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Seven Historical Figures Who Married Their Cousins

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I, like most of you, would never marry my cousin. I mean, nothing against the guy. He's pretty cool. I just"¦you know"¦find the whole concept to be pretty squicky in general. But wedding your cousin was rather common not too long ago. In fact, there are a whole slew of famous people "“ intellectuals, even "“ who married second, third and even first cousins, and lived happily ever after. Or didn't, in some cases.

1. Johann Sebastian Bach

Bach had 20 children, seven of them with his first wife and second cousin on his father's side, Maria Barbara Bach. They married in 1707; she died in 1720. Five of Bach's sons, including two with Maria Barbara, had thriving musical careers of their own. Not much is known about their marriage, but he remarried less than two years after her death.

2. Edgar Allan Poe

It's no wonder so much of Edgar Allan Poe's work is macabre: by the time he was two years old, his father had abandoned the family and his mother died of consumption. When he was 20, in 1829, he moved to Baltimore to live with his aunt, brother and cousin Virginia. Despite the fact that Virginia was only seven, he fell in love with her. They were married in 1835 when she had reached the ripe old age of 13 (although the marriage certificate lists her as 21). There were about seven years of relatively good times for their family "“ Edgar was gaining fame for his writing and wrote some of his best-known pieces during this time period. In 1842, the couple was at a dinner party when Virginia started coughing up blood "“ it was consumption, the same illness that killed Edgar's mother. She spent the next five years slowly dying, which contributed to Edgar's insanity and alcoholism. She succumbed to the disease in 1847 and he mysteriously followed in 1849. The cause of his death is still unknown and much debated.

3. Jerry Lee Lewis

lewis.jpgWhile marrying your 13-year-old cousin may have been somewhat standard in the 1800s, it was certainly not acceptable in 1957, when rock "˜n' roller Jerry Lee Lewis married his cousin Myra, 13. It understandably caused an uproar and radio stations refused to play his music. It almost ended his career, but he later found a niche in country music. Myra and Jerry Lee had two children, one of which (Steve Allen Lewis) died at the age of three. The other, Phoebe, helps manage Jerry Lee's career today. He and Myra were divorced in 1970.

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4. Rudy Giuliani

Rudy had just graduated law school in 1968 when he married his third cousin, Regina Peruggi. Or so he thought. Accounts differ, but it seems that they figured out in 1982 that they were actually second cousins, which was just a little too close to home. Coincidentally enough, this discovery was made about the same time he met second wife Donna Hanover. Regina and Rudy divorced in 1982, the marriage was officially annulled by the Catholic church in 1983 and Rudy married Donna in 1984. Obviously, he's now running for president. Regina is the president of Kingsborough Community College in Brooklyn.

5. Charles Darwin

Yep, the Father of Evolution married his first cousin, Emma Wedgwood. They shared a grandfather, Josiah Wedgwood (who, incidentally, started the Wedgwood pottery empire). Darwin was decidedly unromantic "“ when torn over whether to propose or not, he made a list of pros and cons. The pros included the fact that marriage would provide companionship better than that of a dog. The cons revolved mostly around his career "“ marriage would provide less money for books and would take up a lot of his personal time. Ultimately, marriage won out. When he went to Emma to ask for her hand, though, he skipped the whole "endless love" mush and instead spent the evening discussing transmutation. The scientific talk must have really done it for Emma, though, because when they did eventually get married they had a prolific 10 children.

6. Franklin D. Roosevelt

One of America's most beloved President/First Lady pairs were cousins. Distant cousins, though. Although they had met as children, they became reacquainted after a dinner at the White House in 1902 held by Eleanor's uncle and Franklin's fifth cousin, President Teddy Roosevelt. FDR was 20 at the time and was attending Harvard. Eleanor was 17 and had just had her formal introduction into society with her debutante party. They were married on St. Patrick's Day, 1905, and had six children in a span of 10 years.

7. Albert Einstein

Yes, our very own beloved Einstein. He was actually somewhat of a philanderer "“ he moved in with his second cousin, Elsa, in 1917"¦two years before his divorce from his first wife, Mileva. They were separated, though. He married Elsa in 1919, not too long after his divorce from Mileva was finalized. Letters in his own hand showed that he cheated on Elsa, though, and had at least half a dozen girlfriends while he was married to her. Elsa died in 1936 after coming down with heart and kidney problems and it would appear that his newfound bachelorhood suited Einstein just fine: he never married again and had plenty of girlfriends until his death in 1955.

A few other notables who married their cousins, distant or otherwise:

Jesse James "“ first cousin Zerelda "Zee" Mimms
Thomas Jefferson "“ third cousin Martha Wayles
H.G. Wells "“ first cousin Isabel Mary Wells (he left her after just three years, though)
Igor Stravinsky - first cousin Katerina Nossenko
Carlo Gambino - first cousin Catherine Castellano
"¢ Lots of Royals, including Queen Elizabeth II (third cousin Prince Philip); Marie Antoinette (second cousin King Louis XVI) and Catherine the Great (second cousin Peter III of Russia).

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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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Opening Ceremony
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These $425 Jeans Can Turn Into Jorts
May 19, 2017
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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:

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Opening Ceremony

To this:

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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]

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