Will Lonesome George ever find a mate?
January 30, 2012 7:15 AM   Subscribe

What are some publicly available prizes or rewards for solving really obscure / awesome problems?

Over the years, I've heard of a variety of publicly available prizes or rewards being offered for solving certain problems or finding certain things - for example:

- The "Millennium Prize Problems" which offer $1 million for solving 7 outstanding problems in Mathematics - sure, the average person might not have the mathematical knowledge right now to solve them, but the prizes are available to anyone who presents a verified solution

- "Lonesome George", who is apparently a turtle who is hypothesized to be the last of his species, with a $10k prize offered for anyone who finds a female for him to mate with

The former I always thought was pretty cool (especially as they've been being solved) but the latter is really what sparked this for me - I just am curious what other obscure prizes are available for somewhat random tasks / activities / problems.

As a note, by publicly available I just mean that any person would be able to claim them - eg you don't have to be part of a special club - not that any person would be capable of claiming them.
posted by CharlieSue to Grab Bag (9 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
MathOverflow thread on open problems in math with monetary rewards. None of these have a million bucks attached, but you have a much better chance of knocking one of these off than proving the Riemann hypothesis!
posted by escabeche at 7:32 AM on January 30, 2012 [2 favorites]

There is a contest to figure out who will have repeat hospital stays, $million in prizes.
posted by shothotbot at 8:30 AM on January 30, 2012

Like shothotbot's answer shoes, there are fairly frequent programming challenges organizations put out with prize money attached.

There was the recent DARPA Paper Shredder challenge which awarded $50,000 to the team that could reconstruct five batches of shredded paper strips, and Netflix's infamous $1,000,000 prize to whoever could improve on their recommendation engine.

Unfortunately, I can't think of any other than shothotbot's that are open right now.
posted by losvedir at 8:44 AM on January 30, 2012

X Prizes? No special club membership required unless you count the ability to commit enormous amounts of capital.

JREF Challenge?
posted by Dan Brilliant at 8:50 AM on January 30, 2012

posted by birdbone at 8:51 AM on January 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

most likely not what you're looking for, exactly, but James Randi offers a lot of money if you can demonstrate any sort of paranormal ability
posted by taltalim at 9:03 AM on January 30, 2012

The Wolfson Economics Prize will give £250,000 to whoever comes up with the best plan for countries to exit the euro zone. Applications are due tomorrow!
posted by sashapearl at 10:30 AM on January 30, 2012

It doesn't get much more awesome than the Space Elevator challenges.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 10:36 AM on January 30, 2012

Response by poster: Thanks everyone, these are awesome - and I'm excited to see even the US gov is doing these via that challenge.gov website!
posted by CharlieSue at 7:09 AM on January 31, 2012

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