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Wednesday, March 31, 2010


I thought I had pretty much covered the full range of prizes here & here etc. but there are a few more mentioned here.

1904: Deutsch-Archdeacon Grand Prix de Aviation
French aviation enthusiasts Ernest Archdeacon and Henri Deutsch de la Meurthe put up 50,000 francs for the first airplane to fly 1 kilometer in a circular course. The prize is won by Henri Farman in 1908, giving French aviators a boost in their public-relations battle with the Wright brothers.

1959: Kremer Prize
British industrialist Henry Kremer offers a 5,000-pound prize for human-powered flight, and by the time Paul MacCready wins the prize in 1977, it is worth 50,000 pounds, or $95,000. MacCready wins the prize by flying a figure eight along a half-mile course with his Mylar-skinned Gossamer Condor. Kremer immediately offers another prize of 100,000 pounds for the first human-powered aircraft to cross the English Channel. Only two years later, MacCready's Gossamer Albatross wins that prize as well.

1992: Super Efficient Refrigerator Program
A consortium of U.S. electric utilities, seeking to enhance environmental quality and energy efficiency, announced a prize of $30 million to be awarded to the most energy-efficient refrigerator design that did not using environmentally harmful CFC refrigerant. Fourteen manufacturers submitted entries. The winning company, Whirlpool Corp., devised a refrigerator that used 25% less energy than the most energy-efficient available model before the contest, and 40% less than the Federal energy efficiency standard for new refrigerators.

1995: Feynman Grand Prize
The Foresight Institute offers $250,000 Feynman Prize to the person or team that devises both a motor no more than 100 nanometers wide in any direction, capable of moving atoms around, as well as a 50-nanometer-wide machine capable of adding numbers. The prize has not yet been won.

1997: Budweiser Cup
Anheuser-Busch, one of the world’s largest beer companies, offers $1 million to the first team to circumnavigate the globe nonstop in a balloon. The prize is won in 1999 by Switzerland’s Bertrand Piccard and Britain’s Bryan Jones, who launched the Breitling Orbiter 3 from the Egyptian desert and landed back in Egypt after a 19-day, 22-hour journey.


This is pretty much rounding out the list - unless somebody knows better. The full range of discussion can be found on the X-PRIZE sections of my annual index. Suffice it to say that prizes have repeatedly demonstrated success at a fraction, often less than 1/10th, of what particular governments have spent on similar projects (eg the US army project for an automated driver programme cost $3 million in prizes when the army acknowledged they couldn't have done it for under $100 M or the director of the Smithsonian who got $50,000 from Congress to develop an airplane & failed just as the Wright Brothers were succeeding). Relatively few have failed & even the Spanish longitude prize of 1598, while not won, resulted in a method of measuring longitude slowly on land revolutionising map making - and that without costing anything. Indeed in some cases, eg the Fredkin Prize, the value of the achievement has been recognised as so great that another party has offered to massively increase the award even after it is clear progress has been so much it is going to be done.

The downside of prizes seems to be entirely in the realm of the loss of patronage by those in charge. The NASA paper, which was broadly supportive listed "create jobs; influence political support by way of job creation; broaden the participation of traditionally underrepresented groups in science and technology; and prop up a particular supplier or group of suppliers" all of which are pork barreling or more politely patronage. I also discussed how the Mohole project was given to a company whose prime qualification was that they had given money to LBJ. Th's was also the complaint in Scot Lib Dem leader Tavish Scott's speech attacking the Saltire Prize on the grounds that it hadn't been won & that it was thus depriving their friends of more government largess merely because they had nothing to show for it.

Which in turn implies that the British government decision that, space development being a comparatively popular programme, virtually our entire space budget will go to Europe, where nobody expects it to actually achieve anything except contracts for friends & expenses for bureaucrats. Note the Lord Mandelson was & Lady Ashton is a very well funded bureaucrat in an entirely different part of the mandarinate & no reciprocal arrangement for our overly rewarded bureaucrats is possible ;-)

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Got very quiet in here, didn't it, Neil? Not many comments.

I've just popped in hoping to discover how you'll make the serb apology for Srebrenica fit into your conspiracy theory. I have every confidence that your delusions will be more than capable of fuzzing 100s of awkward details, and super-highlighting the one or two facts that suit your cause until you can dazzle youself with your own paranoia. I await your efforts with bated breath,

A Big Fan, GCHQ.
Norman during WW2 the Germans made a film of how nice a "model" concentration camp was. This had the cooperation of the Jews there since people tend to cooperate when you hold a gun to their, or their children's heads. Knowing this & not being complete hypocrits you & your racist LibDem party will be on record as saying this cooperation proves the Holocaust never happened.

Or not as the case may be.
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