Prizes are back!

Harrison's Chronometer H5 Here is a picture of Harrison’s Chronometer (a late version), which was so accurate that it effectively solved a huge problem with navigation – enabling sailors to figure out their longitude when thousands of miles from home after many months.  No other method had worked.  Harrison had done it all for a prize as was dramatised in the book and mini-series ‘Longitude’

Prizes are good things because if they succeed in eliciting an invention, they don’t then operate as a tax on consumers. We should use them more, and where we’ve not had them we should also have a fund for buying the best patents and making their IP available more cheaply than would occur if they were privately owned.

So it’s great to see a serious proposal to do just that being introduced to the US Senate.

And Google – never any dummy in these things – the company that auctions advertising space in real time – is offering developers multiple prizes worth $10 million for applications on Android, its new mobile OS.

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16 years ago

Not to mention DARPA’s desert and urban challenges – offering a 1USD m prize to the winning vehicle to complete either (initially) a race through the desert, or (this year) a series of urban navigation challenges.

Or the X-prize foundation, devoted to the same idea, with prizes thus far in genomics, automotive engine efficiency and sustainability and lunar landings (in partnership with, appropriately to your post, google),

The Worst of Perth
16 years ago

Don’t forget that the prize offerers tried every means to dud Harrison out of his prize.

16 years ago

There was the famous example of Richard Feynman offering a $1000 for the miniaturisation of a working motor (from memory) and perhaps another thing too.

Dave Bath
16 years ago

Prizes are good things because if they succeed in eliciting an invention

They are also good when they aren’t claimed, such as the big prizes from skeptics associations for verifiable paranormal activity (i.e. they are unclaimed because …)