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The King Arthur Tour

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Although what we think of as the Legend of King Arthur is taken from Thomas Malory (and later T.H. White) and is set in the Middle Ages, the first mentions of Arthur came centuries earlier, when he was referred to as a battlefield hero of the sixth century. The stories grew over the centuries, and many places in the British Isles have become associated with King Arthur and his contemporaries.

Tintagel is reportedly the place where Arthur was conceived (through trickery) and may also be his birthplace. The castle at Tintagel in Cornwall you can see today was built in the 1230s, but excavations reveal several earlier layers of construction. The fortress is in a popular spot for watching for invasion from abroad, and may well have been used in this manner for a thousand years or more. Tintagel Island is also the site of Merlin's Cave.

The site of the old Roman Amphitheater in Caerleon is often referred to as "King Arthur's Round Table". Legend has it that Arthur set up court in Caerleon after the Romans left Britain. Geoffrey of Monmouth noted that Arthur held court in the City of the Legions. in Welsh, Caerleon means "The Fortress of the Legion."
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More possible sites for Camelot, and Arthur's resting place, after the jump.

Another candidate for Camelot is Cadbury Castle in Somerset, an Iron Age hill fort. Excavations in the 1960s find that it has been occupied and refortified several times in different time periods dating back to 500 BC, including the period of Arthur's lifetime in the sixth century.
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Among other possibilities for the legendary Camelot is Caerwent, near Gwent in Wales. The old Roman fort there was certainly occupied and busy during the Dark Ages. Clues from Malory's work lead modern theorists to think this may be the real location of Arthur's court.
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Bryn Myrdden, or Merlin's Hill, near Carmarthen in South Wales, is traditionally the final resting place of King Arthur's advisor Merlin. There is a cave under the hillside, where he was supposedly entombed by the Lady of the Lake after he revealed all of his magical secrets to her.
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Glastonbury Tor has many legends surrounding it, including a visit from young Jesus and its location as the resting place of the Holy Grail. Some scholars identify it as the Isle of Avalon, where Arthur retreated after being mortally wounded, only to await the time when Britain would again need him.
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In ancient times, the area surrounding the tor was swampland, making it a true island. When the fog rolls in, you can see how Glastonbury Tor still resembles an island.
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Glastonbury Abbey is the oldest church in Britain, first built in 670-678 AD on the foundations of an older Celtic place of worship. Legend says the Christian version was founded by Joseph of Arimathea. A catastrophic fire in 1184 AD led to the lucky discovery in 1191 of a grave with an iron cross labelling the remains of King Arthur and his wife Guinevere. The remains later disappeared, and the cross is considered to be a hoax which helped finance the rebuilding of the abbey.
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For additional reading, see Britannia History. Thanks to proud Welshman John Gale for additional links.

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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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