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

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 Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 16, 2011 @08:47PM (#38080972)

    only 50k for a problem that complex? If you could solve this problem, I say copyright and make millions off of the algorithm.

  • Doesn't scale (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 16, 2011 @08:48PM (#38080992)

    The rules should require that the same method that solved the initial puzzle be successfully applied to 10 more shredded documents, to weed out methods that don't scale.

  • Don't the warlords have access to fire? I'm pretty sure that brings about a thoroughly unrecoverable destruction of the documents...
  • by tomhudson ( 43916 ) <> on Wednesday November 16, 2011 @09:01PM (#38081096) Journal

    To complete this new challenge, it could take as many as 100,000 people

    So, it's essentially worth less than a pack of gum.

  • Confused? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by wisnoskij ( 1206448 ) on Wednesday November 16, 2011 @09:21PM (#38081276) Homepage

    Is it just me or does this make little to no sense.
    You cannot scale putting together puzzle pieces because the same person needs to both see two pieces that go together and recognize that they match.
    So yes more people help, but if there are 10 million pieces then the average person would have to look at over 1 million pieces before they have even seen two that go together.

    And this seems like a very easy thing to computise.
    You digitize the shredded documents.
    You run a program that looks for similarities around the edges.
    You stick likely candidates together and either ask for human confirmation or run a text recognition algorithm to see if the result makes sense.

    Now this becomes harder if the direct edge of many of the shredded parts are blank, but still more then doable if you use spacing recognition(calc how big a space is in this document and look for the correspond amount of missing space on the other side), line up the text rows, and some basic word statistic (if you see "he ...", for example you are likely looking for a "T" on the right side of another strip).

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 16, 2011 @10:15PM (#38081694)

    It would be used against US citizens, and against people in foreign countries who just wish to live their own lives peacefully and who are fighting the US military invasion of their country. I'm thinking Iraq mostly here: while at first the war was against Saddam and his supporters, today the war is being fought against average Iraqi people who have lost too many relatives as 'collateral damage' and who are so fed up with the USA that they decided to join the insurgents to avenge their lost family and boot the USA out so that 'collateral damage' stops once and for all.

    Over 100,000 civilians have died in the war one way or another (compare this to 24000 Insurgent deaths and 4500 US military deaths). Whether they were killed by suicide bombings or US troops, they'd be alive today if the war had not happened. So I'm sure everyone can understand that some of these people are pissed of enough to fight the US military.

    And frankly, I think the USA are responsible for every single death. They wanted to start a war, fine, but they needed to guarantee some damage control. It was easy to predict how civilians would be endangered. None of the reasons for the war provided by the USA justify such a huge civilian death toll (unless you only care about the interests of the USA of course, but I like to think even the average American can think of the greater good).
    Helping the US military in any way is criminal and should not be done. Shame on those who will participate in this "contest".

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 17, 2011 @01:55AM (#38082712)

    Because spying on *US citizens* is the worst thing they could ever do.

    First, obviously we non-US citizens just deserve to spied on. But that is not the purpose of the $50k challenge.

    This is for captured documents after *invading* nations (namely, after killing the goverment workers and entering their buildings). This is not *defending* the Fath^H^H^H^HHomeland. It is for offensive warfare on foreign soil.

    And "saving lives" in the article means obviously saving *US lives* (the lives of us proto-humans dwelling on the rest of the planet never counts anyway).

  • Re:Confused? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Intropy ( 2009018 ) on Thursday November 17, 2011 @02:54AM (#38082904)
    For N items, there are N! ways to arrange them. That doesn't make sorting an N! problem.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 17, 2011 @06:09AM (#38083526)

    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 $300 [], so monthly it would be around US 18$.

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

    Right, because income is evenly distributed there, and there aren't dirt poor people living off almost nothing. Plus, you're using PPP GDP per capita, rather than GDP per capita at nominal exchange rates. If I pay someone in another country $1, they get to buy what $1 buys in their country, not what $1 buys in the USA.

    Sorry to mix actual facts into your misrepresented data.

No problem is so large it can't be fit in somewhere.