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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."