Last winter, three software coders from San Francisco beat 9,000 entrants to win a $50,000 U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (Darpa) challenge to build tools for reconstructing destroyed and shredded documents. They solved five puzzles involving different papers, inks, typefaces and levels of complexity. One of the programmers, Otavio Good, told New Scientist that the challenges were simple—at least compared to dealing with bins of shredded paper. “Reconstructing these ...


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