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Modern Challenges to Tackle

The UK is launching a modern version of its 18th century Longitude Prize, the Associated Press reports.

The 1714 version of the competition sought a way to determine a ship's position at sea without relying on clocks whose mechanisms were often affected by condition at sea; John Harrison, a Yorkshire clockmaker, won that competition with his invention of the marine chronometer.

The new competition, with a nearly $17 million prize at stake, will challenge researchers to tackle an issue selected by the public. The Longitude Committee has selected six potential categories — flight, food, antibiotics, paralysis, water, and dementia. Each of these categories will be discussed during the BBC science program Horizon that is celebrating its 50th anniversary, and the public will vote on what they'd like to see addressed by the challenge, the BBC adds.

"The brilliant thing about the Longitude Prize is that we don't know where the answer's going to come from," says David Rowan, the editor of Wired Magazine who is also on the Longitude committee, to the BBC. "The crowd is smarter than any of us on the committee. And the beautiful thing about the internet is that by connecting people together, two plus two is five or five hundred. People come together in all sorts of extraordinary and unpredictable ways to solve problems and we want to see where this goes."

The Scan

Foxtail Millet Pangenome, Graph-Based Reference Genome

Researchers in Nature Genetics described their generation of a foxtail millet pangenome, which they say can help in crop trait improvement.

Protein Length Distribution Consistent Across Species

An analysis in Genome Biology compares the lengths of proteins across more than 2,300 species, finding similar length distributions.

Novel Genetic Loci Linked to Insulin Resistance in New Study

A team reports in Nature Genetics that it used glucose challenge test data to home in on candidate genes involved in GLUT4 expression or trafficking.

RNA Editing in Octopuses Seems to Help Acclimation to Shifts in Water Temperature

A paper in Cell reports that octopuses use RNA editing to help them adjust to different water temperatures.