A group (BellKor's Pragmatic Chaos) has announced that they've beaten the barrier needed to win the $1 million Netflix Prize. This sets off a 30-day clock -- this team will win unless some other team does better in this period.
While there's been various opinions as to what extent contests like this really drive forward science, it's certainly been memorable -- I remember lots of news articles when the contest was first announced, and a lot of excitement over it. I'm a little surprised as how muted the news is now that the contest has been "won"; a Google news query for "Netflix Prize" shows just over a hundred articles, reasonable for a tech story but certainly not high by any means. At the very least, it was an interesting challenge that non-scientists could relate to and demonstrated the importance of good algorithms.
Are there other similar prizes out there? (Google seems to have run a number of contests, such as this one.) Maybe we should create more of them, or encourage industry to do so? For many people science is inspiring for its own sake, but for many others, a little flair (and money) is more likely to attract their attention.