There is US $40,000 to be given away to the first person or group to determine the locations of 10 large red weather balloons that can be anywhere in continental US. The apparent frivolity of the challenge is only on the surface. The contest is being sponsored by Darpa, Pentagons research agency. The goal is to learn more about social behaviour in computer networks and how large computer-connected teams use their resources and connections to compete.
Peter Lee, Darpas director, said the tactics online teams use to track down the balloons could showcase behaviour of netizens, especially in a competitive atmosphere. A Darpa spokesperson said some groups are developing software applications to track the balloons. Lee said he also expected large teams of spotters and even the possibility that some groups might use subterfuge like disseminating false information.
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