DARPA, the same folks that brought us, or at least funded, the development of the Internet and several autonomous robotic vehicles, has a new challenge. If you like puzzles, mental gymnastics, and extremely short deadlines, you're going to love this one.
It turns out that the US military frequently takes over the headquarters of hostile forces, but all too often all the critical paperwork containing precious clues and insights has been shredded before they can get their hands on it. That's where the DARPA challenge comes in. They're putting up a $50,000 prize for the team that can come up with the best solution for putting all the shredded information back together again.
Rather than just present one puzzle, which might be too difficult for any team to solve, DARPA has posted five puzzles with increasing levels of complexity. The puzzles are already up on the challenge website, and can be downloaded by anyone, even if they decide not to enter the competition.
To keep things even more interesting and exciting, they have a Leaderboard on the website that is updated regularly. The winning team will be announced on December 5, 2011.
(Via DARPA Shredder Challenge.)