Vote Here for the Modern-Day Longitude Prize

1book140_icon.JPG Here at 1book140, we're currently reading Dava Sobel's Longitude: The Story of the Lone Genius Who Solved the Greatest Scientific Mystery of His Time. Sobel recounts clockmaker John Harrison's epic quest to determine longitude from a ship, and claim the fat prize British Parliament offered for doing so. The ultimate solution not only comprised a milestone of science, but saved the lives of countless mariners and had an enormous impact on the global politics of the day.

We asked 1book140 readers to nominate subjects for a modern-day Longitude Prize, and they didn't disappoint. Longtime bookie David Eccles pointed out that to be truly analogous, a modern-day equivalent would have to not only save lives, but also promise economic benefits. David nominated The Elimination of Malaria, which would do much to bolster labor forces in the developing world.

Brandy Stillman was thinking along similar lines. "With all of the science and technology in the world, we still have no way to Cure Cancer."

But, Gill Corden points out, there's not much political will to cure diseases. "What would our glorious leaders pay a king's ransom for today? It has to be Free, Sustainable Energy."In that same vein, Brad Chamberlin suggests Nuclear Fusion, which offers considerable advantages over fission, the process employed by the nuclear power plants of today.

Pat, known to longtime bookies as @SeasonOnThe101, pointed out that Google asks job applicants for a Solution to World Hunger. That strikes us as exceptionally ambitious, but if it's good enough for Google, who are we to look askance at it?

I used to write about water issues for Wired, and so this next submission struck the right note to me. Jill Hubley points out that Access to Clean Water will soon become a problem in even developed countries like America, and already leads to the deaths of millions every year.

Perhaps the problem is less catching fish, so to speak, than teaching others to fish for themselves? Allison Lantero nominated Creating Equitable Education, in which all people, regardless of economic or geographical status, go to great schools.

Kymm Coveny, who may just possibly read more books than the rest of us combined, doesn't want to be "argumentative." But she points out that the Longitude Prize was less about saving lives than advancing science. To that end she proposes the Search for the Higgs Boson, also known (to the media at any rate) as the God Particle.

The prize for most intriguing submission goes to Kyle Behymer, who suggests we should offer our hypothetical prize for solving the mystery of Why Honey Bee Colonies Collapse. "Birds do it, fleas do it, but when bees do it, the value is $212 billion to the world economy," points out Reuters.

Finally, I'm going to offer one of my own: Creating a System of Public Financing for Politicians. Here's my logic: We ultimately need policymakers to help solve any of the worthy problems listed above. How can we alleviate the noxious influence of money in politics and still preserve free speech?

Cast your vote below, bookies! The top five will receive special, limited editions of books by Dava Sobel. Voting ends on Thursday at 5 pm.

Presented by

Jeff Howe is a professor of journalism at Northeastern University in Boston and a former Nieman Fellow at Harvard. He helps run @1book140, The Atlantic's Twitter book club. More

Jeff Howe is a professor of journalism at Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts and a former Nieman Fellow at Harvard University. He previously worked as a contributing editor at Wired Magazine, where he covered the media and entertainment industries. In June 2006 he published "The Rise of Crowdsourcing" in Wired. In September 2008 he published a book on the subject for Random House. The book has been translated into 11 languages. Before coming to Wired in 2001 he was a senior editor at and a writer at the Village Voice. In his 20 years as a journalist he has traveled around the world working on stories ranging from the impending water crisis in Central Asia to the implications of gene patenting. He has written for Time, U.S. News & World Report, The Washington Post, Mother Jones and numerous other publications. He lives in Cambridge with his wife and two children.

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