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MIT Is Giving Its Students Bitcoin

Researchers interested in studying how people use Bitcoin are handing out $100 worth of the currency to whoever wants it

(Photo: Ted Soqui/Corbis)
smithsonian.com

At the beginning of 2014, Bitcoin was all the rage. But since then the value of the digital currency has steadily been dropping, as regulatory hurdles have come up and the payment system has been slow to catch on. 

Now two MIT professors are giving away $100 worth of free bitcoins to any student who wants it, the New Scientist reports. The idea is to "spur acceptance of the cryptocurrency among people who might not otherwise try it," the New Scientist writes, as well as to study how people spend their bitcoins. The students are allowed to purchase whatever they want, except illegal goods. All told, the professors have around $500,000 in funds to spend on the project, thanks to donations from MIT alumni. 

Students who signed up two weeks ago just began receiving the vouchers and so far have mostly used the money to buy takeout food, the New Scientist reports. Some, however, see the bitcoins as an investment and are hoarding them away in the hopes that their valuation grows. As economist William Luther, who is not involved in the experiment, told the New Scientist, "You can give a student $100 worth of Bitcoin, but you can't make them use it." 

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