DARPA last week announced its “Shredder Challenge.” It is offering up to $50,000 for the best process for reconstructing shredded documents seized by U.S. troops in war zones. DARPA added that “computer scientists, puzzle enthusiasts and anyone else who likes solving complex problems” also would help identify vulnerabilities in the shredding practices of our national security community. Shredder Challenge.A Washington State University Vancouver scientist who is studying hearing has received a grant from a Defense Department agency that funds high-risk/high-payoff research.Jie Xu, assistant professor in WSUV’s School of Engineering and Computer Science, was tabbed by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) for one of its 2011 Young Faculty Award grants.Xu was chosen for his work, which combines biology and technology and might help military personnel recover from combat-related hearing loss.He received $193,000 for his project, “Ear on a Chip: Microfluidics for Characterization and Control of Hair-Cell Sensing with Acoustic Stimuli.”“We’re reinventing biology,” Xu said a few days ago in a WSUV lab. That can come in handy after human biology is subjected to combat. If you don’t see a connection there with “Ear on a Chip,” consider this: According to a recent report from the Department of Veterans Affairs, the No. 1 disability in the war on terror is hearing loss.“I propose to build an ear,” Xu said.As an engineer, Xu said, his goal is to learn from nature and then create things that can benefit people.This project is based on microfluidics, a technology that can control and manipulate small amounts of fluids. “Ear on a Chip” will be a microfluidic system containing live cells to sense different sound frequencies.