Don't just shred your bank statements, you have to blow them up!
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is the United States' premier research agency for technology used in the military. Many of the innovations DARPA has produced were created using the challenge model (including this here internet) where specific tasks must be accomplished. DARPA has taken to issuing some of the challenges to the public, like on October 27th when it the DARPA's Shredder Challenge was proposed. After only 33 days, a team calling itself "All Your Shreds Are Belong To U.S." successfully reassembled five sheets of shredded paper using custom algorithms and claimed the $50,000 prize.
"Lots of experts were skeptical that a solution could be produced at all let alone within the short time frame," said Dan Kaufman from DARPA. "The most effective approaches were not purely computational or crowd-sourced, but used a combination blended with some clever detective work. We are impressed by the ingenuity this type of competition elicits."
The challenge will hopefully provide applications immediately useful by the U.S. military. "Today's troops often confiscate the remnants of destroyed documents in war zones, but reconstructing them is a daunting task. DARPA's Shredder Challenge called upon computer scientists, puzzle enthusiasts and anyone else who likes solving complex problems to compete for up to $50,000 by piecing together a series of shredded documents."
How did the awesomely named "All Your Shreds Are Belong To U.S." (check this for the gaming reference) beat the challenge? The shreds of five different sheets of paper were coded by the team and given to a computer to read for possible matches. Those results were given to a human to verify and interpret. When all the shreds were put together, the team then had to solve five puzzles outlined on each sheet, and according to the leaderboard, "All Your Shreds Are Belong To U.S." was the only team to come close to finishing the challenge. And it only took them 600+ man-hours in 33 days!
Let me be the first of many to say congratulations to the winning team. You are way better at figuring this kind of stuff out than I am and deserve your place among the Starfighters in the Rylan Star League.
But please, don't look at all of the credit card bills and financial statements I just shredded. Thanks!