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12 Presidential Candidates to Keep Your Eye On

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Most political junkies can name all 16 major presidential candidates, but there were 42 candidates on the ballots in the New Hampshire primary! And that's only the candidates running for the republican and democratic party nominations. Who are all these people? Last March, I posted Those Crazy Candidates. Now that the primary season has started, I look back and see that the article centered on celebrities and fictional characters, including some who hadn't even declared. There are plenty of real people running that you've never heard of.

1. Jack Shepard

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Jack Shepard is running his presidential campaign from his home in Rome, Italy, where he fled 25 years ago to avoid prosecution for arson. He is also on parole for a 1979 sexual assault charge. Shepard is a practicing dentist in Italy, although his liscence was revoked in Minnesota in 1983 due to a string of violent incidences. Shepard was on the ballot in the New Hampshire Primary.

2. Gene Amondson

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Gene Amondson is the National Prohibition Party nominee for president, as he was in 2004. Amondson is a minister who garnered almost 2,000 votes in the previous race, and appeared on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart in a segment called Party Like It's 1929. His website also contains his artwork and recipes for pies.

More declared candidates, after the jump.

3. Vermin Love Supreme

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Vermin Love Supreme was the first candidate to file for the New Hampshire Primary. He received 41 votes. Supreme's priority issue is mandatory toothbrushing. His favorite color is plaid, and his favorite sport is women's rollerderby.

4. Chief Jack Boulerice

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Jacques Yves 'Chief Jack' Boulerice is running on the Native American Party ticket, which he founded. Chief Jack is anti-immigration, anti-union, and wants to eliminate term limits. As president, he would insist that all immigrants speak English and all government and business dealings be conducted in English only. He has a plan to control wages, not by raising the minimum wage, but by capping all wages at $200,000 a year, with a limit of $25,000 for bonuses. Chief Jack ran for president in 2000 and 2004 also.

5. Princess Christina Gerasimos Billings-Elias

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Christina Gerasimos Billings-Elias has a graphic-based campaign website with little text. From the front page:

Christina born to be President of 'Our America.' ©™. 'The Chosen One, ©™ as proclaimed by Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, friends of Theodore and Evelyn Gerasimos, first Greek in Detroit 1890. People's King of the Greeks emanating from Spartan Royalty Warriors.

Although she has extensive information on her family tree and ancestors, I couldn't even find her birthday, much less an explanation of "The Chosen One". She alludes to a story of kidnapping and murder in her family, but does not elaborate. Billing-Elias is running as a democrat. She was not on the New Hampshire ballot.

6. Daniel Melzine Kingery

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Daniel Melzine Kingery belongs to no political party, and isn't afraid to tell it like it is.

At various times in my life, I've been a thief, adulterer, verbally insulted others, drank, smoked, and lied among many others that I'm not so proud of. Because of the lessons learned, I'm not ashamed of them either.

Kingery, as president, would abolish the electoral college, declare all judgeships to be elected positions, and make corrupt leaders subject to charges of treason. He favors a flat tax and a national ID card with DNA information to be issued at birth.

7. James Wellington Wright

James Wellington Wright is a democratic candidate for president, with pages of political opinions on his site. I decided to include him on this list when I found this graphic that explains his immigration policy under the heading "Let me make this perfectly clear!"
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It's a curious combination of old-fashioned jingoism and modern internet slang. Wright was not on the New Hampshire ballot.

8. Joe Martyiuk

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Joe Martyniuk has more policy than biography on his campaign website. But he does have this on the front page:

Joe's an inventor and entrepreneur. He's short and dumpy. He stutters and stammers. All the bad things you hear about him are true. But there are 300 million of you to help him get the job done. He's pro-birth control, conceal carry, stem cell research, unions, separation of church and state, open internet, balanced budget, import brain power, and extended unemployment benefits. God bless and defend our troops.

9. Jonathon Sharkey

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Jonathon 'The Impaler' Sharkey is the founder of the Vampyres, Witches, and Pagans Party, but shows up as Independent on most candidate lists. He is the commanding general and "Death Dealer" with the 1st Vampyre, Witches, Pagans Militia Regiment. Despite those titles, he has a political agenda that covers trade, taxes, health care, taxes, and foreign policy.

10. Caroline Killeen

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Caroline P. Killeen is 81 years old and has no home or permanent address. She lived in Italy for most of 2007, and came back to the US to run for president. Her platform has one issue: global warming. Killeen advocates the use of solar clothes dryers, also known as clotheslines. She had to borrow money for airfare to the Unitesd States, and used three of her Social Security checks to get on the ballot in New Hampshire.

11. Jack Grimes

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Jackson Kirk 'Jack' Grimes is running for the United Fascist Union party, which he heads. The party was incorporated in 1996 to "promote the economic theories and political ideologies of Benito Mussolini and Saddam Hussein." Grimes' priorities are to abolish paper money, freeze prices on consumer goods before reducing those prices, and to form a league of nations with the aim of world government.

12. Bennie Lee Ferguson

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Bennie Lee "Ben" Ferguson is running for president and simutaneously for the Kansas State House of Representatives. She explains on her website that the presidential run is mainly to provide publicity for her statehouse campaign. Bennie Lee is an openly transgender candidate and college student who makes a living entertaining with the Bennie Ferguson Band.

Information for this article came from Project Vote Smart and from the Minor Candidate Report. I have barely scratched the surface of these resources.

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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
technology
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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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Animals
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Scientists Think They Know How Whales Got So Big
May 24, 2017
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iStock

It can be difficult to understand how enormous the blue whale—the largest animal to ever exist—really is. The mammal can measure up to 105 feet long, have a tongue that can weigh as much as an elephant, and have a massive, golf cart–sized heart powering a 200-ton frame. But while the blue whale might currently be the Andre the Giant of the sea, it wasn’t always so imposing.

For the majority of the 30 million years that baleen whales (the blue whale is one) have occupied the Earth, the mammals usually topped off at roughly 30 feet in length. It wasn’t until about 3 million years ago that the clade of whales experienced an evolutionary growth spurt, tripling in size. And scientists haven’t had any concrete idea why, Wired reports.

A study published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B might help change that. Researchers examined fossil records and studied phylogenetic models (evolutionary relationships) among baleen whales, and found some evidence that climate change may have been the catalyst for turning the large animals into behemoths.

As the ice ages wore on and oceans were receiving nutrient-rich runoff, the whales encountered an increasing number of krill—the small, shrimp-like creatures that provided a food source—resulting from upwelling waters. The more they ate, the more they grew, and their bodies adapted over time. Their mouths grew larger and their fat stores increased, helping them to fuel longer migrations to additional food-enriched areas. Today blue whales eat up to four tons of krill every day.

If climate change set the ancestors of the blue whale on the path to its enormous size today, the study invites the question of what it might do to them in the future. Changes in ocean currents or temperature could alter the amount of available nutrients to whales, cutting off their food supply. With demand for whale oil in the 1900s having already dented their numbers, scientists are hoping that further shifts in their oceanic ecosystem won’t relegate them to history.

[h/t Wired]

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