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$50,000 To Solve the Most Complicated Puzzle Ever 180

Posted by samzenpus
from the gather-the-edge-pieces dept.
An anonymous reader writes "A team from UC San Diego is using crowd-sourcing as a tool to solve the most complicated puzzle ever attempted, which involves piecing together roughly 10,000 pieces of different documents that have been shredded. (The challenge is designed to reveal new techniques for reconstructing destroyed documents, which are often confiscated by troops in war zones). The prize for solving this jigsaw puzzle is $50,000, which the UCSD team has decided to share among the people who participate. If they win, you would also receive cash for every person you recruit to the effort! The professor leading the team, Manuel Cebrian, won the challenge two years ago, so his odds of winning again are great"
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$50,000 To Solve the Most Complicated Puzzle Ever

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  • by Yaur (1069446) on Wednesday November 16, 2011 @09:26PM (#38081320)
    It is exactly the same. This is just a team attempting to solve that challenge by crowd sourcing document assembly.
  • by arth1 (260657) on Wednesday November 16, 2011 @09:38PM (#38081422) Homepage Journal

    I never really understood the purpose of shredding documents. If your documents are that sensitive, why not just burn them, leaving no trace of legible text? It seems like it would be cheaper, easier and faster too.

    What happens is that the top and botom pages and edges get scorched, but the middle part with the print remains largely intact.

    Just throw them in a barrel outside, put a little lighter fluid in, and drop a match. Why is this not common?

    Thus speaks someone who hasn't tried to burn more than a couple of sheets of paper.
    It takes time to burn more than a few pages at a time. Or an extremely hot fire. Sorry, Mr Bradbury, 451 F won't do it, unless you can wait for weeks.

  • by mollymoo (202721) on Wednesday November 16, 2011 @10:19PM (#38081710) Journal
    I burn my old bank statements etc. and it's actually pretty time consuming and labour intensive to completely burn anything more than a few sheets. Just throwing a stack of papers on a fire doesn't work - the middle pages don't burn and are completely legible. Even when burnt, undisturbed paper ash still has legible text on it. You need to do a lot of stirring and separating of sheets to ensure complete destruction. It's much more time consuming than shredding.
  • by DRJlaw (946416) on Wednesday November 16, 2011 @10:23PM (#38081732)

    I never really understood the purpose of shredding documents. If your documents are that sensitive, why not just burn them, leaving no trace of legible text? It seems like it would be cheaper, easier and faster too. Just throw them in a barrel outside, put a little lighter fluid in, and drop a match. Why is this not common?

    1. Burning is inconvenient for small volumes of paper.
    2. Burning is essentially illegal for large volumes of paper (business scale; Clean Air Act permits).
    3. Fireplaces are not as common as they used to be; outdoor burning is illegal in most cities.
    4. People can be idiots [insweb.com] when using fire outside of a fireplace or permanent fire pit.
    5. DIOXIN! [ny.gov]

    Shredding is like a residential door lock -- good enough to discourage a casual person who is too curious for their own good. Secure commercial shredders rely upon sheer volume and decent mixing (300 "particles" per page x 3 tons of paper dumped at a recycler is a decent level of obscurity) or "hydro-pulping" for the demanding (shred then pulp at paper mill -- good luck reassembling the fibers even if you get to them before bleaching).

  • Re:Doesn't scale (Score:5, Informative)

    by Surt (22457) on Thursday November 17, 2011 @01:35AM (#38082638) Homepage Journal

    Why 10 and not 4?

    (I ask, because the contest requires 4 progressively harder documents be solved, with a declaration attached that says this is explicitly to filter out any methods that won't scale).

  • by zazzel (98233) on Thursday November 17, 2011 @03:52AM (#38083068)

    As far as I know, German Fraunhofer Institute has a solution for this kind of problem: http://www.ipk.fraunhofer.de/component/content/category/167-autsicherheitstechnikstasischnipsel [fraunhofer.de] (p.8ff, German language).

    Looks like they have few problems assembling torn pages, and geometrically correct results for shredded paper (yet not necessarily correct content).

  • by cowboy76Spain (815442) on Thursday November 17, 2011 @04:44AM (#38083222)

    Hey, it's a month's wage in some poor countries, start building a document rebuilding plant somewhere in backwater Africa.

    Sorry to mix actual data in your First World prejudices, but the GDP per capita of the poorest country is over $300 [wikipedia.org], so monthly it would be around US 18$.

    There are only 15 countries with a GDP per capita inferior to 100$ month

I'd rather just believe that it's done by little elves running around.

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