Original image

6 Tournament Brackets Your Office Needs to Fill Out

Original image

Joining the office pool for the NCAA tournament is definitely exciting for sports enthusiasts. But what if you love brackets, but don't really dig basketball? Well, we've got the solution right here. Read on as we cover 6 tournaments that come fully loaded with all of the gambling, but none of the sport.

1. Nerd Icons


Nerds on Sports is having an tournament to decide who is the greatest nerd icon of all. They started out with 32 contenders. The voting is now down to the Elite Eight.

2. Fug Madness


Celebrity blog Go Fug Yourself is winnowing down 64 celebrities in their Fug Madness tournament. They are divided into the Cher, Madonna, Bjork, and Charro regions. The Sweet Sixteen round is starting, with matchups between Fergie and Courtney Peldon, Jennifer Lopez and Beyonce, Paris Hilton and Brittany Murphy, and Chloe Sevigny and Phoebe Price today. The championship matchup will be on April 7th.

3. Romance Novels


Smart Bitches Who Love Trashy Books, in collaboration with other book bloggers, is currently staging a 64-book tournament to see which 2007 romance novel beats all the others. They started out with eight books in each of eight genres. There are prizes for the author of the champion book and for the reader who most accurately predicts the final bracket. Round three, the Sweet Sixteen, starts today. You can keep up with tournament news here.

4. Lost Madness


The Washington Post had their own March Madness tournament this year to decide who is the winning character on the TV show Lost. A full 64 characters started out on March 7th, and the winner was announced Tuesday. Click on "schedule" at the site to see the full bracket.

5. Name of the Year


Name of the Year is an annual tournament of real people with unbelievable names. 64 names began the tournament in February. You can see the opening bracket here. The competition is in the Sweet Sixteen round now. Who will advance to the Elite Eight -Reprobatus Bibbs? Destiny Frankenstein? Steeve Ho You Fat? Alpacino Beauchamp? Warning: some names are hilariously rude.

6. The Morning News Tournament of Books


The Morning News Tournament of Books is an annual event sponsored by Powells Books. The tournament began with 16 works of literary fiction published in 2007. Download the brackets and see previous matchups in the right sidebar at the site. The semifinal round is going on now. Unlike the other tournaments featured here, this one is decided by a panel of judges who individually decide various matchups.

Original image
iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
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
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:


Opening Ceremony

To this:


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]