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Surprising Science

Find Out What Dark Matter Is Made Of, Win Cash

Twenty-five days remain to enter a contest in which the team that can identify the best way of detecting the stuff of the universe will get $12,000 and a shot at a good-paying job.

What’s the Latest Development?

Programmers across the globe have until December 16 to enter the “Observing Dark Worlds” contest, which is sponsored by Winton Capital Management and run by Kaggle, a company that calls itself “the leading platform for predictive modeling competitions.” This particular competition’s challenge: Find a reliable way to determine the components of dark matter, which makes up a significant portion of the universe. The winners will receive cash prizes ($12,000 for first place, smaller amounts for second and third places) and interviews for potential positions at Winton.

What’s the Big Idea?

For decades, scientists have known of the existence of dark matter, which helps keep growing galaxies from dispersing. However, they still don’t know exactly what the stuff is made up of. Current models used to guess at the answer are very general, and University of Edinburgh astrophysicist Thomas Kitching says that better, more precise versions are needed. He and his colleagues decided to bring the idea of a contest to Kaggle because “we were under-resourced. Until now, there were maybe five people in the world who thought about this problem.” The plan worked: As of today 220 teams are working on it, each hoping to make astrophysics history. 

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