The power of social networks helped a team from MIT win the $40,000 prize for locating ten red balloons throughout the U.S.
The contest was sponsored by Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), a U.S. government program whose research in the 1960's led to the creation of the Internet forty years ago.
The MIT team blossomed from five to 5,000 after the team said they would split the cash prize with everyone who sent in co-ordinates. In about nine hours the balloons were pinpointed in parks and other public places in 10 cities as seen on the map.
DARPA said the Network Challenge was "a competition that explored the roles the Internet and social networking play in the timely communication, wide-area team-building and urgent mobilization required to solve broadscope, time-critical problems."
Social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook have transformed real time communications in amazing ways. Hashtags like #redballoon for example can quickly bring thousands along in the search.