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Social Networks The Military Science

DARPA Network Challenge Lasts All of 9 Hours 129

stillnotelf writes "A team based at MIT has won the DARPA Network Challenge. DARPA notes: 'The Challenge has captured the imagination of people around the world, is rich with scientific intrigue, and, we hope, is part of a growing "renaissance of wonder" throughout the nation,' said DARPA's director, Dr. Regina E. Dugan. 'DARPA salutes the MIT team for successfully completing this complex task less than 9 hours after balloon launch.' PDF with (scant) details. Hit the first link above for a map with the locations. How many did your team find?"
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DARPA Network Challenge Lasts All of 9 Hours

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 06, 2009 @09:33AM (#30342802)

    We found them all within fifteen minutes but we sold the information about this secret DARPA project to China for $400,000. I'm posting anonymously for obvious reasons.

  • by tylersoze ( 789256 ) on Sunday December 06, 2009 @09:59AM (#30342904)

    Come on, couldn't they have a least made it 99 red balloons? Was DARPA afraid they might accidently start a nuclear war?

  • Funny that it doesn't seem to work on Bin Laden.
    • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Have you tried hiding a big, red, floating Bin Laden somewhere in the US and let some geeks loose to find it ?

    • You're implying that the United States wants Bin Laden to be found. If you'll excuse me, I'm off to my Two Minute Hate over 9/11.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Fzz ( 153115 )
      Are you implying that Bin Laden is eight feet high, red, and visible from the nearest road? Interesting intel, that. Perhaps you should call the CIA?
      • by 7213 ( 122294 )

        You jest, but that makes perfect sense!

        How else could the man evade us for 9 years spending all of our resources to find him? Who's looking for an eight foot red balloon connected to a dialysis machine in the middle of northern Pakistan when there's a "terr'st" to be hunted who's obviously in a "hidy hole".

        (please god note the sarcasm there)

      • And that the person who turned him in wouldn't get a very special price involving 40,000 ounces of plastique, hand delivered?

      • Bin Laden is estimated to be between 6'4" and 6'6" -- in other words, he'll stand out from any crowd. He's also allegedly on dialysis, which considerably restricts the number of places he could stay for any length of time in a 3rd-world country.

        (Of course, Bin Laden's harmless now. His money's gone, and he's no longer the demagogue he once was. If we manage to quell the insurgency and set up stable governments in Iraq and Afghanistan, the terrorism problem can be dealt with using a great deal of persever

      • He will be if you walk past him with a sign that says his mother is a buddhist.
  • by bytesex ( 112972 ) on Sunday December 06, 2009 @10:32AM (#30343046) Homepage

    So how was this a technical challenge, and not just a boyscout fox hunt ?

    • It required communication between different members of a group, to cover a bigger area.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      Ummm... Yeah, 'cause I know a lot of boyscouts who can cover 3 million square miles of territory in 9 hours... I'd say the point was to see how people would use technology to build quick awareness of events over a large area. Seeking out insurgents or terrorist cells might be a practical military application of this technology.
      • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Seeking out insurgents or terrorist cells might be a practical military application of this technology.

        Damn, who'd have though those groups would invade by balloons!

      • Looking at fused satellite, radar, etc. data in the most likely part of the Indian Ocean, they might find pie rats
        by observing the routes of mother ships (not in nine hours though).
        With effort it could be made a Zodiac Free Sea (ZFS).

        • But window is halogen for nine months without salted pork. How the can deer can stand the sight of violent mustard? On;y my stomach knows the truth.

    • you missed the renaissance of wonder?

    • by Eil ( 82413 )

      How would you be able to find 10 balloons scattered about the entire country at random in 9 hours with naught but a 35mm camera and faux wood-panelled station wagon?

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by deblau ( 68023 )
      Missing the point. This was not about the hunt itself, but so DARPA could study the spontaneous social networks that would spring up in response to the challenge. They'll have some really good data on that now, and I'm sure they'll interview the MIT guys carefully.
  • I think it's more of a news story that DARPA is apparently terrified of the Dakotas, or perhaps Minnesota.

    • by sajuuk ( 1371145 )
      Yeah, they are terrified of the Northeast too. If they had hid one out in the mountains where I lived it could have gone for several days without being found.
    • by osu-neko ( 2604 )

      I think it's more of a news story that DARPA is apparently terrified of the Dakotas, or perhaps Minnesota.

      DARPA is no match for UFFDA.

  • Why this challenge? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by sp3d2orbit ( 81173 )

    Am I the only one that sees how nefarious this experiment is? Someone in the US military saw the events in Iran a few months back and panicked. The Iranian military was able to censor official news but not social networks. DARPA is conducting this challenge to gather the real world information it needs to effectively censor social networks.

    • That's actually a pretty brilliant analysis...
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by breadstic ( 1396173 )

      Um... WHAT?!

      If the US want to censor twitter or facebook, they can just shut them down...
      People got around this in iran by using anonymous proxies to tunnel requests to websites outside of their government's control... US citizens could do the same thing in such circumstances (using studivz or something more obscure if the conspiracy stretches that far)

      And I think if we're talking about DARPA attempting to find some algorithm to silently censor certain posts about US unrest, unless they manage to completely

    • by jafiwam ( 310805 ) on Sunday December 06, 2009 @12:42PM (#30343788) Homepage Journal

      Can't Stop the Signal.

      The problem with your paranoia is that information is a tool that does far far more damage to "bad" type governments (theocracies, dictatorships, oligarchies, etc.) than it does to democracies (or democratic republics or other "good" type governments).

      Unlike other weapons systems, information has preferential kill for the stuff you want to kill. Nukes, cluster bombs, bat-bombs, land mines, and AKs don't, they can be used to destroy anybody. Information, even semi-truthful information only hurts the bad guys.

      So, this is one of those cases where you are getting your panties in a bunch over WHO is doing it, and not WHAT they are doing. If this were a Facebook project or some sort of flash-mob or other garbage nobody would even bring up "nefarious purposes" because it would just be a weekend diversion for the kiddies. As it turns out, diversions for the kiddies can be used to help topple brutal dictatorships.

      No you are not the only one to see "nefarious" plot in it, lots of other moon bat non thinking "liberals" thought the same thing and they are just as wrong as you are.

      • Way to completely cancel out any effect the rest of your post might have had by using the word 'liberal' as an insult.

    • Am I the only one that sees how nefarious this experiment is?

      No, I'm sure plenty of other people are willing to make highly implausible leaps to support their initial assumption that anything the military does is directed at them.

      But as useful as it must be to the coming military junta to prove that people twitter each other, I am going to go out on a limb and hypothesize that instead of thinking they are capable of overcoming the information deluge of internet and cellular communications by targetting a few nexus points in the social networks, that they may actua

  • by pongo000 ( 97357 ) on Sunday December 06, 2009 @12:29PM (#30343684)

    ...but wasn't this a joint DARPA/MIT project? And an MIT won the challenge? How does this apparent conflict of interest satisfy the "rich with scientific intrigue" tag? This is a non-starter, and I'm disappointed that DARPA would even have wasted their time with this.

    As a teacher, my level of concern continues to rise with what passes for "science" these days, especially from institutions that should know better. This wasn't a science experiment. It was an advertising gimmick. Shame on DARPA, and shame on MIT. (No shame on /., because after 12 years, I've come to expect this type of editorial slackness.)

  • by Animats ( 122034 ) on Sunday December 06, 2009 @12:33PM (#30343716) Homepage

    This is more like a radio station promotion. It would have worked if one of those blowhards on AM talk radio had announced a similar hunt with a call-in number. It didn't need the Internet.

    • by nsayer ( 86181 )

      Yeah, but I think the point is that without the Internet, it would have taken a lot longer, unless the AM talk radio blowhard in question limited the range to something less than the continental United States.

  • by mtrachtenberg ( 67780 ) on Sunday December 06, 2009 @01:29PM (#30344120) Homepage

    Today, MIT and the United States Department of Warxxx Defense are proud to report their joint discovery that spam email, when combined with a pyramid sales scheme, is an effective way to get people off their asses. This works best when your name is well-known and has not yet been sufficiently exploited that your email is ignored.

    Note to editors: when referring to spam in connection with MIT, correct usage is "social network."

Research is what I'm doing when I don't know what I'm doing. -- Wernher von Braun