DEF CON Uber Badge So Hot It’s Radioactive

I went to the Opening Ceremonies of DEF CON 23 this morning to get more information on the badge challenge and I was not disappointed. The talk covered the Uber badge, which is hot in a literally radioactive sense. This badge, which is also known as the black badge, is reserved for people who are first to solve one of the official DEF CON challenges. It grants lifetime free admission and opens just about any door when listed on your resume.

Lichtenberg Figures

The triangle of acrylic itself is adorned with Lichtenberg Figures. This is a bolt of lightning on the badge. By building up extremely high voltages, the discharge leaves a unique pattern. In this case it was a 5 million volt, 150 kW particle accelerator that made the figures.

There is a medallion affixed to this triangular base-plate which is obviously part of the puzzle everyone is trying to solve this weekend. What is less clear is how the radioactive isotopes of this badge play into this challenge.

Whoa, oh, oh, oh, I’m Radioactive, Radioactive

Trinitie Photo by Shaddack -  CC BY 3.0
Trinitie Photo by Shaddack – CC BY 3.0

[LoST] took inspiration from [Richard Feynman] to a new level with this badge. [Feynman] was involved with “The Gadget” experiment which I know better as Trinity, the first detonation of a nuclear weapon. This badge contains isotopes from that detonation.

Trinitite (get it, from the Trinity explosion?) is a green glassy substance generated from a Plutonium-based bomb explosion. [LoST] made a point of explaining that the samples of Trinitite in this badge create a unique radioactive signature that not only traces back to this explosion, but actually indicates a precise distance form the epicenter of the explosion.

Also embedded in the badge are glass spheres doped with 3% Uranium 238. Tritium, used in exit signs, is a third source of radioactivity on the badge. This is joined by another marker that is a combination of Uraninite, Pitchblende, Carnotite, Gummit, and Yellowcake.

Interesting story, Tritium is highly regulated in this country but it is hypothetically possible to import it from Europe by a seller who ships it sealed inside packets of coffee. Hypothetically.

The opening ceremonies talk concluded with some inspirational remarks from [Dark Tangent]. Pictures of that as well as a few of [L0ST’s] slides are found below. If you’re working on the badge challenge, join in on the collaborative Badge deciphering we’ve started on If you’re at DEF CON, make sure to show up for breakfast with us on Sunday.

21 thoughts on “DEF CON Uber Badge So Hot It’s Radioactive

  1. “Tritium, used in exit signs, is a third source of radioactivity on the badge.”
    And how would one go about detecting the low energy beta emissions from this isotope? Even the X-ray Bremsstrahlung would be too low to detect with the best germanium gamma spectrometer.
    Is it a tritium excited phosphorescent emitter embedded in the badge?

    1. Place the badge over some photographic film for several hours, then develop the film.

      It wouldn’t come as a surprise if the radioactivity was in a pattern that somehow contributed to solving the puzzle.

      1. Ok, but any exposed film won’t be due to the direct emissions of the tritium, unless there is a phosphor of some kind with the tritium. If there is no phosphor, then there is no point to putting tritium in there.

  2. I love the badges and all this secretive, in depth stuff from defcon. I’m a M.E student and too lazy to get into sleuthing myself, but I love reading through what people try and watching as progress unfolds. The work these guys put into these things, man. Just aspiring and awesome.

  3. I do wonder what the security goons are going to do when the radiation sensors at the airport start picking up all these badges as people go home from the conference…

    1. Nah the fun part is going to be the initial news broadcast because they are probably going to look at the medallions and jump directly to cult. Thems gonna be some good times.

        1. Going by the slides I would expect there are at least six of them. By the way the article described the badge at the very least I would expect there to be more than one. Tho I suppose alternatively there could be only one official challenge.

  4. > hypothetically possible to import it from Europe by a seller who ships it sealed inside packets of coffee.

    I know exactly who does that. I always wondered why he shipped them in coffee packets, any guesses?

    Oh, and the sellers name is MERKAVA. Sells tritium and fobs to put em in!

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