This painting had 5 BTC hidden in it
After years, someone finally cracked it. When you see the solution, you can see why it took so long.
When artist Marguerite deCourcelle created TORCHED H34R7S as part of a series called The Legend of Satoshi Nakamoto, bitcoin was worth only a few hundred dollars a pop. She cryptographically, and thematically, hid 5 BTC in the painting.
If you can't see the answer, you're not alone. It took years, but eventually an anonymous programmer, known only as Isaac, managed to find the key and claim the approximately $50,000 prize.
Isaac wrote an explanation of how he found the answer. You can probably see why it took years for anyone to solve it.
The main part of the key lies in the flames around the edge of the painting. The important information lies in four different characteristics:
- Flame height
- Outer colour
- Inner colour
- Inner thickness
By reading each of these characteristics around the edge of the painting, you might notice, like Isaac did, that they form a pattern.
If you then code this information into ASCII sequences, apply what's called an XOR operation, which is traditionally used in cryptography puzzles, and you end up with something that looks a lot like a 24-bit sequence.
At this point, there are still a bunch of ambiguities and different permutations, leading to 48 possible answers. So Isaac wrote a script to automatically sift through them in the hopes of finding one that jumped out.
And he did. One of the answers included the message "b34u7y, truth and rarity" alongside the private key of the wallet that held the bitcoin.
DeCourcelle's painting was inspired by Shakespeare's poem, The Phoenix and the Turtle, which includes the phrases:
Picture: Marguerite deCourcelle via CBC
Disclosure: At the time of writing the author holds ETH, IOTA, ICX, VEN, XLM, XRB and SALT