Weather Balloon Challenge – WUWT reaches far and wide – we can win

This contest from DARPA caught my eye because it involves weather balloons, the Internet, and social networking. WUWT is poised to help due to our reach, and because we have lots of keen eyed surfacestations.org volunteers with GPS and cameras.
darpa_balloon

This prize would be enough money to put a full page ad about climate in a major media outlet. Or, all balloon locators could equally split the winnings with me as facilitator. All you have to do is locate the weather balloons and get the lat/lon to me. The idea of this contest is to use social networking to locate them and win. Once the balloons are launched on December 5th, we have 9 days to find them. I think there’s a good chance WUWT readers can pull this off pretty quickly.

The way to do this (without tipping off competitors) is to post a notice in comments, saying you have a located one, and leave an email address where you can be contacted.

If WUWT readers think this is a good idea, I’ll register the website and we’ll give it a go. I also welcome strategies. My only question (which doesn’t seem to be delineated in the announcement) is how is DARPA going to label real balloons from regular red ones commonly available and used for promotions? I’ve sent them a query.

Here are the details:

From the rules:

The challenge is to locate ten moored red weather balloons located at ten fixed locations in the continental United States. 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 (local time) on Saturday, December 5, 2009. Should weather or technical difficulties arise with the launch, the display will be delayed until Sunday, December 6 or later, depending on conditions. If, for any reason, the balloon is displayed in one location then moved to a second location, either location will be accepted. Entrants are required to register and submit entries on the event website. Latitudes and longitudes are entered in degree-minute-second (DDD-MM-SS) format as explained on the website Coordinates must be entered with an error of less than one arc-minute to be accepted. In the event that one or more balloons is never displayed, this fact will be noted on the event website and the rules adjusted accordingly.

 

 

DARPA ANNOUNCES NEW CHALLENGE COMPETITION
The DARPA Network Challenge Will Explore How Broad-Scope Problems Can Be Solved Using Internet-based Technologies.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) today announced the DARPA Network Challenge to mark the 40th anniversary of the Internet. The competition requires participants to discover the exact position of 10 large, red weather balloons that DARPA will place in undisclosed locations across the continental United States. The first person to identify the location of all the balloons will win a $40,000 cash prize. The balloons will be positioned on December 5, 2009.

“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.”
The DARPA Network Challenge is open to individuals of all ages, reflecting DARPA’s interest in attracting students to pursue careers in the areas of science and technology, including emerging specialties in the social sciences. Open to participants worldwide, the Challenge enables collaboration across borders, mobilizing individuals and groups to address difficult problems aided by the Internet.

This is the latest example of DARPA’s interest in reaching nontraditional sources of ideas and talent. The Grand Challenge competitions were started in 2004 to foster the development of autonomous robotic vehicle technology for use on the battlefield. The competition model for stimulating technological development enabled significant strides that will someday keep our men and women in uniform out of harm’s way.

“The DARPA Network Challenge taps into the same fresh thinking that made the earlier competitions a success,” said Dr. Norman Whitaker, who led DARPA’s most recent Challenge. “Future innovation depends on the upcoming generation of technologists who are discovering new, collaborative ways to approach problems that were not dreamt of 40 years ago.”
The 10 balloons will be placed in publicly accessible locations in the continental United States and will be on display for one day (December 5th) during daylight hours. The first participant to identify the latitude and longitude of all 10 balloons will receive the cash prize.

Event details can be found at www.darpa.mil/networkchallenge and updates on Twitter.com/DARPA_News.

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78 Responses to Weather Balloon Challenge – WUWT reaches far and wide – we can win

  1. Jim Watson says:

    Sounds like a go to me. If one lands on Catalina Island, you’ll be the first to know, Anthony.

  2. Larey says:

    Maybe they could make the balloons UFO shaped and claim there is a 6-year old boy on board. They would get lots of attention that way.

  3. Ecotretas says:

    I can’t help on this one, as they are fixed in the USA. But if one gets loose and it makes it’s way here to Portugal, I’ll let you know!
    ;-)
    Ecotretas

  4. cbone says:

    I will try to help. Will the reports be on a public thread? My recommendation is that the reports be kept private. Two reasons, one so that email addresses remain hidden and other teams can’t snoop to try to find info. Perhaps a balloon sighting report box. It sends a message to a protected thread that only administrators can read. I say go for it. I think you could win it. Make sure that you come up with a way to distribute any winnings before the date of the contest. That way you can make that part of the TOS when someone submits a report and you can minimize the sour grapes. (Yes I am a lawyer). The simplest would be to require that anyone submitting grants any rights to you as the administrator and any winnings to be distributed as you see fit. Basically a waiver of any rights to the prize for the individual submitters. This avoids the sticky wicket of multiple reports of the same site. You could use message time stamps, but that will always raise suspicion. I seriously believe that you should include a waiver of any rights to the prize money for submissions. In addition you should clearly state what any prize money would be spent on. I personally think that is the best way to go on this.

  5. Alan S. Blue says:

    Ten balloons. Hum.

    Seattle, LA, Chicago, New York, Miami, Houston, Phoenix, Denver, Boston, Charlotte.

    What do I win? ;)

    Seriously, the plan “The 10 balloons will be placed in publicly accessible locations in the continental United States and will be on display for one day (December 5th) during daylight hours.” seems like it would be fundamentally impossible if there was any intent to truly hide the balloons.

  6. cbone says:

    I had another thought too. Make sure to include a tutorial on how to obtain lat/lon from google maps or another mapping program. Even if someone doesn’t have a GPS with them, getting an address will allow you or someone else to derive the lat/lon of the baloon. What is the tolerance for the exact position?

    REPLY: 1 arc MINUTE

  7. hotrod says:

    Sounds like an interesting experiment. It would certainly be useful for both DARPA and who every wins the prize, so I say go for it.

    This is an objective test of how effective things like the Amber Alert system might be to assist in locating some unknown object/person using distributed resources through the internet.

    Larry

  8. Ron de Haan says:

    Anthony,

    Please tell me why you don’t push your posters to sign “The Instrument of Repudiation”.

    Lord Moncton made a call to sign this when he was at Glenn Beck but until know everything is quite in the skeptic Blog Scene. Is there a rat somewhere or is it simply overlooked?

    Read and Sign Instrument of Repudiation
    Important Notice for America’s Future

    The draft Treaty of Copenhagen, to be signed in mid-December 2009, would create an unelected world government with direct power over all financial and trading markets, and direct power to intervene over the heads of elected governments in the economic and environmental affairs of all nations that sign the Treaty. The word “government” actually appears in the Treaty as the first of three purposes of a huge, new, supranational bureaucratic entity that will have the power to require wealthier nations to redistribute up to 2% of their annual gross domestic product to third-world countries in imagined reparation for imaginary “climate debt” – and all this just as final scientific proof that CO2 has a tiny and harmless warming effect is available. Please sign the Instrument of Repudiation, and urge at least five of your friends to sign it too, and urge each of them to find five more to sign it. The Instrument will be tabled during the Copenhagen Conference this December.
    So sign now, and save America’s freedom, democracy, and prosperity.
    http://www.webcommentary.com/signrep.php

    REPLY: I tested this out myself, and there appears to be no method of preventing bogus names to be added to it, nor any mention of post signing verification. Thus, while the intent is good, the execution will likely render it worthless. – Anthony

  9. Jeroen says:

    Any change on seeing a balloon in Europe?

  10. Alvan says:

    I read the rules as requiring a location within 1 arc-minute. Big difference from 1 arc-second.

    REPLY: Yep, I misquoted. You are correct. Fixed -A

  11. tallbloke says:

    One arc second is around 100 feet. If the report isn’t with a GPS fix, it’ll need to be a very accurate description.

    REPLY: arc-minute, my mistake -A

  12. Adam Gallon says:

    OT, but needs wide-scale broadcating.
    http://rogerpielkejr.blogspot.com/2009/11/australian-government-allegedly.html
    “According to an Australian economist, Clive Spash, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) has been attempting to prevent him from publishing a paper critical of carbon trading which had already been accepted for publication.”

    “CSIRO spokesman Huw Morgan said the publication of Dr Spash’s paper was an internal matter and was being reviewed by the chief executive’s office.
    However, he said that under the agency’s charter scientists were forbidden from commenting on matters of government or opposition policy.”

  13. Dan S. says:

    Sound like a great idea.

    Is it possible to generate plausible places to look? Like airports – or government owned buildings? Seems haphazard to just drive around looking.

  14. J.Hansford says:

    Well…… If one drifts all the way to Australia, I’ll keeps me eye out!

    …. Good luck. WUWT team America should win this, hands down easy;-)

  15. Gene Nemetz says:

    This prize would be enough money to put a full page ad…

    I think it’s a great idea!

    I think there’s a good chance WUWT readers can pull this off pretty quickly.

    Brilliant!

  16. Douglas DC says:

    Unless one is located somewhere in the NE Oregon evirons,can’t be of much help after the first sticking snow…

  17. Gene Nemetz says:

    J.Hansford (12:42:27) :

    Good luck. WUWT team America should win this, hands down easy;-)

    That would seem to be the case since, as Anthony points out, there is already the SurfaceStation network. That, with other readers, could do it! I can’t imagine of another blog or group that would have that type of network already functioning.

  18. AnonyMoose says:

    They’re not weather balloons unless they have weather instruments attached to them.

    And for those with fractional GPS, it looks like three fractional digits should be enough. Would you believe that “Minute of arc” gets its own Wikipedia article?

  19. Richard says:

    Good idea. Pity I cant help. Go WUWT readers in America

  20. Sven says:

    If one drift to Sweden I will keep my eys out for it.

    Good luck WUWT team!

    /Sven

  21. David L. Hagen says:

    Coordinates must be entered with an error of less than one arc-minute to be accepted.

    Anthony
    Recommend clarifying if this is one arc-minute error in each of latitude and longitude, or if this is an error of one arc-minute in radius from the prescribed location.

    1 arc minute = 1 nautical mile (60 nautical miles per degree)

    As this is in the continental US, I presume the arc minute equivalent of the nautical mile refers to the original U.S. Nautical Mile.

    beginning on July 1, 1954, the National Bureau of Standards will use the International Nautical Mile in lieu of the U.S. Nautical Mile. This decision, replacing the U.S. Nautical Mile of 1,853.248 meters (6080.29 feet) by the international nautical mile.

    The British and the U.S. nautical miles were each derived by taking 60 nautical miles per degree, but the values adopted were not the same. The nautical mile adopted by the British Admiralty equals 6,080 British feet, while the U.S. nautical mile has had the adopted value of 1,853.248 meters, from which the equivalent 6,080.20 U.S. feet has been derived.

    Adoption of the International Nautical Mile, National Bureau of Standards Technical News Bulletin of August 1954.

    The current definition of the international nautical mile:

    Table 9. Other non-SI units accepted for use with the SI either by the CIPM and this Guide (indicated by*)
    nautical mile* 1 nautical mile = 1852 m
    20 The value of this unit, 1 nautical mile = 1852 m, was adopted by the First International Extraordinary Hydrographic Conference, Monaco, 1929, under the name “International nautical mile.”

    A. Thompson and B. N. Taylor NIST Guide for the use of the International System of Units

  22. Ron de Haan says:

    Ron de Haan (11:34:29) :

    “REPLY: I tested this out myself, and there appears to be no method of preventing bogus names to be added to it, nor any mention of post signing verification. Thus, while the intent is good, the execution will likely render it worthless. – Anthony”

    Anthony, please, two points
    1. I have addressed the problem to Mockton and really hope this can be solved because this is important.

    2. I have made a posting at the Hockey Stick Article and found ta second posting under my name which was not made by me.
    Is it possible you give me the details of those postings so I can undertake action.

    If possible send it to the e-mail address in this message.

    Thank you very much.

    Ron de Haan (05:29:18) : (NOT SENT BY ME)

    There is another hockey stick but it is inverted.
    it’s the price of carbon credits.
    I hope it stays that way.
    BTW I love your blog!

  23. Philip_B says:

    The DARPA Network Challenge explores the unprecedented ability of the Internet to bring people together to solve tough problems.”

    Doesn’t seem a particularly tough challenge to me. If it was me I would release the balloons and then use networks to track them thru the air in real time and then find them when they come back to earth.

    Might be a problem if 2 teams arrive at the same time to recover a balloon. Otherwise, can I have the reality TV rights?

    Good luck Anthony. I’m confident you’ll win.

  24. Ted says:

    Hmm … well, this contest is different than the ‘amber alert,’ distributed resources type thing. Because it’s cooperation mixed with competition. So, we should probably: a) monitor tweets for “red ballon” (or whatever hash-mark tag emerges) AND; b) tweet/post some false positives, to undermine the competition.

    WUWT readers can validate each sighting via the comments, and others can even double-check the lat long coordinates. I don’t think we have to worry about secrecy … speed is more important, IMO.

    My recommendation: a small prize goes to each reader on WUWT who reports an accurate lat long first – say $2,500 – and WUWT gets the rest to support this website.

    Anthony, want to generate a false list of about 10 or so false positives, with city and lat long coordinates? Then WUWT readers can collectively post them on different sites quickly and in large quantity. Post the data the day of the contest, first thing, to minimize the chance that someone will sniff ‘em out. Maybe even stagger them throughout the day, something like that?

    Thoughts?

  25. Paul Coppin says:

    The intent of this competition as I read it, is not necessarily to have a army of spotters (which certainly wouldn’t hurt), but to be using the internet to ferret out individual reports of individual balloons, until you’ve used the ‘net to locate them all. Having spotters will reduce the number to locate, but there’ll still be some that will have to be found on the web (searching facebook, Myspace etc.) If they’re only up one day, the evidence is mostly going to be derived rather than empirical, I suspect.

    Therefore disinformation reports on a readily accessible website might be a useful ruse… Just sayin’… :)

  26. Philip_B says:

    BTW, I’m not convinced spending $40K on a dead tree media ad is the right thing to do. I’d suggest a slick contra-Gore video along the lines of the Diverging From the Truth theme I’ve suggested before – basically deconstructing Gore’s movie with the real science, especially Steve McIntyre’s work.

  27. Roger Knights says:

    If a large group of private small plane pilots cooperated to track these down, they might have the best success–at least if the balloons are mostly in rural areas, where they’d stand out from the air.

  28. Toto says:

    Once the balloons are launched on December 5th, we have 9 days to find them.

    “launched” may be misleading term for moored balloons.

    And you only have one day to find them, since they are only on display for one day.

  29. JimB says:

    “Philip_B (14:28:29) :

    The DARPA Network Challenge explores the unprecedented ability of the Internet to bring people together to solve tough problems.”

    Doesn’t seem a particularly tough challenge to me. If it was me I would release the balloons and then use networks to track them thru the air in real time and then find them when they come back to earth.”

    The balloons are “moored”…so stationary.

    I think it’s an excellent idea, Anthony. I also highly doubt that the locations will all be heavily populated areas. That would be sort of a no-brainer.

    I’d be more than happy to take a ride up North of Boston, through New Hampshire’s coast, and on into Southern Maine on that day.

    JimB

  30. JimB says:

    I could even put a banner on the RV: “WUWT Darpa Balloon Challenge team member. Visit http://www.wattsupwiththat.com for details”

    :)

    JimB

  31. Robert Wood says:

    Go for it! Unfortunately, I live in Canada so can’t help :-(

    Philip_B, I agree with you. I was surprised they were moored.

  32. Peter Dunford says:

    This isn’t the right place for this, but I can’t see a contact address to advise of suitable stories. In the Sunday Telegraph Christopher Booker writes an article entitled:

    Gavin Schmidt: a correction
    Dr Schmidt wants it known he has no connection with the GISS temperature record, writes Christopher Booker

    He also writes

    “Like others, it seems I was misled by the fact that twice in the past two years, when GISS has come under fire for publishing seriously inaccurate data, it was Dr Schmidt who acted as its public spokesman.”

    The link is:
    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/columnists/christopherbooker/6475667/Gavin-Schmidt-a-correction.html

  33. GGM says:

    I think Anthony can 100% guarantee victory if he asks for help from a couple of friendly blogs like Hot Air, American Thinker, Jawa Report, Ace of Spades.

    All 4 of these blogs regularly link to WUWT, and I`m 100% sure they would be proud to help.

  34. fred says:

    If you put up a place to report it I’ll dang sure report anything I see.

  35. fred says:

    If the four blogs mentioned by GGM (15:39:04) sign on it will go viral and you’ll have thousands of spotters

  36. Roger Knights says:

    Peter Dunford (15:21:16) :

    This isn’t the right place for this, but I can’t see a contact address to advise of suitable stories.

    Click on the “Tips and Notes to WUWT” tab.

  37. Bob Shapiro says:

    Strategy ideas:

    1. Ask WUWT readers to email their friends saying that they’re looking for a red weather balloon as part of a kind of scavenger hunt on Dec 5th. Attach some words of urgency to make them somewhat more willing to help you.

    2. Pre-arrange a network of “verifiers” to check for the validity of the balloon locations. Since some of the WUWT posters suggested it against our competitors, we can expect bogus sighting reports at WUWT as well. I wouldn’t be surprised to receive a hundred or more reports.

  38. Capn Jack Walker says:

    If one comes down in me swamp, we be keeping it and we not be telling ARPA or DARPA, she be going straight into the pool room.

    Stuff the internet, finders be keepers.

  39. Philip_B says:

    Bob Shapiro (16:16:22) :

    Strategy ideas:

    Excellent suggestions. WUWT should win networked strategizing of this problem hands down. IMHO

  40. Squidly says:

    Philip_B (14:48:01) :

    BTW, I’m not convinced spending $40K on a dead tree media ad is the right thing to do. I’d suggest a slick contra-Gore video along the lines of the Diverging From the Truth theme I’ve suggested before – basically deconstructing Gore’s movie with the real science, especially Steve McIntyre’s work.

    I am in agreement with Philip on this. Personally, although I could always use some cash myself, I would really like to see a point by point video rebuttal to An Inconvenient Truth. And I mean a detailed point by point. I am so incredibly sick of people that still believe that piece of garbage. Plus, with a well produced video, I am certain you could get some very good airtime with it and some real good media attention. I am sure you could get Glenn Beck to air excerpts. I believe it would be worth the production.

    You have my support any which way you go …

  41. brazil84 says:

    I wonder how the Realclimate folks will approach the challenge? Perhaps they have a computer model which has already figured out where the balloons will be. Then they can claim that the locations of any actual sightings need to be “adjusted.”

    :)

  42. Speed says:

    The balloons will be moored (not free floating) for six hours. Think about the ones that automobile dealers have floating above their show rooms — visible from no more than a mile away (about three square miles per balloon). And there will be just ten spread around the continental US which covers (aprox.) 3.2 million square miles (Wikipedia). People can’t go looking for these things, they’ll have to trip over them.

    The winner will likely be an ad hoc network of millions of individuals organized for the day via facebook, twitter or some other “social networking” product. How these people manage to get organized, report their findings and divide the prize will be the interesting part of the project.

    If I was the DARPA person deciding where to moor the balloons I’d put some in high visibility, high traffic areas and others in a spot where only a “chance encounter” will find and report them.

  43. Alvin says:

    brazil84 (17:06:29) :

    I wonder how the Realclimate folks will approach the challenge? Perhaps they have a computer model which has already figured out where the balloons will be. Then they can claim that the locations of any actual sightings need to be “adjusted.”

    NOM !

  44. wws says:

    Yes, ideal setup to test a disinformation campaign – once a personal sighting is made and confirmed, dozens of messages could be put out which were close to the original but 1 arc minute off… not permanently effective but could delay a competitor just enough…

    oh don’t scowl. If I’m thinking of this so is everybody else who sees one and who wants to win. There are going to be thousands of false positives, that’s probably going to be the hardest part of this. There will have to be a personal confirm from a trusted source on each sighting.

  45. Rod Smith says:

    AnonyMoose (13:25:35) : “They’re not weather balloons unless they have weather instruments attached to them.”

    Not quite true. “Weather” balloons are graded according to the weight they can lift. We used 10 gram balloons to determine the exact height of a ceiling. They were about 18 inches in diameter at release and carried no instrumentation. We knew the rate of assent and timed them with a stop watch until they disappeared into the ceiling.

    I think 20 gram balloons were used for Pibals – with no instrumentation either. They were tracked with a theodolite to measure the winds.

    The big honkers – 600 gram balloons I think – were used to carry radiosonde instruments aloft.

    They were all “weather” balloons.

  46. Rod Smith says:

    Darn! “Assent” should read “ascent.”

  47. brazil84 says:

    If you want to be really mean, you could moor a few of your own red weather balloons. If a team of pranksters were to put up 90 decoy balloons, the contest would become very difficult to win for anyone but the pranksters.

  48. brazil84 says:

    PS I’m not advocating that anyone put up decoys. I’m just speculating.

  49. Don S. says:

    Consider that the locations might be inferred with the understanding of certain facts: 40th anniversary, 70 balloon launch locations in the US, date of launch, time of exposure, etd., etc.. Code breakers to the fore.
    Here is data from the Federal Meteorological Handbook 1997 on the location of launch sites in the US: http://www.ofcm.gov/fmh3/text/append-c.html Probably not current, but if we know the lat/lon(from Google) of each of these launch points we are ahead of the game.
    I reason that marshalling, loading, transporting and handling the equipment for launching, or in this case, tethering this type of balloon is more work than the average civil servant will willingly undertake, therefore most of them will be tethered at an existing launch facility. In any case, we should be able to eyeball every known launch facility
    Once we have the sites pinpointed, it might be as simple as a phone call to ask if they have a balloon tethered. If you get the NWS guy instead of the DARPA guy, he might say yes.
    Operational security in reporting is paramount. Many of our more devious colleagues have suggested methods and means to confuse and distract the competition. I applaud them all and look forward to seeing others.

    Confusion to the enemy.

  50. Don S. says:

    It appears that the most usual balloon used today is an 800 gram model capable of carrying a GPS/radiosonde aloft to about 23k. That’s nice to know but what we need to know is:

    1. Will the tethered balloons carry sondes and if so, on what frequencies they transmit. Historically, this has been in the 1675-1685MHZ range at about 3 milliwatts. Modern sondes transmit GPS data.

    2. At what height above the ground that the balloons will be tethered. (line of sight, possible sonde reception).

    3. The size balloons to be used? NWS use 250-3000 gram balloons. An 800 gram balloon is about 6 feet in diameter at launch.

    Can someone write a program to continuously monitor the social networking communities for balloon data? Google can do that, but probably not fast enough.

    Confusion to the enemy

  51. Retired Engineer says:

    Any idea on how high up these balloons will fly? Does the observer have to contact the DARPA person at the site?

    I assume there would be access to the mooring point. Otherwise your GPS measurement could be rather far off unless you have multiple measurement points. These days, without Selective Availability, GPS is good to within 100 meters, worst case, 30 meters typical. Differential can get down to a few meters, hard to use. WAAS was supposed to be good to 10 meters, but doesn’t seem to work that well on my units. Most receivers can display DMS, some only dd.ddd which requires conversion.

    We need a standard reporting method. Perhaps email to surface stations?

    Whatever happened to the project that needed a bunch of volunteers to input data? I signed up, got several emails telling me that there was a slight delay, then nothing.

  52. Frederick Michael says:

    The DARPA gang is “above average” and probably has a plan to defeat any pranksters who can afford to put up a large weather balloon of their own. I can think of plenty of ways to mark a balloon or the string it’s attached to that would be impossible copy in 6 hours.

  53. Roger Knights says:

    “If a team of pranksters were to put up 90 decoy balloons, the contest would become very difficult to win for anyone but the pranksters.”

    DARPA needs to prepare a set of distinct and unusually patterned balloons, and not post a picture of them until a few days before the launch, to make the creation of similar decoys impossible within the time frame. And/or there could be a “string” of three balloons, each only mildly unusual (i.e., they’d be off-the-shelf items), but whose acquisition and deployment would be difficult in a short time frame.

  54. steven mosher says:

    This is a problem that requires social networking.

    the balloons will go up for one day visible from a roadway and DARPA representatives. Because the position must be fixed rather precisely you can expect that darpa will do it very close to a roadway and not in the middle of some field. Basically you need people in cars with GPS systems and with a way to record the coordinates and report them in a timely fashion.

    1. BEFORE the contest starts you need to understand what kind of coverage your social network provides. What routes do you travel every day? Upload a
    ‘digital version of your daily route’ Then figure out which routes are not covered. Damn thats a lot of roadway!!! expect darpa to pick some mix of heavily travelled and lightly travelled roads. the winning team will recruit people so they get greater coverage. There isnt any real time to go balloon hunting on the day of the event. Its about planning to MAXIMIZE coverage BEFORE the day of the event.

    So you need open street map ( or some kind stret map/roadmap data)
    You need to know who is going to help and where they usually drive
    Then you need to recruit to fill out your coverage for the day of the event.

    The last part is the hardest..

  55. Philip_B says:

    I’ve been wondering what DARPA hopes to get for its 40 Gs. Probably it’s, ideas on ways to isolate the wheat from the internet chaff or noise.

  56. Don S. says:

    The balloons will be MOORED. They will not fly. See the DARPA site. Here is a list of launch stations as of 2005: http://www.ofcm.gov/fmh3/pdf/11-app-c.pdf
    Note that lat/lon is included in the PDF
    Five of the stations lie at 40N (40th anniversary)

  57. MidWest101 says:

    Sign me up! Sounds like fun.

    Any idea if DARPA will be giving clues (explicit and/or hidden)?

  58. hotrod says:

    Speed (17:52:40) :

    The balloons will be moored (not free floating) for six hours. Think about the ones that automobile dealers have floating above their show rooms — visible from no more than a mile away (about three square miles per balloon).

    People can’t go looking for these things, they’ll have to trip over them.

    On absolutely flat ground your visibility (local horizon) is about 2 miles. The calculation for figuring your visual horizon is :

    1.17 * sqrt (eye height) = horizon distance in nautical miles.

    http://boatsafe.com/nauticalknowhow/distance.htm

    In this particular case the highest object would be the balloon. Lets just guess it is moored at 50′ altitude. Its visual horizon would the sum of its horizon distance plus the local horizon of the viewer.

    A 50 ft tall object in flat terrain (baring trees and buildings blocking the view) would be visible for at least 6 nautical miles, and if your visual horizon of 2 miles intersects its horizon if you are looking in that direction you could see it at almost 8 miles distance. Obviously your visual horizon is much greater if you can go to any high terrain, or structure like the top of a parking garage, apartment balcony etc.
    If you were on high ground say 100′ above average terrain you could see it in favorable conditions at a distance of almost 20 miles in good visibility and lighting.

    I think there will be a place for both data mining the internet for reports and intentional searches. If first thing in the morning everyone interested in this task went to a high place with a pair of binoculars and “glassed the area” like hunters would do or searchers for a downed aircraft would do, you would in a matter of minutes scan 10,000’s of square miles of the continental U.S. for likely candidates.

    In search and rescue training program for “Managing the Search Function” they teach you that multiple searches with moderate probability of success, have a higher over all probability of success than a single very fine resolution but slow search.

    Applying that strategy then would mean that periodically during the 6 hour display time (say every 15 minutes to an hour) everyone interested in the search should make an intentional effort to view the largest possible area near where they are.

    I think there are three search strategies to apply.

    1. Multiple intentional visual searches from any vantage point with good visibility near where people are during the time window.

    2. Random observation (opportunistic sighting) as people move around.

    3. Intentional web data mining of things like face book and twitter etc.

    A good reporting system for timely verification of coordinates and reporting would also be needed.

    Larry

  59. hotrod says:

    My personal assumption is that DARPA is trying to establish a probability of success for using the web and social networking to locate something of interest. Or perhaps how to optimize such a use of the internet and mobilizing an internet search.

    It could be any item but the obvious ideas that come to mind in today’s world would be like the FBI’s most wanted lists, The TV series Most Wanted. The National Weather service storm spotter system used to track severe storms and damage reports, the Amber alert system etc.

    If there was a need to locate someone or some thing, very quickly ,how effective would be an open appeal to a large number of popular social networking resources be in finding it?

    Say for instance a terror suspect or someone who was waiting for an organ transplant who was not reachable by other means, a missing person, a downed aircraft, a meteor or fragment from a known re-entry etc.

    The ground tracking of re-entry fragments from the Columbia shuttle is an example where thousands of people reported sightings that allowed ground track searches to locate large amounts of crash debris in spite of the huge area it covered.

    The recent trend for “you report” submissions to news organizations is a good example of how someone is probably in a position to observe just about any event you can imagine. All you need to do is make them aware their observation is useful, and provide them an effective way to report it.

    Larry

  60. John Fenley says:

    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.

  61. Tim Clark says:

    David L. Hagen (14:13:53) :
    Recommend clarifying if this is one arc-minute error in each of latitude and longitude, or if this is an error of one arc-minute in radius from the prescribed location…………………………………………………………………..

    You know you’re on a science site when someone debates ad nauseum about the rules! ;~P

  62. Tim Clark says:

    Don S. (06:01:41) :
    The balloons will be MOORED. They will not fly. See the DARPA site. Here is a list of launch stations as of 2005: http://www.ofcm.gov/fmh3/pdf/11-app-c.pdf
    Note that lat/lon is included in the PDF
    Five of the stations lie at 40N (40th anniversary)

    Are you suggesting that the balloons will be moored near a pre-existing actual launch site? That does make some sense. Employess already have the materials. If so, I’ll drive to Topeka.

  63. Richard Patton says:

    How high are they going to moor the balloons? From experience launching these pilot balloons (the one pictured is a pilot balloon, not a radiosonde balloon otherwise known as a weather balloon), once they get 150-200 feet above the ground they are very hard to see. And the one for Salem Oregon is going to be even harder to see because at the the location given on the PDF file by Tim above there is nothing but gravel pits and businesses http://tinyurl.com/ygkzttj I believe the actual launch site is a mile to the southeast of that location at the Salem Airport. Just make sure if you are driving you keep your eyes on the road not on the sky.

  64. Richard Patton says:

    I was just checking the official rules and if you spot the balloon you have to enter the lat/long where you spotted it and you have to be correct within one arc minute (about a mile). So bring your GPS, since the launch site for Salem OR is at least a mile from where they say it is giving the official location will invalidate your entry.

  65. Ray says:

    A tribute to Nena… 99 Red Ballons!

  66. Oliver Ramsay says:

    Since the aviation industry is one of the main targets of AGW witch-burners, there should be plenty of WUWT sympathy in the flying community. They’re the ones to cover the area.
    I live in Canada and although I see plenty of hot air from the south, and a bubble or two from time to time, I’ve yet to see a balloon.
    I’m a little surprised that no-one from RC has stopped by to ridicule such a thread on #1 Science blog. They must be up to something.

  67. Ray says:

    99 red ballons tell a story of 99 balloons floating into the air, triggering an apocalyptic overreaction by military forces.

    Funny how anything “floating” in the air can trigger an apocalyptic overreaction…

  68. Gene Nemetz says:

    If you do get a team together I wish you the best in this Anthony. It would be fun to follow what is happening no matter whre the money goes, to the ad or to the team.

  69. David L. Hagen says:

    Don S.
    I counted about 105 launch sites.
    With that number, it may be possible to recruit one person per launch site.
    For those so skilled, mapping that list would be helpful.

  70. David L. Hagen says:

    DARPA offices are located at:
    3701 North Fairfax Drive
    Arlington, VA 22203-1714

    Same for DSO, ITPO, Microsystems technology office, Strategic Technology office and Tactical Technology office

    Applying the well established social principle of bureaucratic inertia, I hypothesize that the probability of balloons being tethered by DARPA personnel will be inversely proportional to the distance from this location.

    Another location:
    Executive Conference Center
    3601 Wilson Blvd, Suite 600
    Arlington , Virginia 22203

    For DARPA Events in December, note:
    Mid-Atlantic SBIR/STTR Conference, November 30 – December 2, 2009 in Waterfront Place Hotel, Morgantown, West Virginia.

    DMC 2009 November 30 – December 3, 2009 at Hilton Orlando in Orlando, Florida.

    Can anyone find other addresses for DARPA personnel?

  71. David L. Hagen says:

    Competitors:
    James Irwin is a group that is looking to use any winnings to give to peace initiatives.
    or on facebook
    Follow DarpaBalloon.com on twitter
    Their tasks:
    * Someone to manage our Twitter account
    * Someone to manage our Facebook outreach
    * Someone to manage our Myspace outreach

    * Someone to manage email campaigns
    * Someone to manage ad buys to increase traffic to this site
    * Someone to help find organizations interested in endorsing this site
    * Someone to build program to manage hunts on the big day
    * Someone to help improve this site
    * Someone to help port this site to Amazon cloud
    * Someone to help build program for collecting anr verifying responses

  72. David L. Hagen says:

    Public List of DARPA phones

  73. feeblemind says:

    I have recovered two NWS weather balloons. They can be hard to find.

  74. littlepeaks says:

    Don’t know if this was brought up before, but if WUWT participates in the event, it should be pointed out that the rules prohibit participation of U.S. government employees in the challenge. (I’m a U.S. government employee — sorry).

  75. Richard Patton says:

    Ray (14:13:47) :

    99 red ballons tell a story of 99 balloons floating into the air, triggering an apocalyptic overreaction by military forces.

    Funny how anything “floating” in the air can trigger an apocalyptic overreaction…

    One of my shipmates when I was in the Navy told me the story when he was stationed at Adak on the radiosonde team he and his buddy got bored and decided to have some fun. One night they inflated a pibal just enough so it would float about thirty feet in the air and the put a chem lite in it so it glowed an eerie green. It was a windy, foggy, rainy night and when they released the balloon it blew towards one of the higher security areas of the base the marines were responsible for. My friend said that the whole marine detachment went on full alert because no one could figure out what the green glowing bobbing object was. He said he was lucky the balloon blew out to sea and no evidence was found to connect it to him.

  76. AnonyMoose says:

    DARPA challenge starts Saturday. Time for a reminder?

    REPLY: Oh yeah forgot all about that. Seems small in comparison to current events – A

  77. MIT says:

    As you might have heard, DARPA has announced a network challenge in the vein of the DARPA grand challenge.

    In this challenge, participants are tasked with finding 10 red weather balloons distributed throughout the continental US for 8 hours on December 5. The idea is to get this to be a crowdsourcing kind of activity, where people will use social media tools to solve this problem.

    Our group, the MIT Red Balloon Challenge Team at http://balloon.mit.edu/bloggers, based out of the MIT Media Lab, has created a system where you get money not just for finding balloons, but for getting people to join the hunt who find the balloons, or for getting people who get people who find balloons, etc. Here’s an image of the structure:

    First you have to sign up, which you can do here. Then you can send invitations to others to join through your own unique URL, crediting you with recruiting them.

    While our team is interested in winning the contest, we are also interested in studying information diffusion in social networks. Does Twitter spread information faster than blogs? Is your blog effective at spreading information?

    Once you sign up, you can track you impact using a link such as
    http://balloon.mit.edu/YOUR_USERNAME/followers

    and you can spread your influence using a link such as
    http://balloon.mit.edu/YOUR_USERNAME/

    We could use your help in getting out the word. If you sign up and blog about us you will be able to see the impact that your blog has on getting out the word in real time.

    Win money, help science, and help charity!

    Kind regards,

    The MIT Red Balloon Challenge Team

  78. Toto says:

    Groundspeak geocachers are going for it too:
    Tomorrow, December 5th, a group of Groundspeak Lackeys will meet up in the DARPA War Room at Groundspeak’s Headquarters to gather information online of the possible locations of the 10 weather balloons. We hope you will follow our attempts to win the challenge and help us along the way by gathering information both online and on the ground.

    Do you want to help? Visit http://www.10balloonies.com – our official web site for Groundspeak’s team. We’ll provide up to the minute updates there and on Twitter at http://twitter.com/10balloonies. Also, if you are out geocaching, running errands or taking a morning stroll and spot one of the balloons, send us an email at darpa@groundspeak.com. The balloons will be numbered, so we need to know what number is on the balloon along with the coordinates for the location and any additional information (such as “saw from afar.” Coordinates need not be exact, (within 1 mile of actual coordinates will do) so an address will work.

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