr. Ziyuan Wang; Dr. Lin Yang; Dr. Sheng Wen; Dr. Donghai Liu||Swinburne University of Technology||To safeguard cross-chain smart contracts by investigating existing or potential security risks and corresponding solutions of cross-chain smart contracts.|
We’re excited to follow these research teams and see the broad impact they have in expanding academic knowledge throughout the Ethereum ecosystem!
The diversity and quality of this round of grants reflects the interest of Academia in catalyzing our shared knowledge in helping solve major problems and advancing the Ethereum ecosystem.
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