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People I didn't expect to have tattoos

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Thomas Edison: Sure, he had over 1000 patents to his name, and rarely slept. But according to his insurance inspection with Mutual Life, the bad boy inventor also sported a strange tattoo. While no one knows what it meant, Tommy had 5 dots tattooed onto his left forearm, positioned like they would be on dice.

Sean Connery: While it's no surprise that Sean Connery's been inked up a few times, with at least one of his tattoos paying tribute to his motherland, it's a little more disconcerting to hear he also has a tattoo paying tribute to his mother. In addition to the "Scotland Forever" tat on his forearm, Connery sports one that says "Mum and Dad."

Geraldo Rivera: While I normally wouldn't feel sorry for the moron that is Geraldo, as a rebellious teen, the joke-reporter wanted to celebrate his Jewish heritage by getting a Star of David tattooed between his left thumb and forefinger. A sweet gesture, no doubt. Except that tattoos are strictly forbidden by Rabbinical Law—a fact he only learned after he'd gotten the work done.

13_20020816101545.jpgWinston Churchill's Mom: Speaking of mothers, Lady Randolph Churchill had a rather unladylike snake tattooed on her wrist. At the time, however, it was extremely fashionable for upper class women and socialites to get expensive tattoo work done, and the strategic placement meant that Lady Randolph could cover up the ink with a chunky bracelet when necessary. Like mother like son, young Winston followed in his mom's wristy behavior, when he got an anchor drawn on his arm.

4maradona-02x.jpgDiego Maradona: Despite intensely following the Argentinian footballer's brilliance World Cup after World Cup, I had no idea of the tattoos #10 was wearing. Apparently, Maradona has a tat of Che Guevara on his arm, and one of Fidel Castro on his leg—both of which would have been covered up by shirts and shin guards during international play.

jfkjr.jpg JFK, Jr.: Apparently, America's "royalty" couldn't resist the lure of a tattoo parlor, either. Many a tabloid has depicted the young Kennedy wearing tattoos—one of a shamrock on his foot, and another of a dagger on his arm.
PLUS two tattoos you won't see any longer:
Tony Danza's "Keep on Trucking" tattoo.
Danza got the phrase inked onto him when he was 18, attending college on a wrestling scholarship. The "Who's the Boss?" actor had it laser removed in the 90's.

Johnny Depp's "Winona Forever" tattoo. When the pair split up, Depp nixed two letters, and cleverly changed it to read "Wino Forever." We'll drink to that!

*Special thanks to our research editors Sandy and Kara for their research help on this one.

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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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Nick Briggs/Comic Relief
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What Happened to Jamie and Aurelia From Love Actually?
May 26, 2017
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Nick Briggs/Comic Relief

Fans of the romantic-comedy Love Actually recently got a bonus reunion in the form of Red Nose Day Actually, a short charity special that gave audiences a peek at where their favorite characters ended up almost 15 years later.

One of the most improbable pairings from the original film was between Jamie (Colin Firth) and Aurelia (Lúcia Moniz), who fell in love despite almost no shared vocabulary. Jamie is English, and Aurelia is Portuguese, and they know just enough of each other’s native tongues for Jamie to propose and Aurelia to accept.

A decade and a half on, they have both improved their knowledge of each other’s languages—if not perfectly, in Jamie’s case. But apparently, their love is much stronger than his grasp on Portuguese grammar, because they’ve got three bilingual kids and another on the way. (And still enjoy having important romantic moments in the car.)

In 2015, Love Actually script editor Emma Freud revealed via Twitter what happened between Karen and Harry (Emma Thompson and Alan Rickman, who passed away last year). Most of the other couples get happy endings in the short—even if Hugh Grant's character hasn't gotten any better at dancing.

[h/t TV Guide]

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