The Massachusetts Institute of Technology is giving away free bitcoin as a way to encourage wider use of the software-based currency. Run by Dan Elitzer at MIT's Sloan School of Management, the experiment is handing out $100 worth of bitcoin to students who have volunteered to take part.

The success of any alternative currency will ultimately depend on its acceptance by shops and industry. Already, the MIT community seems to be making some headway:

"One popular way to spend the stash is on takeaway food. The Boston area boasts a number of shops that accept bitcoin, including Patty Chen's Dumpling Room and Veggie Galaxy. It also had one of the first bitcoin ATMs in the US. In addition, the MIT campus store now accepts the currency in exchange for things like textbooks and college sweatshirts."

The bitcoin cash will come from a $500,000 fund raised by the university and supported mainly by Alexandar Morcos, a former student who runs a high-frequency trading firm in New York City.

In his Big Think interview, technology entrepreneur Wences Casares explains how money functions as an objective ledger of our transactions and why bitcoin is a superior to gold as a base for transactions:

Read more at New Scientist

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