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A Disturbingly Long List of Celebrity Motorbike Crash-ups

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While I've never had any real interest in riding a motorcycle (I feel a heck of a lot safer in my van!), all the recent press over George Clooney's accident made me wonder how many celebs have experienced motorbike crashes. The results were kind of astounding. Be sure to grab your helmets before you read on:

:: Ann-Margret : An accomplished rider, she nonetheless was thrown from her bike in Brainerd, Minnesota in 2000. She received a broken arm and four broken ribs.

:: Gary Busey: An avid motorcyclist who was vocally anti-helmet, he nearly succumbed to head injuries in a violent crash in 1988 after picking up his Harley from a repair shop. Luckily, he landed at the feet of a police officer who took care of his wound until medical help arrived. Not surprisingly, he's now a supporter of motorcycle helmets.

:: Gérard Depardieu: In an interview, the actor admitted to having been involved in more than a dozen motorcycle crashes. One of them broke his leg in five places. He still rides, however, claiming that the "feeling of freedom" is something he'll never be able to give up.

:: Peter Fonda: Lost a half-inch of his height due to surgeries required after breaking his back and neck in a 1985 motorcycle wreck. He still prefers riding a bike to a horse, however, revealing that he'd "never been bitten by a motorcycle."

:: Billy Idol: Was bedridden for several months in 1990 after his motorcycle was struck by a car when he accidentally ran a stop sign in Los Angeles. His leg was mangled and nearly had to be amputated. A photographer who saw the electrodes and IVs attached to Idol in the hospital jokingly referred to him as a "Cyberpunk," which Idol used as the title of his next album.

:: Adrien Brody: The Oscar-winning actor from The Pianist crashed his motorcycle into a car in 1992, sliding feet-first through a crosswalk. He refused to ride for several years after the frightening ordeal.

:: Guy Burchett: An employee of Elton John's Rocket Records, his fatal motorcycle crash prompted Elton to write and record "Song for Guy" in his memory.

:: Bob Dylan : Much conjecture surrounds the nature and severity of his 1966 motorcycle accident, after which he "reinvented" himself, alienating many of his fans. Some say the wreck nearly killed him; others claim it was staged to give Dylan some time off.

:: Eric Estrada: The CHiPs star was involved in a motorcycle accident during the show's production in 1980. Injuries included a broken wrist, 12 fractured ribs, and collapsed lungs. Producers incorporated the mishap into the show's storyline, filming Ponch's scenes from his real-life hospital bed.

:: Ashley Hamilton: As if the pain of two marriages that lasted a total of 10 months wasn't bad enough, Ashley's been unfortunate enough to endure at least two notable motorcycle accidents.

:: David Hasselhoff : Lost control of his motorcycle and crashed into a pole in Los Angeles in 2003, causing minor injuries to himself and his passenger, then-wife Pamela Bach. Both were wearing helmets.

:: Lauren Hutton: The supermodel/actress crashed while riding a motorcycle for a charity event supporting the Guggenheim Museum in 2000. Luckily, Dennis Hopper had persuaded her to wear protective leathers and a full-face helmet, so her serious injuries were limited to a leg broken in several places.

:: Brian Kelly: Best known as the father on the 1960s TV series Flipper, Kelly was injured in 1969 when the engine on a borrowed motorbike blew up. His right arm and leg were paralyzed, all but ending his promising acting career.

:: Takeshi Kitano: One of Japan's most respected filmmakers and the winner of several international movie awards; he was hospitalized for a month in 1995 after a serious motorcycle mishap.

:: Mark Knopfler: The Dire Straits frontman crashed his motorbike into a car in London in 2003, fracturing his shoulder, collarbone, and seven ribs.

:: T.E. Lawrence : The British army officer who became famous as "Lawrence of Arabia" lost his life in a horrible 1935 motorcycle crash.

:: Daryl Mitchell: The funnyman known as "Chill" appeared regularly on The John Larroquette Show and Veronica's Closet before being paralyzed from the chest down in a horrific 2001 motorcycle crash. He went on to appear in the sitcom Ed and hasn't let his mishap slow him down.

:: Liam Neeson: While aboard a Harley in 2000 near his New York home, he collided with a deer. The accident broke the actor's pelvis. He was found lying on the side of the road.

:: Barry Oakley and Duane Allman: Allman, 24-year-old guitarist for The Allman Brothers Band was killed in a 1971 motorcycle accident in Macon, Georgia, when he crashed into a semi-truck that had pulled in front of him. Oakley, the band's bassist, was killed in a 1972 motorcycle less than a mile from the spot where Allman had suffered the same fate a year earlier.

:: Keanu Reeves: Broke his ankle in a 1997 motorcycle crash and had to rely on crutches for several weeks.

:: Don Rich: A regular on Hee Haw as the leader of Buck Owens' band, the Buckaroos, Rich lost his life in a 1974 motorcycle accident while on his way to meet up with his family after a recording session.

:: Ben Roethlisberger : This up-and-coming Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback was said to be near death following a 2006 motorcycle accident in which he broke his nose and his upper and lower jaw and lost two teeth. He was riding without a helmet and didn't have a valid license.

:: Arnold Schwarzenegger: His massive muscles didn't keep the bodybuilder from breaking six of his ribs and spending several days in the hospital after a 2001 motorcycle crash. The injuries occurred when his chest hit the windshield of his bike as he swerved to avoid a car that stopped short in front of him. Five years later, he was riding again (with son Patrick in the sidecar) when a car backed out in front of him. This time, Arnold received 15 stitches in his upper lip.

:: Seal: The singer recovered after a motorcycle accident in his youth. The scars on his face aren't a result of the injury, however, but of his life-long battle with lupus.

:: "Big" John Studd : The 6'7" professional wrestler tried his hand at acting with Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Man, but fell from his motorcycle during filming. He believed that the accident "“ and not his heavy steroid use "“ caused the cancer that took his life in 1995.

:: Steven Tyler: In 1981, the Aerosmith lead singer tore open his heel after his motorcycle hit a tree when he was on his way to pick up daughter Mia from her babysitter's house. The injury took nearly a year to heal completely.

:: Kerry Von Erich: The pro wrestler lost his foot in a 1987 motorcycle wreck, but continued to wrestle after being fitted with a prosthetic device.

:: Ken Wahl : The up-and-coming actor (who won a Golden Globe for his role in Wiseguy) had already survived multiple motorcycle accidents when a 1992 crash caused spinal damage from which he never fully recovered.

:: Kellen Winslow, Jr.: The Cleveland Browns tight end tore knee ligaments in a 2005 motorbike crash. Neither speeding nor doing wheelies, Winslow hit a curb in a parking lot and flew over the handlebars. The accident cost him the rest of the NFL season.

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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
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
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]