back to article DARPA balloon-hunt compo: Stand by for skulduggery

The DARPA Network Challenge - a race to find ten large red balloons to be flown at undisclosed locations in the USA this Saturday - is beginning to take shape, with competing teams trying to marshal the legions of crowdsourced operatives necessary for a win. Meanwhile rules and details have been modified in an attempt to prevent …


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  1. M. Burns Silver badge


    Everyone should go here and buy a red 8-foot weather balloon & fly it on that day.

  2. Marvin the Martian

    Finally a DARPA project within the boundaries of physics.

    It's too suspiciously feasible, this whole chess-playing dirty warfare. Maybe DARPA lied as well?

  3. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

    Quirky Shenanigans in Higgs Boson Quarkery ..... Light Enrichment is an Intellectual Pursuit

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  4. The old man from scene 24

    How high are the balloons being flown?

    High enough to warrant NOTAMS being issued for air traffic to avoid them? If so, it's going to be really easy.

  5. lukewarmdog

    Possible Approaches

    Hack DARPA for the locations.

    Submit all potential locations using location / email generating software without actually leaving the house.

    Phone the ISS and ask them to look out the windows.

    Or my favourite remains apathy. Who cares wins.

  6. Anonymous Coward

    10 red balloons?

    What happened to the other 89, or is that risking armageddon as predicted by Nena the German chanteuse?

  7. Charles 9 Silver badge


    Approach #2 won't work because entries are limited per e-mail address. If entrants' e-mails are registered prior to the contest, then they could only submit legitimate finds or risk being unable to complete the challenge.

    The balloons (<3m) are probably too small to be seen from space. Plus there's always the problem with clouds. DARPA is looking for terrestrial eyes to locate the balloons.

    At least DARPA's doing something that shouldn't be considered too expensive. Site 10 balloons and let them fly for a while. Compared to the other things they've done, that's cheap. Most of the expense will probably come out of the pockets of the contestants.

  8. Cameron Colley

    It's a shame we'll never find out what this is about.

    But I suspect that the NSA, or whoever, will be paying very close attention to internet traffic once these balloons are up -- perhaps they have some "network mapping" software they want to use on "terrorist cells" which could be tested using the networks formed to look at these balloons as models. This would work better if the people putting out the balloons don't tell the people monitoring the internet traffic until after the event.

    In typing this post I also came up with another theory -- DARPA/NSA/... are trying to work out how to use network traffic and noise to find significant events, like spaceships landing, so that they can use the population as an early-warning system.

  9. Niall 1

    Hello. DARPA Comp Organizer?

    Just tell me where they are and I'll let you have a share, I'm not greedy how does 50:50 sound? No? Ok Tell me or the kitty dies!

  10. Jimbob 3
    Black Helicopters


    Get up high by hiring some helicopters. Although you would need quite a few and it would probably cost more than $40K in fuel and hire :(

  11. Jeremy 2

    Unseen shenanigans...

    "You have to ask just how much DARPA, or anyway the rest of us, are actually going to learn here. What is for certain is that some interesting - probably largely unseen - shenanigans seem likely to take place this weekend."

    Then again, it could just be, you know, a bit of fun to celebrate an anniversary?

  12. Graham Marsden

    The end of the world is nigh...!

    ... This is what we've waited for,

    This is it boys, this is war!

    The President is on the line

    As 99 red balloons go by...

    Nena - 99 Red Balloons

  13. Pirate Dave

    Have NASA checked

    all of the balloons to make sure there aren't any errant children in them?

    Crazier things could happen, you know.

  14. Anonymous Coward

    "giant flying cupcake built entirely out of balloons!"

    Is this a thinly disguised entry by Marissa Mayer?

  15. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

    Is the Internet a Computer to Openly Program with Civil Projects ?

    "Possible Approaches .... Hack DARPA for the locations." ......... lukewarmdog Posted Tuesday 1st December 2009 15:05 GMT

    Crack Open the IARPA Shell and All the Fun of ITs Fare is there to Use and Abuse Assets. ....... Pawns.

    One wonders whether their Spooky Snoop Algorithms register them hacked or whether IntelAIgent Cloud Community Stealth Programs easily Renders Blissful Unconscious Denial with Ignorant Arrogance ....... Catastrophic Complacency.

    The World Great Game is a Very Different Mindset Game to Play 42 Win Win with All, when every Day is ZerodDay Virtually Traded with Vulnerabilities Exploited.

    Be Totally Aware of Deep Systemic Vulnerabilities which Capture Perpetrators with the Stickiest and Sweetest of Honey Traps.....which can Easily Control a Soul with their Need Fed.

    How else do you Control Anything other than Giving Everything Needed.

  16. flyingcupcake

    Cupcakes not Cream puffs!

    Nope, Ms Mayer hasn't signed up for our team yet, but we'd welcome her with open arms & baked goods.

  17. Anonymous Coward

    Left-over funds from FY-09 ?

    A lame attempt by DARPA to find others in the population, like them, who have no lives - or no better things to do with their time and my money.

    Sheesh! What next? A circle-jerk?

  18. ShaggyDoggy

    Huh ?

    I can't see any of them.

    Wait ... I'm in the UK

  19. DarpaHiBal

    We already know one location.

    We've already identified the location of 1 of the 10 balloons. Wonder how we did it?


      only one so far?

      well... we already know 8 of them... well we will.. um. not really. Go to to submit a balloon tomorrow! offering $3k per balloon provided we win!

  20. Forename Surname
    Thumb Up

    MIT team

    This team from MIT seems to be the most organized so far:

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