Calling All Photographers!

Mental_floss needs you in a big way! We're working on a great new concept for a photo gallery column, but the only way it's going to work is if we can recruit a small army of citizen photographers ... like yourselves. You don't have to be Ansel Adams or anything; we're looking for a mix of amateur and professional photos, and these days almost everyone has a digital camera of some sort or another.

Here's how it'll work: every couple of weeks, we'll choose a topic (feel free to suggest one here) and send an email to our photographer ranks asking them to snap a photo of something and send it in. Assignments will be quick and fun; some already suggested include:

"¢ your worst school portrait
"¢ the strangest decor item in your home
"¢ the oldest photo you own
"¢ weird public art in your town (my town, for instance, has a 30-foot-tall animatronic ballerina clown -- who wouldn't like to see a picture of that?)
"¢ what do you collect?
"¢ what's in your fridge?
"¢ your best spontaneous cell phone picture

... and so on. The greater variety of submissions we receive, the more fun the posts will be, and naturally we'll give you credit (and you'll get internet-famous; sweet!). So if you own a camera and think you might have a spare 20 minutes every few weeks to participate, we'd be thrilled to have your photos and publish them on the site! (We might even start a floss Flickr page and archive everything permanently there, organized by topic.)

If you're interested in joining our photo-army, just leave a comment on this post saying so!
(We flossers can see the email addresses you enter when leaving a comment, though other readers can't. And don't worry, we won't spam you.) The more the merrier!

Attention Flickr Users: Read our Addendum to enter your pics in our 'mental_floss reader photo of the week' contest.

New AI-Driven Music System Analyzes Tracks for Perfect Playlists

Whether you're planning a bachelorette party or recovering from a breakup, a well-curated playlist makes all the difference. If you don't have time to pick the perfect songs manually, services that use the AI-driven system Sonic Style may be able to figure out exactly what you have in mind based on your request.

According to Fast Company, Sonic Style is the new music-categorizing service from the media and entertainment data provider Gracenote. There are plenty of music algorithms out there already, but Sonic Style works a little differently. Rather than listing the entire discography of a certain artist under a single genre, the AI analyzes individual tracks. It considers factors like the artist's typical genre and the era the song was recorded in, as well as qualities it can only learn through listening, like tempo and mood. Based on nearly 450 descriptors, it creates a super-accurate "style profile" of the track that makes it easier for listeners to find it when searching for the perfect song to fit an occasion.

Playlists that use data from Sonic Style feel like they were made by a person with a deep knowledge of music rather than a machine. That's thanks to the system's advanced neural network. It also recognizes artists that don't fit neatly into one genre, or that have evolved into a completely different music style over their careers. Any service—including music-streaming platforms and voice-activated assistants—that uses Gracenote's data will be able to take advantage of the new technology.

With AI at your disposal, all you have to do as the listener is decide on a style of music. Here are some ideas to get you started if you want a playlist for productivity.

[h/t Fast Company]

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