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The Weird Week ending February 8th

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Woman Falls Head-First onto Knife... and Survives

72-year-old Mary Townsen fell on a knife she was using in the garden, which plunged through her eye socket and into her brain. Neurosugeon Dr. Kent Grewe removed the knife.

"We took it out and nothing happened," he said. "It's like, remember the Sword in the Stone?"

There was barely any bleeding and her eyeball was somehow untouched.

The accident left her immediately unable to read or do math. In the two years since the accident, Townsen has learned to drive, and her abilities have been returning a little at a time. Warning: link contains graphic x-rays and video.

Have You Seen This Man?

150_faceless_robber.jpgPolice released this artist's sketch of a man who robbed a bank in Bangkok last week. The man allegedly took 200,000 baht from the Ladprao branch of the Government Savings Bank several weeks ago. The sketch is a composite based on the recollection of eyewitnesses, who say the man was wearing a motorcycle helmet. If you recognize him, you are asked to call the Royal Thai Police.

Women to Strip for Hospice

Cancer patient Imelda Sharpe is rounding up friends to take it all off for a "tastefully bare" calender to raise funds for the Wigan and Leigh Hospice, in Wigan, England. The 59-year-old has been a day patient at the hospice for 18 months.

None of us have ever done anything like this before so it's quite nerve-racking. However, I've got it in my head that this is my way of saying thank you and giving something back to the hospice for everything it has given to me.

Sharpe was inspired after she saw the movie Calendar Girls.

150_future.jpgRussians Say Time Machine Possible in May

Russian mathematicians have claimed that time travel could be possible within the next three months. The European Organisation for Nuclear Research (CERN) will be conducting nuclear expeiments in the tunnels below Geneva in May. Irina Aref'eva and Igor Volovich of Moscow's Steklov Mathematical Institute say the energy they will produce my open up the possibility of visitors from the future. CERN member Dr Brian Cox calls the speculation "nothing more than a good science fiction story."

House for Sale; Body in Closet

A real estate agent was showing a house in Quorn, a village north of London to a prospective buyer when they found owner of the home dead in a closet. The house had been on the market for a week. The 40-year-old single man had inherited the home from his mother who died recently, and was found hanging by a belt. Authorities are treating the case as a suicide.

Man Beaten for Breach of Urinal Etiquette

47-year-old Edward Trevor Aldridge pled guilty to assault charges in Christchurch, New Zealand after an altercation in a mens restroom. He punched a man who used a urinal next to him.

Defence counsel Liz Bulger told the court: "This incident arose from a breach of what I understand to be urinal etiquette.

The judge sentenced Aldridge to 300 hours incarceration and 50 hours of community service.

Voters Told They Were Using Invisible Ink150invink.jpg

Twenty voters who went to the polls in Chicago Tuesday found they were given pens that didn't work. An election judge told them not to worry, that the pens had invisible ink, and would be read by a scanner. But no, the voters had been given the wrong pen, one that worked with a computer touch screen instead of the standard ink pens for paper ballots. The votes were not counted, but election officials worked to track down the twenty voters and ask them to return to the polls to vote again.

Beer was Buckled Up, Baby Was Not

Tina Williams was arrested in St. Augustine, Florida Sunday on drunk driving charges. She was found with a case of Busch beer in the front seat. The beer was wearing a seat belt. A baby girl in the back seat with her mother was not in an infant seat nor was she wearing a seat belt. Asked why the child was not buckled up, Williams reportedly told the officer, "I don't know."

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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
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Man Buys Two Metric Tons of LEGO Bricks; Sorts Them Via Machine Learning
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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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Here's How to Change Your Name on Facebook
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iStock

Whether you want to change your legal name, adopt a new nickname, or simply reinvent your online persona, it's helpful to know the process of resetting your name on Facebook. The social media site isn't a fan of fake accounts, and as a result changing your name is a little more complicated than updating your profile picture or relationship status. Luckily, Daily Dot laid out the steps.

Start by going to the blue bar at the top of the page in desktop view and clicking the down arrow to the far right. From here, go to Settings. This should take you to the General Account Settings page. Find your name as it appears on your profile and click the Edit link to the right of it. Now, you can input your preferred first and last name, and if you’d like, your middle name.

The steps are similar in Facebook mobile. To find Settings, tap the More option in the bottom right corner. Go to Account Settings, then General, then hit your name to change it.

Whatever you type should adhere to Facebook's guidelines, which prohibit symbols, numbers, unusual capitalization, and honorifics like Mr., Ms., and Dr. Before landing on a name, make sure you’re ready to commit to it: Facebook won’t let you update it again for 60 days. If you aren’t happy with these restrictions, adding a secondary name or a name pronunciation might better suit your needs. You can do this by going to the Details About You heading under the About page of your profile.

[h/t Daily Dot]

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