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How to Win at Rock-Paper-Scissors (and also how to cheat)

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Earlier this month, our YouTube Hunter found some riveting rock-paper-scissors footage. Today, Rocketboom has more, including classic interviews with the world's best RPS athletes.

(That's right, I said RPS. If you want to sound like an insider at the upcoming World RPS Championships, you should too.)

Want to play like a champion, and compete for the $10,000 prize? From the World RPS Society:

Contrary to what you might think RPS is not simply a game of luck or chance. While it is true that from a mathematical perspective the 'optimum' strategy is to play randomly, it still is not a winning strategy for two reasons.

First, 'optimum' in this case means you should win, lose and draw an equal number of times (hardly a winning strategy over the long term). Second, Humans, try as they might, are terrible at trying to be random, in fact often humans in trying to approximate randomness become quite predictable. So knowing that there is always something motivating your opponent's actions, there are a couple of tricks and techniques that you can use to tip the balance in your favour.

The top secrets to winning at RPS -- courtesy of Graham Walker, Director of Management of the World RPS Society -- are after the jump.

1 - Rock is for Rookies
In RPS circles a common mantra is "Rock is for Rookies" because males have a tendency to lead with Rock on their opening throw. It has a lot to do with idea that Rock is perceived as "strong" and forceful", so guys tend to fall back on it. Use this knowledge to take an easy first win by playing Paper. This tactic is best done in pedestrian matches against someone who doesn't play that much and generally won't work in tournament play.
2 - Scissors on First
The second step in the 'Rock is for Rookies' line of thinking is to play scissors as your opening move against a more experienced player. Since you know they won't come out with rock (since it is too obvious), scissors is your obvious safe move to win against paper or stalemate to itself.
3 - The Double Run
When playing with someone who is not experienced at the RPS, look out for double runs or in other words, the same throw twice. When this happens you can safely eliminate that throw and guarantee yourself at worst a stalemate in the next game. So, when you see a two-Scissor run, you know their next move will be Rock or Paper, so Paper is your best move. Why does this work? People hate being predictable and the perceived hallmark of predictability is to come out with the same throw three times in row.
4 - Telegraph Your Throw
Tell your opponent what you are going to throw and then actually throw what you said. Why? As long as you are not playing someone who actually thinks you are bold enough to telegraph your throw and then actually deliver it, you can eliminate the throw that beats the throw you are telegraphing. So, if you announce rock, your opponent won't play paper which means coming out with that scissors will give you at worst a stalemate and at best the win.
5 - Step Ahead Thinking
Don't know what to do for your next throw? Try playing the throw that would have lost to your opponents last throw? Sounds weird but it works more often than not, why? Inexperienced (or flustered) players will often subconsciously deliver the throw that beat their last one. Therefore, if your opponent played paper, they will very often play Scissors, so you go Rock. This is a good tactic in a stalemate situation or when your opponent lost their last game. It is not as successful after a player has won the last game as they are generally in a more confident state of mind which causes them to be more active in choosing their next throw.
6 - Suggest A Throw
When playing against someone who asks you to remind them about the rules, take the opportunity to subtly "suggest a throw" as you explain to them by physically showing them the throw you want them to play. ie "Paper beats Rock, Rock beats scissors (show scissors), Scissors (show scissors again) beats paper." Believe it or not, when people are not paying attention their subconscious mind will often accept your "suggestion". A very similar technique is used by magicians to get someone to take a specific card from the deck.
7 - When All Else Fails Go With Paper
Haven't a clue what to throw next? Then go with Paper. Why? Statistically, in competition play, it has been observed that scissors is thrown the least often. Specifically, it gets delivered 29.6% of the time, so it slightly under-indexes against the expected average of 33.33% by 3.73%. Obviously, knowing this only gives you a slight advantage, but in a situation where you just don't know what to do, even a slight edge is better than none at all.
8 - The Rounder's Ploy
This technique falls into more of a 'cheating' category, but if you have no honour and can live with yourself the next day, you can use it to get an edge. The way it works is when you suggest a game with someone, make no mention of the number of rounds you are going to play. Play the first match and if you win, take it is as a win. If you lose, without missing a beat start playing the 'next' round on the assumption that it was a best 2 out of 3. No doubt you will hear protests from your opponent but stay firm and remind them that 'no one plays best of one for a kind of decision that you two are making'. No this devious technique won't guarantee you the win, but it will give you a chance to battle back to even and start again.

And if that's too hard to remember, here are some ways to cheat.

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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
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Man Buys Two Metric Tons of LEGO Bricks; Sorts Them Via Machine Learning
May 21, 2017
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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva

Jacques Mattheij made a small, but awesome, mistake. He went on eBay one evening and bid on a bunch of bulk LEGO brick auctions, then went to sleep. Upon waking, he discovered that he was the high bidder on many, and was now the proud owner of two tons of LEGO bricks. (This is about 4400 pounds.) He wrote, "[L]esson 1: if you win almost all bids you are bidding too high."

Mattheij had noticed that bulk, unsorted bricks sell for something like €10/kilogram, whereas sets are roughly €40/kg and rare parts go for up to €100/kg. Much of the value of the bricks is in their sorting. If he could reduce the entropy of these bins of unsorted bricks, he could make a tidy profit. While many people do this work by hand, the problem is enormous—just the kind of challenge for a computer. Mattheij writes:

There are 38000+ shapes and there are 100+ possible shades of color (you can roughly tell how old someone is by asking them what lego colors they remember from their youth).

In the following months, Mattheij built a proof-of-concept sorting system using, of course, LEGO. He broke the problem down into a series of sub-problems (including "feeding LEGO reliably from a hopper is surprisingly hard," one of those facts of nature that will stymie even the best system design). After tinkering with the prototype at length, he expanded the system to a surprisingly complex system of conveyer belts (powered by a home treadmill), various pieces of cabinetry, and "copious quantities of crazy glue."

Here's a video showing the current system running at low speed:

The key part of the system was running the bricks past a camera paired with a computer running a neural net-based image classifier. That allows the computer (when sufficiently trained on brick images) to recognize bricks and thus categorize them by color, shape, or other parameters. Remember that as bricks pass by, they can be in any orientation, can be dirty, can even be stuck to other pieces. So having a flexible software system is key to recognizing—in a fraction of a second—what a given brick is, in order to sort it out. When a match is found, a jet of compressed air pops the piece off the conveyer belt and into a waiting bin.

After much experimentation, Mattheij rewrote the software (several times in fact) to accomplish a variety of basic tasks. At its core, the system takes images from a webcam and feeds them to a neural network to do the classification. Of course, the neural net needs to be "trained" by showing it lots of images, and telling it what those images represent. Mattheij's breakthrough was allowing the machine to effectively train itself, with guidance: Running pieces through allows the system to take its own photos, make a guess, and build on that guess. As long as Mattheij corrects the incorrect guesses, he ends up with a decent (and self-reinforcing) corpus of training data. As the machine continues running, it can rack up more training, allowing it to recognize a broad variety of pieces on the fly.

Here's another video, focusing on how the pieces move on conveyer belts (running at slow speed so puny humans can follow). You can also see the air jets in action:

In an email interview, Mattheij told Mental Floss that the system currently sorts LEGO bricks into more than 50 categories. It can also be run in a color-sorting mode to bin the parts across 12 color groups. (Thus at present you'd likely do a two-pass sort on the bricks: once for shape, then a separate pass for color.) He continues to refine the system, with a focus on making its recognition abilities faster. At some point down the line, he plans to make the software portion open source. You're on your own as far as building conveyer belts, bins, and so forth.

Check out Mattheij's writeup in two parts for more information. It starts with an overview of the story, followed up with a deep dive on the software. He's also tweeting about the project (among other things). And if you look around a bit, you'll find bulk LEGO brick auctions online—it's definitely a thing!

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Opening Ceremony
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These $425 Jeans Can Turn Into Jorts
May 19, 2017
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Opening Ceremony

Modular clothing used to consist of something simple, like a reversible jacket. Today, it’s a $425 pair of detachable jeans.

Apparel retailer Opening Ceremony recently debuted a pair of “2 in 1 Y/Project” trousers that look fairly peculiar. The legs are held to the crotch by a pair of loops, creating a disjointed C-3PO effect. Undo the loops and you can now remove the legs entirely, leaving a pair of jean shorts in their wake. The result goes from this:

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Opening Ceremony

To this:

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Opening Ceremony

The company also offers a slightly different cut with button tabs in black for $460. If these aren’t audacious enough for you, the Y/Project line includes jumpsuits with removable legs and garter-equipped jeans.

[h/t Mashable]

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