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Find DARPA's Balloons, Win $40K

timothy posted more than 4 years ago | from the in-related-news-no-easter-egg-hunt dept.

The Military 252

coondoggie writes "The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency today offered up a rather interesting challenge: find and plot 10 red weather balloons scattered at undisclosed locations across the country. The first person to identify the location of all the balloons and enter them on the challenge Web site will win a $40,000 cash prize. According to the agency, the balloons will be in readily accessible locations, visible from nearby roadways and accompanied by DARPA representatives. All balloons are scheduled to go on display at all locations at 10:00AM (ET) until approximately 4:00 PM on Saturday, December 5, 2009."

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Find J.delanoys micropenis, lose your dignatiy (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29947214)

J.delanoys penis is so small that not even the large hardon colider could find it.

That may be... (1)

pontifier (601767) | more than 4 years ago | (#29948224)

but perhaps you could find a single red balloon and win $3000...

Red40k.com will be setup to take balloon location submissions and paypal $3000 to the first email address associated with a correct balloon location, if we win the $40k.

Floating? (1, Funny)

rossdee (243626) | more than 4 years ago | (#29947240)

Don't weather ballons float around on high altitude winds?

Of course UFO's are often claimed to be weather baloons by the Govt. Is this a cover up?

Re:Floating? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29947258)

Yes, Darpa is covering up its lack of innovation with balloon hunt - the successor program to duck hunt

Re:Floating? (4, Interesting)

Fluffeh (1273756) | more than 4 years ago | (#29947564)

I wonder what the agenda here is. It's surely not something as simple as finding how many people jump in their cars and go driving.

The possible things come to mind:
Gather intelligence on how quickly people are able to come together to form a working group, and what the structure of the group is likely to be.

Find new and interesting ways for this sort of huge area recon. Can a geek use roadway cameras effectively? Are there other ways of gathering this sort of information?

Test some software that they have written to trawl the web searching for specific words among the randomness of the intertubez.

Any other ideas come floating to mind?

Re:Floating? (5, Funny)

davester666 (731373) | more than 4 years ago | (#29947614)

Obviously, this is just an attempt to use crowdsourcing to find a bunch of lost weather balloons. In this day and age of gov't budget cutbacks, every balloon saved is a slightly bigger performance bonus at the end of the year...

Re:Floating? (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29947782)

There's no real point to it. Here's what they did: There are five balloons around, numbered from 1-5, and four balloons numbered from 7-10. Just like the prank where you release a 3 pigs, painted with a "1", "3", and "4" into a high school.

They're just 5 months early.

Re:Floating? (5, Informative)

TubeSteak (669689) | more than 4 years ago | (#29947990)

I wonder what the agenda here is. It's surely not something as simple as finding how many people jump in their cars and go driving.

FTFA:

The DARPA Network Challenge is designed to mark the 40th anniversary of the Internet. "It is fitting for DARPA to announce this competition on the anniversary of the day that the first message was sent over the ARPANET, the precursor to the Internet," said Dr. Regina E. Dugan, who made the announcement at a conference celebrating the anniversary. "In the 40 years since this breakthrough, the Internet has become an integral part of society and the global economy. The DARPA Network Challenge explores the unprecedented ability of the Internet to bring people together to solve tough problems."

But honestly, this discussion would not be nearly as amusing without the paranoia of /. getting turned up to 11.

Re:Floating? (3, Interesting)

tomhudson (43916) | more than 4 years ago | (#29948066)

This would have been a good stunt to get people to buy Motorola Droids so they can use the free google maps geolocation, etc.

Re:Floating? (3, Interesting)

Bob9113 (14996) | more than 4 years ago | (#29948018)


The possible things come to mind:
Gather intelligence on how quickly people are able to come together to form a working group, and what the structure of the group is likely to be.

Find new and interesting ways for this sort of huge area recon. Can a geek use roadway cameras effectively? Are there other ways of gathering this sort of information?

Test some software that they have written to trawl the web searching for specific words among the randomness of the intertubez.

Any other ideas come floating to mind?

I was going to post the same question and propose items 1 and 3. I was going to compare this to the intentional disinformation we sent in WWII using encryption we suspected to be compromised -- it gave us excellent intel on the ability of the axis to deploy a fighting force. It fits nicely with the idea that in sociological testing it is important to disguise the actual nature of the test, so that the respondents do not alter the outcome (consciously or subconsciously).

In that case, you've just broken their experiment.

But then, perhaps that is not what they are observing. Perhaps they figured out that we would figure out the actual meaning of the challenge, and what they are actually measuring is the rate at which we perceive the actual intent of the challenge... :)

Re:Floating? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29948200)


The possible things come to mind:
Gather intelligence on how quickly people are able to come together to form a working group, and what the structure of the group is likely to be.

Find new and interesting ways for this sort of huge area recon. Can a geek use roadway cameras effectively? Are there other ways of gathering this sort of information?

Test some software that they have written to trawl the web searching for specific words among the randomness of the intertubez.

Any other ideas come floating to mind?

I was going to post the same question and propose items 1 and 3. I was going to compare this to the intentional disinformation we sent in WWII using encryption we suspected to be compromised -- it gave us excellent intel on the ability of the axis to deploy a fighting force. It fits nicely with the idea that in sociological testing it is important to disguise the actual nature of the test, so that the respondents do not alter the outcome (consciously or subconsciously).

In that case, you've just broken their experiment.

But then, perhaps that is not what they are observing. Perhaps they figured out that we would figure out the actual meaning of the challenge, and what they are actually measuring is the rate at which we perceive the actual intent of the challenge... :)

I was going to post the same message, but then realized that perhaps that is not what they are observing. Perhaps they figured out that we would figure out the actual meaning of the challenge, and what they are actually measuring is the rate of the rate at which we perceive the actual intent of the challenge... :)

Re:Floating? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29948240)


The possible things come to mind:
Gather intelligence on how quickly people are able to come together to form a working group, and what the structure of the group is likely to be.

Find new and interesting ways for this sort of huge area recon. Can a geek use roadway cameras effectively? Are there other ways of gathering this sort of information?

Test some software that they have written to trawl the web searching for specific words among the randomness of the intertubez.

Any other ideas come floating to mind?

I was going to post the same question and propose items 1 and 3. I was going to compare this to the intentional disinformation we sent in WWII using encryption we suspected to be compromised -- it gave us excellent intel on the ability of the axis to deploy a fighting force. It fits nicely with the idea that in sociological testing it is important to disguise the actual nature of the test, so that the respondents do not alter the outcome (consciously or subconsciously).

In that case, you've just broken their experiment.

But then, perhaps that is not what they are observing. Perhaps they figured out that we would figure out the actual meaning of the challenge, and what they are actually measuring is the rate at which we perceive the actual intent of the challenge... :)

I was going to post the same message, but then realized that perhaps that is not what they are observing. Perhaps they figured out that we would figure out the actual meaning of the challenge, and what they are actually measuring is the rate of the rate at which we perceive the actual intent of the challenge... :)

I was going to post the same message, but then realized that perhaps that is not what they are observing. Perhaps they figured out that we would figure out the actual meaning of the challenge, and what they are actually measuring is the rate of the rate of the rate at which we perceive the actual intent of the challenge... :)

Re:Floating? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29948300)

I was going to post the same message, but then realized that perhaps that is not what they are observing. Perhaps they figured out that we would figure out the actual meaning of the challenge, and what they are actually measuring is the rate of the rate of the rate at which we perceive the actual intent of the challenge... :)

We have the rate of the rate of the rate of ...

Now we can define a new measure for intelligence: the order of the time derivative in which some intent is correctly perceived. Hmm... maybe I am on to something, Measure of Intelligence 5, MI6, ehm, guys, I am typing here. What's with the sunglasses and the black suits? Why ar

Re:Floating? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29948090)

Just one, which is that they do this sort of thing all the time.

http://www.darpa.mil/grandchallenge/index.asp

Re:Floating? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29948382)

It's just to celebrate the birth of the Internet by hosting an event that requires participants to utilize the Internet. Not everything DARPA does has a clear research objective. Also, considering the rates for research grants, this is a bargain basement price. Consider the fact that tuition + overhead + stipend for a single PhD student will cost over $80,000/year at many schools and that the average duration of a PhD is over 5 years, and you see that DARPA has no actual research agenda here. The real goal is publicity and a bit of fun.

Re:Floating? (3, Funny)

Skevin (16048) | more than 4 years ago | (#29947700)

Or maybe each of the ten weather balloons may or may not have a live six-year-old boy riding in it, and DARPA full well remembers what happened last time with just *one*.

Solomon

Re:Floating? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29947624)

Don't weather ballons float around on high altitude winds?

Too bad for those DARPA representatives, accompanying the balloons. Oh well, that's what the interns are for.

I sense. I sense... (4, Insightful)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 4 years ago | (#29947244)

An unholy mashup between Twitter and a bunch of cell phone cameras.

Re:I sense. I sense... (1)

sopssa (1498795) | more than 4 years ago | (#29947288)

OK, I'm happily joining in here from Germany!

Re:I sense. I sense... (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29947548)

Sorry to disappoint, but this is only 10 Luftballons.
I think you were looking for 99 of them. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/99_Luftballons [wikipedia.org]

Re:I sense. I sense... (1)

lanswitch (705539) | more than 4 years ago | (#29947642)

we'd better start in roswell, usa.

Re:I sense. I sense... (3, Insightful)

Mattwolf7 (633112) | more than 4 years ago | (#29947336)

It's kind of the point: "In the 40 years since this breakthrough, the Internet has become an integral part of society and the global economy. The DARPA Network Challenge explores the unprecedented ability of the Internet to bring people together to solve tough problems."

Re:I sense. I sense... (4, Interesting)

KibibyteBrain (1455987) | more than 4 years ago | (#29947696)

That's probably the point. DARPA wants to demonstrate empirically that mobile communications have reached the point where ordinary people can coordinate using ordinary technology to achieve what would historically have needed to be a fine tuned professional intelligence operation.

Re:I sense. I sense... (3, Insightful)

izomiac (815208) | more than 4 years ago | (#29947832)

That has some interesting applications. Whereas it might take hundreds or thousands of UAVs/aircraft to locate these balloons, a sympathetic population might very well be able to do it for a fraction of the cost and risk. Who knows, maybe the next time we're occupying a country the military might give out free cell phones to generate a little good will and put the population to work finding our enemies.

Re:I sense. I sense... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29948032)

Who knows, maybe the next time we're occupying a country the military might give out free cell phones to generate a little good will and put the population to work finding our enemies.

Those phones better have some nifty apps, a camera with video and an unlimited free data plan. Otherwise, neither goodwill, nor those nice Osama-in-the-background wedding videos with GPS information for you!

Oh great....don't fall for it everyone! (2, Funny)

VinylRecords (1292374) | more than 4 years ago | (#29947266)

Not another balloon hoax!

Re:Oh great....don't fall for it everyone! (4, Funny)

bennomatic (691188) | more than 4 years ago | (#29947290)

Shhhh! It's for the TV show!

Re:Oh great....don't fall for it everyone! (1)

acedotcom (998378) | more than 4 years ago | (#29947420)

the difference is that the Balloon Boy's family was doing it for attention.

This is probably DARPA 's first step to making a Weather Machine.

Why are they having people try and find them? (1)

areusche (1297613) | more than 4 years ago | (#29947282)

DARPA is just going to claim that the weather balloons are pockets of swamp gas.

Put your "ohh ohh" in my "ohh ohh." (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29947732)

Put your "ohh ohh" in my "ohh ohh."

The Slashdot game. Win $40k (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29947284)

Find a nigger working, win $40k.

Sounds easy doesn't it? Lol... Yea I laughed too. We all know it's fucking impossible.

Re:The Slashdot game. Win $40k (-1, Troll)

the_bard17 (626642) | more than 4 years ago | (#29947712)

Nah, not all that impossible.

Try hanging a mirror.

found it! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29947286)

It was hiding in the goatse guy's asshole.

Help me find them! (2, Interesting)

PapiAlDente (155162) | more than 4 years ago | (#29947294)

Come help find the balloons at a collaborative website--first to find each balloon gets to share in the prize money! http://balloonfinder.superfunhappy.com [superfunhappy.com]

Lets discuss a serious entry? (1)

CrazyJim1 (809850) | more than 4 years ago | (#29947308)

Anyone with access to satellite imagery? If you have a satellite camera, you could open a website,"FindDarpaBallons.com" and pay people who find the balloons 500$ each to report them to you. Then just use your Satellite to confirm it. Send in to Darpa, make 40k, pay out 5k, and be up 35k.

Re:Lets discuss a serious entry? (2, Insightful)

Nanidin (729400) | more than 4 years ago | (#29947382)

Most major roadways (at least in my moderately sized city of around 4 million) have traffic cameras all up and down them that are freely accessible. I'm guessing this would be a valid strategy - run image analysis on all of the traffic cams you can get your hands on for red balloons.

Wouldn't surprise me if this is what the purpose of the contest is - to get someone to develop this software for them.

Re:Lets discuss a serious entry? (1)

Achromatic1978 (916097) | more than 4 years ago | (#29947390)

Because of course everyone has access to a controllable camera on a satellite...

Not sure how you figured this as a 'serious' entry...

Re:Lets discuss a serious entry? (1)

bendodge (998616) | more than 4 years ago | (#29947518)

True, but $40k is enough to make some folks who do have access curious.

Re:Lets discuss a serious entry? (0, Redundant)

coastrman (1669092) | more than 4 years ago | (#29947706)

Well we don't have any satellite imagery, but we have set up a collaborative website to find all of the balloons. If you are interested in helping out and sharing in the bounty check out http://balloonfinder.superfunhappy.com/ [superfunhappy.com]

One person? (4, Interesting)

paul248 (536459) | more than 4 years ago | (#29947330)

So, only one person wins the prize, even though it will almost certainly require the effort of an online community? This sounds like a breeding ground for betrayal.

Re:One person? (4, Interesting)

Yvan256 (722131) | more than 4 years ago | (#29947370)

Maybe that's the actual goal of that challenge. Not how people will find the balloons but how people will cooperate together if there's only a single prize to be won.

Re:One person? (4, Interesting)

paul248 (536459) | more than 4 years ago | (#29947398)

Actually, I was thinking more about that. A public online community will help you find all the real coordinates quickly, but there will undoubtedly be a lot of *fake* coordinates mixed in.

I think the real challenge won't be in finding the balloons, it will be in validating and filtering out all the non-balloons.

Re:One person? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29947388)

Seems like you could just agree up front to split the prize N ways with your team...

Re:One person? (3, Insightful)

polymeris (902231) | more than 4 years ago | (#29947404)

It probably is some kind of social experiment to see who people trust over the Internet and under time pressure.

Re:One person? (2, Interesting)

dynamo52 (890601) | more than 4 years ago | (#29947480)

I was thinking it is more to test their abilities to filter and monitor internet traffic patterns related to a particular event. How much do you want to bet Echelon will be scanning for the words "red" and "balloon" during the challenge?

Re:One person? (1)

BitHive (578094) | more than 4 years ago | (#29947622)

Why would they need to manufacture an event to do that?

Re:One person? (5, Interesting)

dynamo52 (890601) | more than 4 years ago | (#29947932)

Possibly to determine if they are able to focus in on an unknown individual who has managed to acquire certain specific information in a timely manner. I could see many anti-terrorism implications in an experiment of this nature.

Re:One person? (2, Insightful)

El Micko (118401) | more than 4 years ago | (#29947836)

If the problem is who gets the prize..
And that's the stumbling block, preventing widespread collaboration..
Set up your collective to donate to a charity, or the EFF, or Cowboy Neal... or something worthwhile.

Go on.. it'll be more fun than a LUG meeting.

How hard can it be to mobilise tens of thousands of Nerds..

(Unless its really windy.. these suckers arent getting to Australia.. so I cant help..)

They should release 99 luftballoons! Sorry. Unecessary 80's flash back there..

Indentifying the Balloons (5, Funny)

NuclearError (1256172) | more than 4 years ago | (#29947348)

Here's [bleen.ro] a handy chart for finding the balloons.

Re:Indentifying the Balloons (2, Informative)

jackb_guppy (204733) | more than 4 years ago | (#29947374)

Now, that was funny!

robbiewilso (1)

robbiewilso (1669058) | more than 4 years ago | (#29947358)

well let the spam begin! here's my email: robbie.h.wilson@gmail.com i want to collaborate with others from around the US to win this as a team! if we get together as a team, then we split the prize amongst us all. i'm thinking that only the team members who contribute the coordinates would be in the pool, but there could be a dozen team members who found that particular ballloon- that's only fair! maybe this would be a great way to make friends and a small amount of cash! email me if you want to join up! and no if i end up winning then i won't be a jerk and not share the wealth. i just have these morals and an ethical compass that some have never heard anything about. it's a matter of trust!

The first need for UFO nuts! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29947476)

All I need to do is find all the UFO nuts around the US and correlate all their recent sightings! PERFECT!

Finally (1)

allknowingfrog (1661721) | more than 4 years ago | (#29947486)

All of those red weather balloons I've been saving will come in handy.

Seriously though, how long until a bunch of assholes with red weather balloons start causing problems? Do the balloons at least say DARPA on them or something?

Not Enough Red Ballons (4, Funny)

kaleth (66639) | more than 4 years ago | (#29947510)

There should have been 99.

Re:Not Enough Red Ballons (0)

AdamInParadise (257888) | more than 4 years ago | (#29947764)

I really wonder how many people on /. will get this one.

Hmmm - strategies and counter-strategies. (3, Interesting)

KingJackaL (871276) | more than 4 years ago | (#29947556)

Well, it's obvious why DARPA would care how quickly the internet can become aware of accurate and specific information such as 'where is unit X'.

What I'm curious about is how much mis-information could pop up. What if you mischievously set up your own balloon, that looks identical to the description, as a distraction to other teams/groups?

What if groups eventually find all the balloons - and there are 13 of them? Is it then time to unleash the perl scripts on DARPA's submission form? So many possible strategies and counter-strategies - but are they actually all just intellectual, or will they play a role in the challenge?

Re:Hmmm - strategies and counter-strategies. (1)

ErikPeterson (912282) | more than 4 years ago | (#29947658)

A whole month to devise these strategies and counter-strategies aswell! Its obvious to me that there will be at least SOME fake sites in the country. Even in DARPA announced a last minute color change on the balloons or announced an image that would be painted on them it would be feasible for people to try and make them just as a prank if nothing else.

Possible strategy (3, Interesting)

ErikPeterson (912282) | more than 4 years ago | (#29947568)

I think the best way to attack this problem would be to agree to donate the profits from the award to some worthy cause, letting people with the capability volunteer some time to a solution. Its a fairly complicated problem to solve for the amount of money given to solve it. Lets say a group of capable programmers united for lets say an open source project develop a website that takes in the coordinates in the format required for the contest. The trick is going to be figuring out who is telling the truth when it comes to submitted data... You may be able to assume that if a number set is entered often that it is a candidate to be the real location. The task obviously requires coordination of many life humans as I doubt anyone that can compete has access to satellite time to do an automated search. I am wondering how many people will attempt to put up fake balloon sites to either trick their competition or just get some publicity of tech people to come visit the site and take a GPS reading.

Re:Possible strategy (1)

ErikPeterson (912282) | more than 4 years ago | (#29947586)

I meant to say live humans not life sorry for the typo.

NOT cool (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29947570)

The point of this test is to watch the social networking sites, specifically Facebook and Twitter, and chart how the information flows as far-flung groups work together to share their data with each other.

The gathered intelligence should help them tremendously when dealing with the next group of protesters.... :-/

Social media test? (4, Interesting)

icebike (68054) | more than 4 years ago | (#29947592)

Since nobody drives everywhere in the country this has got to be some sort of social media test, to see how fast something like twitter could track down any given item/phenomena.

Defense research angle?

Nothing to do with the balloons is my bet.

Not even measuring how long this might take, or how people do it, because they already know the only way is via the internet.

I suspect they want to watch the internet and see what happens when people start organizing spontaneously into communities.

This is an exercise in traffic analysis. Pure and simple.

The scary part, is they have the hooks into the net deep enough that they can pull this off, apparently without warrants. Yes They Can.

Re:Social media test? (1)

topham (32406) | more than 4 years ago | (#29947936)

I was thinking exactly the same thing.

Otherwise is seems so completely fucking pointless.

Project Luft Balloon.

Re:Social media test? (4, Insightful)

spleen_blender (949762) | more than 4 years ago | (#29948174)

I was following you until the part about warrants. What are you thinking could possibly require one that is related to this?

Nothing better to use $40,000 for? (3, Funny)

kheldan (1460303) | more than 4 years ago | (#29947596)

The economy still sucks, DARPA; why are you wasting taxpayer money on bullshit like this?

Re:Nothing better to use $40,000 for? (2, Insightful)

FooAtWFU (699187) | more than 4 years ago | (#29947660)

If they're going to just hand out a lump sum of money to a bunch of random people, at least they're not making them destroy perfectly functional automobiles to do so this time.

Re:Nothing better to use $40,000 for? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29947822)

If they're going to just hand out a lump sum of money to a bunch of random people, at least they're not making them destroy perfectly functional automobiles to do so this time.

I say screw this crap with the military running experiments where you have no idea what's up.

Instead, if you find one of the balloons and no one is around, pop the sucker and toss it in the trash.

Let them figure out how a bunch of their balloons went missing.

Re:Nothing better to use $40,000 for? (2, Insightful)

BitHive (578094) | more than 4 years ago | (#29947672)

I'd say it's a bargain. Think about all the driving and snacks, hell, maybe even consumer gadget purchases this contest will inspire. Those have gotta be worth something to the economy. Maybe the next stimulus package should be a scavenger hunt.

Re:Nothing better to use $40,000 for? (3, Insightful)

blankinthefill (665181) | more than 4 years ago | (#29947948)

The average person may think that $40,000 is a lot... but it's nothing in terms of operating budgets for even medium sized companies. From the Darpa site, looking at their unclassified budget for 2010 ( http://www.darpa.mil/Docs/2010PBDARPAMay2009.pdf [darpa.mil] ) (That's a PDF, by the way, and also has numbers for 2009 and 2008), you can see that the budget easily runs into the billions of dollars. For a comparison, forty thousand dollars is 0.004 PERCENT of one billion dollars. To someone with a salary of seventy five thousand dollars a year, the equivalent percentage would be 3 dollars. That's barely pocket change, and it assumes a budget much lower than the actual operating budget of DARPA. Taking this into consideration, that's pretty cheap. Especially if they're planning to study anything by doing this (and if you think they wont get SOMETHING useful out of this, then you're even denser than I am), that's a relative bargain. Even if they DON'T get anything worthwhile out of this contest, the publicity alone is probably worth it when you consider possible recruits that they attract because of increased interest. Your claim that they are 'wasting taxpayer money' is pure FUD, and, to be honest, even if it wasn't, $40k isn't even a drop in the bucket of the 2.3 TRILLION dollars that was collected in taxes in 2008.

Re:Nothing better to use $40,000 for? (3, Informative)

kheldan (1460303) | more than 4 years ago | (#29948162)

*facepalm*

People need to start up some large teams (1)

mysidia (191772) | more than 4 years ago | (#29947604)

And offer $3500 to the first person to submit each unique balloon's coordinates and a photograph of the location to a team organizer, provided the team wins.

8% to the team organizer for handling all the work involved in coordinating the team.

And $150 to the person who agrees to go confirm the location of balloon submitted by someone else, by getting a report of its general location, going there, and reporting its coordinates for confirmation.

Noone can cheat, provided everyone has an ironclad contract, if only the team organizer receives the actual coordinates reported, and processes them in order received.

Sending all reported ballons to be confirmed by someone else. Requiring a deposit from everyone reporting a balloon in the amt of $100, forfeit only if it turns out there was no balloon there.

On Twitter (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29947676)

@FindRedBalloon

Zehn Luftballoons? (1)

Scienceman123 (1366877) | more than 4 years ago | (#29947682)

DARPA digs through its allocation / Buy some weather balloons so they can have some fun. / Set them free at the break of dawn / 'Til one by one, they were gone. / On Slashdot, nerds in underwear / Read the message, MONEY out there. / Floating in the autumn sky. / Ten red weather balloons go by. /

In Kentucky today... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29947694)

Ten balloonist in red balloons were shot down.

My guess: half of a high-tech vs low-tech contest (5, Insightful)

goodmanj (234846) | more than 4 years ago | (#29947702)

My guess is, we're seeing half of a contest pitting high-end defense technology vs the "stupid cheap easy" solution.

SCENE: PENTAGON STAFF ROOM
Mil Contractor: "And so you see, with our latest satellite imaging systems, we can search and pinpoint the location of a human-sized target object within 10 days for a nation the size of the US or Russia."
Dumb General: "Wow. We need to spend some billions on this."
Smart General: "Pff. I bet you could do better by plain old "boots on the ground" spywork. You'd need a pretty big network of observers though..."
Smart 5-star general: "Well, boys, let's find out."

at least, this is a good enough story that I *hope* it's what's going on...

The Purpose (3, Informative)

ral (93840) | more than 4 years ago | (#29947770)

The purpose of this exercise can be found here [darpa.mil] :

To mark the 40th Anniversary of the Internet, DARPA is hosting the DARPA Network Challenge, a competition that will explore the role the Internet and social networking plays in the timely communication, wide area team-building and urgent mobilization required to solve broad scope, time-critical problems.

Re:The Purpose (3, Insightful)

dynamo52 (890601) | more than 4 years ago | (#29947946)

The publicly stated purpose of this exercise can be found here: [fixed that for you]

Wow, who drew the short straw? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29947772)

and accompanied by DARPA representatives

There's going to be 10 or more unlucky bastards standing around by these balloons, in all kinds of weather, until the fifth of December.

But hey, on the bright side, your tax dollars at work.

Bloons (2, Funny)

blavallee (729704) | more than 4 years ago | (#29947790)

Do I get an extra bonus if I pop them all?

Using satellite imagery (1, Informative)

Animats (122034) | more than 4 years ago | (#29947792)

Here's a [digitalglobe.com] sample image. [digitalglobe.com] Yes, that's from orbit.

Each satellite images about 1 million km^2 per day, so in 250 days, they can image the entire planet at high resolution. But they'll do the populated parts of the US more often (they can aim the cameras for each pass), so they will pick up many of the balloons.

Microsoft Bing is buying all the data, so it's going on line. The data rate is about 50GB/hour. Start programs looking for red dots.

Re:Using satellite imagery (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29948108)

Your intuition sucks. The balloons will be up for only 6h. According to your number that's 0.25 million km^2 randomly distributed on the Earth, so about 250000/510072000 = 0.05% of anything, in particular 0.05% of the U.S. And no, pointing toward the U.S. while you're flying above Mexico won't help nearly enough to turn this into a meaningful number. So you're totally wrong, unless you consider 1/200 chance of seeing a balloon to be "many".

Re:Using satellite imagery (1)

The_Duck271 (1494641) | more than 4 years ago | (#29948160)

Hmm. Looking at those sample images suggests to me that it's impossible to do something like this with satellite imagery. No one could write a program to distinguish ten red balloons from the tens of millions of red cars in the US.

Re:Using satellite imagery (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29948406)

Not to mention that it would be impossible to distinguish a random round red object from a contest balloon (accompanied by a DARPA agent). It's a social network experiment. Wouldn't be surprised if it is intended to study how people work together in order to stop them if they work against the government; for those pesky things like liberties, civil rights and such.

Although heavy on subterfuge... (2, Interesting)

jkyrlach (1076609) | more than 4 years ago | (#29947794)

I'd be willing to bet that it's actually an attempt to encourage probing/attacks on it's website /network. $40k is a pretty good incentive to try and find the answer sheet. Possible goals range from your traditional smoke-out-the-troublemakers-by-having-an-archery-contest to using it to identify skilled individuals for recruitment.

Step 1. Set up a website (1)

mbuimbui (1130065) | more than 4 years ago | (#29947826)

Step 1. Set up a website: Go to Darpa Balloon Challenge Group [darpaballoon.com]
Step 2. Get lots of people organized and figure out who gets how much
...
...
...

Step N. Profit!!!!!

Re:Step 1. Set up a website (1)

mbuimbui (1130065) | more than 4 years ago | (#29948234)

OK Better idea. Use the DARPA funds to promote peace.
Balloons for Peace [darpaballoon.com]

Psych/Mob experiment (1)

Toonol (1057698) | more than 4 years ago | (#29947830)

I bet it's a social experiment, not tech. There are all sorts of obvious ways to get people to work together, but how can you eliminate bad actors and false data?

If you have a central clearing house, the data can be stolen by others. If the submitted data is kept private, then the participants need to have a high level of trust in the central organizers. You also need to be resistant to spoofing from other parties, including potentially organized efforts by other groups trying to win the prize.

My best idea would be that the contest needs to be taken up by a web site that already has a large web of trust; large enough that they can be trusted, and that they can get enough data that anomalies and deception become evident. The prize money could be redistributed among the first N people that accurately reported a balloon... or, a lottery could divide the prize among N number of people who submitted accurate information. The second makes more sense to me.

Google Earth? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29947850)

Actually, would the balloons show up on Google Earth?

Red40k.com (1)

pontifier (601767) | more than 4 years ago | (#29947910)

So I just registered a website, and will set it up in a few days... if you are the first person to submit a correct balloon location, and if we get the 40k, I will paypal $3,000 to the first email address on the submission.

Kudos, DARPA (1)

Qubit (100461) | more than 4 years ago | (#29947962)

With all that money you've appropriated, what better way to waste^H^H^H^H^H spend it then on a tribute to Lamorisse [wikipedia.org] .

Would an airplane be of any use? (1)

Tracy Reed (3563) | more than 4 years ago | (#29947994)

If some folks want to pile into a 172 and go flying around San Diego County/Southern California/anywhere else we can get to from here armed with binoculars and split the cost 4 ways I'm game. I'm not sure what our chances of actually spotting anything would be though.

Re:Would an airplane be of any use? (1)

Tracy Reed (3563) | more than 4 years ago | (#29948102)

A few more datapoints here: We can reasonably fly anywhere between 1000 and 12,500'. We can fly anywhere between 60kts and 180kts depending on what airplane we want to fly (those are just the ones I reasonably have fast access to).

Bring good binoculars, fly high, and scan as much ground as possible as fast as possible? Fly just high enough that we can recognize weather balloons?

Anyone got a red weather balloon or red object of equivalent size we can set up in a field somewhere soon and experiment with? We can fly over it at various altitudes and distances and see how easily recognizable it is.

Any clues as to what kinds of areas these things would be placed in? Major city areas? Freeway corridors?

The balloons will be on display for 6 hours.

The Cessna 210 cruises at 160kts and carries 90 gallons of fuel. Fuel burn rate is between 10 and 15 gallons per hour depending on altitude/power setting etc. A 172 is cheaper but quite a bit slower. The 210 split four ways over 6 hours of flight time comes to about $315/person which isn't too unreasonable. Depending on altitude/power setting ultimately chosen it is quite possible to fly the whole 6 hours without refueling and have adequate VFR reserves.

6 hours at 160kts is 960 nautical miles. It may be possible to cover the entire I-5 route from the Mexican border south of San Diego to Portland, Oregon.

I imagine anyone participating in such a scheme would want to team up with other aircraft based teams combined with ground based teams. Sure, lots of people will see the balloons from the freeway (I bet that is where they would be placed to increase the chances of someone interested in this contest seeing them) but what are the chances of someone from YOUR team seeing each of the balloons? Especially since nobody can drive that whole route in that amount of team. Send a plane up the freeway and then send your ground based teams in other directions such as eastward.

But...really, would anyone want to look at the ground from an airplane through binoculars for 6 hours? And could you really see a balloon from a plane?

Your best bet may just be to get as many people driving around all over the US onto the same team as possible. This whole thing may well coalesce into one big team somehow.

Re:Would an airplane be of any use? (1)

snorris01 (571733) | more than 4 years ago | (#29948318)

You can really limit down the search area by doing some research first. If these are traditional cabled weather balloons, near areas of high population density, and at altitudes visible to the ground, they will be a flight hazard. Based off those assumptions, they should either be in restricted areas or NOTAMed. Too bad that idea alone isn't worth any money.

Why all the marketing? (2, Interesting)

zenwarrior (81710) | more than 4 years ago | (#29948044)

Anyone else noticed DARPA's recent major marketing/publicity campaign? There is now this well-publicized balloon hunt. There was the televised robotic vehicle challenge. Even very recently, DARPA was central to the plot of an episode [cbs.com] of NCIS: LA. Its research efforts [scientificamerican.com] have been given very visible press in magazines such as Scientific American. (Look here [scientificamerican.com] for another recent SA article about DARPA research.) DARPA has also been featured twice on 60 Minutes in the past few months. And, it now has quite a following [facebook.com] on Facebook.

All of these somehow involve or inform the general public--not exactly par for the course given DARPA activities historically have been kept very much under wraps. What's really going on here? Why the recent publicity barrage? Two years ago, or less, I'm willing to bet 98% of Americans had no idea DARPA even existed. Might it be the old magician's trick of having us watch one hand while the other hand is actually performing the "magic?" For example, have you seen iRobot's shape-shifting Chembot [dvice.com] recently developed with DARPA funding?

Decoys (4, Funny)

slasho81 (455509) | more than 4 years ago | (#29948058)

What happens if people start setting their own balloons as decoys?

Simple Winning Coalition (1)

logicnazi (169418) | more than 4 years ago | (#29948078)

Unless a technological approach using sattellites, automated analysis of flikr photos etc.. quickly wins out then presumably the ballons will end up being seen by some people aware of the contest. So suppose you have seen a balloon and wish to use that knowledge to claim part of the prize. What do you do?

Well what you want to do is find a group of other people who have located the other balloons and agree to pool your info in exchange for shares of the prize. Importantly nothing in the rules prevents you from drawing up legal contracts with other participants and if you are clever you might even be able to make delibrately feeding you false information into criminal fraud. So it seems straightforward to ensure there are big incentives to only agree to join such a coalition if you do indeed have valid data. Moreover, your claimed data can be verified relatively quickly for low cost by paying close friends and associates who live nearby to go out and check.

In short it seems to me the optimal strategy is simply to hope you stumble upon a balloon and then creating a legally binding contract with others who claim to have complimentary information.

Altruism (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29948302)

All you need is a sufficient number of altruistic individuals in the neighbourhood of the balloons. If you don't care about winning the prize, just publicise the co-ordinates of your local balloon. All that's needed is 10 altruists, in the right places.

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