CLOSE
Original image

Feel Art Again: Mona Lisa

Original image

MonaLisa.jpg

Perhaps the most famous smile in the world is that of the Mona Lisa. Because tomorrow is World Smile Day, let's discuss Leonardo da Vinci's masterpiece and the famous smile it contains.

1. The painting was stolen from the Louvre in 1911, but was not discovered missing until the next day. Both Guillaume Apollinaire, the French poet, and his friend, Pablo Picasso, were suspected during the course of the investigation, but were exonerated. The real thief, Vincenzo Peruggia, was an Italian patriot who thought the famous painting should be returned to its home country. He was hailed for his patriotism in Italy and only served a few months in jail.

2. Despite being doused with acid, hit with a rock, and infested with insects, the painting is one of the most well-preserved.

Keep reading for four more things you may not know about the Mona Lisa...

3. Amazingly, the painting is uninsured. As Estelle Nadau of the Louvre puts it, "The Mona Lisa is inestimable. She belongs to the French state, which is its own insurer, that is the reason why she is not insured."

4. There are two predominant theories for the woman's lack of eyebrows and eyelashes. Some scholars believe the lack of facial hair is just a sign of the times, since it was common for genteel women of the time to pluck their eyebrows. Other scholars believe, however, that Leonardo simply didn't finish the painting, since many of his paintings are unfinished.

5. The Japanese are apparently huge fans of the Mona Lisa. The 1.5 million viewers of the painting during its 1974 exhibition in Japan set a record which has not yet been broken. After that visit, the Japanese provided the triplex glass box which now protects the painting. A huge exhibit of copies and parodies, titled "Les 100 Sourires de Monna Lisa" (The 100 Smiles of Mona Lisa), toured Japan in 2000. Two years later, a mini series titled "Mona Lisa no Hohoemi" (Mona Lisa's Smile) aired. It alleged that another version of the Mona Lisa, which da Vinci secretly painted, is somewhere in Japan.

6. According to the University of Amsterdam's "emotion recognition" software, the subject of the Mona Lisa is 83% happy, 9% disgusted, 6% fearful, and 2% angry.

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
Opening Ceremony
fun
arrow
These $425 Jeans Can Turn Into Jorts
May 19, 2017
Original image
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:

501069-OpeningCeremony2.jpg

Opening Ceremony

To this:

501069-OpeningCeremony3.jpg

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]

SECTIONS
BIG QUESTIONS
BIG QUESTIONS
JOB SECRETS
QUIZZES
WORLD WAR 1
SMART SHOPPING
STONES, BONES, & WRECKS
#TBT
THE PRESIDENTS
WORDS
RETROBITUARIES