CLOSE
Original image

Memphis Music Tour

Original image

Memphis is where the Mississippi River meets the Deep South. The city has a rich musical history, full of blues, rockabilly, gospel, and rock and roll. And the landmarks of this history are yours to enjoy. If you like, you can get in the proper mood with a song.

WDIA went on the air in Memphis in 1947. By 1949, it became the first US radio station to be programmed by and for African-Americans. Former deejays include Rufus Thomas and B.B. King, and Carla Thomas and Isaac Hayes performed live on the air. You can see it on Union Avenue.

435_BealeStreetStatue.jpg

Beale Street is the home of The Blues in Memphis. Between the statue of W.C. Handy, Father of the Blues on one end and the statue of Elvis on the other end, Beale Street is crammed with music clubs such as B.B. King's original Blues Club, and street musicians busking for tourist dollars.

More Memphis music landmarks, after the jump.

435_stax.jpg

Stax Records and the subsidiary Volt Records produced the sound that became known as Memphis Soul for nationwide consumption. Rufus and Carla Thomas were their earliest stars, followed by Booker T. and the M.G.s (which stands for Memphis Group), Otis Redding, Isaac Hayes, and The Staple Singers. The Stax Museum of American Soul Music is located in the Soulsville neighborhood where Stax Records once stood, along with Willie Mitchell's Royal Studios and Aretha Franklin's birthplace. The museum also runs the Stax Music Academy and charter school.

435_algreenschurch.JPG

You'll be welcomed for Sunday services at the Full Gospel Tabernacle. Join in the joyous gospel music with rev. Al Green. Yes, that Al Green. The church is at 787 Hale Road; services are at 11:30AM and 4PM.

435_sunstudio.jpg

Sun Studio is often referred to as the birthplace of Rock and Roll. Founded in 1950, Sun recorded blues artists such as Howlin' Wolf, but switched gears after Ike Turner's song "Rocket 88" introduced the sound of rock and roll. 18-year-old Elvis Presley made his first recording there in 1953. Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, and Johnny Cash all recorded with Sun in the 50s.

428_graceland.jpg

After Elvis made a name for himself, he bought a mansion in 1957 and named it Graceland. He lived there with his parents and later his wife Pricilla, and died there in 1977. Elvis and his parents are buried at Graceland. Now, 600,000 fans visit the mansion every year! If you don't want to deal with the crowds, you can take a virtual tour online.

But Memphis is much more than music. Wednesday, we'll take a look at the many other world-famous Memphis landmarks.

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

Original image
quiz
arrow
Name the Author Based on the Character
May 23, 2017
Original image
SECTIONS
BIG QUESTIONS
BIG QUESTIONS
WEATHER WATCH
BE THE CHANGE
JOB SECRETS
QUIZZES
WORLD WAR 1
SMART SHOPPING
STONES, BONES, & WRECKS
#TBT
THE PRESIDENTS
WORDS
RETROBITUARIES