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DoD agency’s ‘urgent’ call for a labyrinth of underground tunnels provokes epic response

(Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)

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Social media users are all jacked up over a tweet from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) asking about urban tunnels and underground facilities.

After all, if an apocalypse is coming, they want to be in the know!

DARPA is seen as the “mad science” wing of the Defense Department and the agency posted a pair of tweets Wednesday making the odd request, setting a quick two-day deadline.

No details were offered on the purpose for the space, other than to “host research & experimentation.”

“Attention, city dwellers! We’re interested in identifying university-owned or commercially managed underground urban tunnels & facilities able to host research & experimentation. It’s short notice… We’re asking for responses by Aug. 30 at 5:00 PM ET.,” the first tweet read.

A follow-up tweet offered more details on what the ideal space would entail, but still no real explanation for what the agency planned to do with it.

“The ideal space would be a human-made underground environment spanning several city blocks w/ complex layout & multiple stories, including atriums, tunnels & stairwells,” that tweet read. “Spaces that are currently closed off from pedestrians or can be temporarily used for testing are of interest.”

The vagueness of the request left active imaginations steeped in too much sci-fi in a state of frenzy.

It didn’t help matters that Military.com reported last summer on the Army training soldiers to fight in large-scale subterranean facilities that exist beneath dense urban areas around the world.

Turns out, it was much ado over nothing, according to Life Science, which reported that the request was made in support of the ‘urban’ round of the Subterranean Challenge (SubT Challenge).

SubT Challenge is a team-based competition to develop and use technologies for navigating unfamiliar underground spaces.

“As teams prepare for the SubT Challenge Urban Circuit, the program recognizes it can be difficult for them to find locations suitable to test their systems and sensors,” DARPA Chief of Communications Jared Adams told Live Science. “DARPA issued this [request for information] in part to help identify potential representative environments where teams may be able to test in advance of the upcoming event.”

The story “took on a life of its own” online, as the science website put it, and Adams explained that his day was consumed with trying to clear up “misperceptions” about the request.

The responses to DARPA, to include a sea of memes, was epic, as conspiratorial juices were flowing.

So much so that you could spend as much time perusing through them as Adams did trying to alleviate concerns.

Here’s a sampling of some of the responses from Twitter:



Tom Tillison


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