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October 31st, 2011

$50,000 to solve a few puzzles for the DoD?

I’m 38 years old, lived my first 33 years in the USA, read and studied amply about US government agencies over the years (especially during my ultra-paranoid conspiracy theory phase in my early 20s), and yet, until today, I had never heard of DARPA.

According to Wikipedia, however, the agency has been around a while — longer than me, in fact:  << Its original name was simply Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA), but it was renamed to “DARPA” (for Defense) in March 1972, then renamed “ARPA” again in February 1993, and then renamed “DARPA” again in March 1996. >>

It sounds like an agency with multiple personality disorder, but I guess it’s essentially a branch of the Department of Defense (DoD) that focuses on technological R&D.

Why am I telling you about it? Because I know a lot of readers of this blog are sharp-minded (maybe even genius-level) non-Luddites, who can actually understand what the guys in our Virus Lab talk about when they post here… and would jump at the chance to prove their skills  (and win some money in the process).

Well, now you can. A few days ago, Networkworld contributor Michael Cooney reported that DARPA is offering the chance to solve shredded puzzles — with a prize of $50,000 to the first person to do so. The puzzles are basically documents that have gone through a shredder, and the challenge is to put them back together. The point of this, according to DARPA’s Information Innovation Director Dan Kaufman, is to find innovative problem solvers who exhibit “leap-ahead thinking.” The point of such research is to find better methods for reconstructing critical information after it has been ‘destroyed’ (I guess we could call this undestroying things?).

If you want to try your hand (and advanced brain) at such a challenge, either solo or as a team, visit the Networkworld link above, or go straight to the DoD’s website for the Shredder Challenge here.

If you end up winning, I wouldn’t mind if you sent me at least a bottle of Dom Pérignon here to our AVAST HQ in Prague.  ;)

BTW, does anyone else suspect this contest might be a clever recruitment tool for populating the geek police? :D

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