DARPA offering US$50,000 for shredded-paper puzzle solutions
By Ben Coxworth
November 1, 2011
Do you like puzzles? If you're good enough at solving them, it could win you up to US$50,000. That's the maximum prize that DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) is offering in its Shredder Challenge. The agency is trying to develop methods of reconstructing shredded documents that U.S. soldiers could use when gathering intelligence in war zones - it also wants to identify shredded-document-reading strategies that could be used against the U.S., so that it can take preemptive measures against them. What better way to do it than by crowd-sourcing?
Contestants start by going to the Shredder Challenge website, registering, then downloading five different puzzles made out of images of one or more shredded sheets of paper. Using whatever means they can think of, the contestants have to reassemble those shreds into their original form, at which point a message written on the original document will become readable. Just to make things fun, each puzzle contains a few shreds that aren't from the original document, while it is also missing a few of its own shreds.
Each of the documents has been shredded in a different fashion, and some have more pages than others, the shreds of which have all been mixed together. This makes the reconstruction of each document more challenging than the last. In order to prove that they have completed each one, contestants will have to provide the answer to a puzzle posed by the message on each document, along with an image of the complete document.
Although contestants do not have to solve all five puzzles in order to be in the running, the winner will be whoever has solved the highest number by the December 4 deadline. In the event of a tie, the prize will go to whichever contestant's submission arrived first. The different puzzles are assigned different numbers of points, which will determine how much money is awarded.
Needless to say, DARPA will also require all contestants to describe how they went about piecing everything together. While people from any country are able to enter, only U.S. citizens will be able to receive the prize money.
Source: Cosmic Log