Nov 7, 2009

99 DARPA balloons for the Internet’s birthday

Did you know DARPA is still around? You know, those guys that basically invented the Internet (hint: not Al Gore). I always assumed it was sort of absorbed by other government agencies/bureaucracies but apparently they are alive and kicking. Sadly, their Web site is a little boring and unimpressive, but that’s beside the point.

I only found this out because I heard of the DARPA Network Challenge. Apparently it’s the 40th anniversary of the Internet (woo hoo!) and to mark this event they’re giving away $40,000 cash to one person. The contest is basically a way to show how the Internet has evolved into a social networking, information gathering, communication beast:

The challenge is to be the first to submit the locations of 10 moored, 8-foot, red, weather balloons at 10 fixed locations in the continental United States. The balloons will be in readily accessible locations and visible from nearby roads.”


A $40,000 cash prize will be awarded to the first entrant to submit the latitude and longitude of all ten balloons.”

So basically people have to work together in order to find all these balloons so that one person can get a load of dough? Seems more like a social experiment into what people will do for money. I wonder how many people are going to be giving fake coordinates of balloon sightings to throw off contestants?


  1. Register on this web site on December 1.
  2. Find other people interested in helping you solve the DARPA Network Challenge.
  3. Starting December 5, submit locations to the web site immediately after you find them.
  4. For updates, follow us on Twitter.”

I’m interested in seeing how this whole thing plays out because right now there’s some serious confusion. Registration opens Dec. 1, balloons are launched Dec. 5 and submission deadline is Dec. 14. There will be no other prizes but if one person doesn’t get all of the correct coordinates it goes to the person with the largest number of correct entries.

It’s all sort of weird but exactly what I’d expect from a bunch of nerds who invented the Internet. Keep it up, you glorious geeks.

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