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The Quick 10: 10 Interesting Runestones

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To me, runestones sound like something you find in the World of Warcraft or Harry Potter or something. Indiana Jones, maybe. But that shows how little I know about history, because runestones are real artifacts- stones with runic inscriptions. Forgive me if you guys already know this, but I didn't, so here's the definition of "runic": "A set of related alphabets using letters known as runes to write various Germanic languages prior to the adoption of the Latin alphabet and for specialized purposes thereafter."

Now that we've got all of the explanations out of the way, here are ten of the world's most interesting runestones.

10 Interesting Runestones

1. Björketorp Runestone. This runestone in Blekinge, Sweden, is as old as 500 A.D. and is supposedly cursed. Here's what the runes say:
A. Haidz runo runu, falh'k hedra ginnarunaz. Argiu hermalausz, ... weladauþe, saz þat brytz. (I, master of the runes, conceal here runes of power. Incessantly plagued by maleficence, doomed to insidious death is he who breaks this monument.
B. Uþarba spa. (I prophesy destruction)

Supposedly a man tried to remove the stone once to improve his farmland. With the help of some wood, he set the stone on fire to hopefully heat it up and crack it with water. Just as he lit the fire, a wind sprouted up from nowhere and turned the flames on him. He died; the stone was fine.

2. The Jelling Stones. These are two huge stones found in Denmark and dates back to the 10 century(ish). The oldest one was erected by King Gorm the Old in memory of his wife; the other one was commissioned by King Gorm's son, Harald Bluetooth, to honor his parents, to celebrate his triumph over Denmark and Norway, and to commemorate how he converted the Danes to Christianity. I know you're wondering, and yes, the Bluetooth technology is named after Harald Bluetooth. The Bluetooth logo is actually the Nordic runes for H and B.

3. The Stentoften Runestone. This one is also from Blekinge, Sweden, and contains another curse. When it was found in 1823, it was facedown in the ground with five sharp stones forming a pentagram around it. It was moved to a church in 1864. The runes say this, roughly, which sounds a lot like the first curse: "Dwellers (and) guests Haþuwulfar gave ful year, Hariwulfar ... ... I, master of the runes conceal here nine bucks, nine stallions, Haþuwulfar gave fruitful year, Hariwulfar ... ... I, master of the runes conceal here runes of power. Incessantly (plagued by) maleficence, (doomed to) insidious death (is) he who this breaks." However, since they are from the same region and roughly the same time period, maybe it was a common inscription.

4. England Runestones. These are kind of like a scavenger hunt all over Sweden. They are a group of 30 runestones that tell stories of Viking Age journeys to England. One of the stones, for example, says, "Grjótgarðr (and) Einriði, the sons, made (the stone) in memory of (their) able father. Guðvér was in the west; divided payment in England; manfully attacked townships in Saxony."

5. Piraeus Lion Why not a runestone shaped like a lion? It used to be a famous landmark in Piraeus and stood there since the first century. The port there was actually called Porto Leone by the Italians because of this famous statue (although it may have been a fountain). Sometime in the 11th century, it is thought that Scandinavian mercenaries "defaced" it by adding the runes. The runes have faded away quite a bit, so some guesswork has been done to try to decipher the runes. One suggested translation is this: "They cut him down in the midst of his forces. But in the harbor the men cut runes by the sea in memory of Horsi, a good warrior. The Swedes set this on the lion. He went his way with good counsel, gold he won in his travels. The warriors cut runes, hewed them in an ornamental scroll. Askell and others and Porleifr had them well cut, they who lived in Roslagen cut these runes. Ulfr colored them in memory of Horsi. He won gold in his travels."

6. Leif Eriksson runestone. All runestones found in the U.S. have had their authenticity questioned; this one is no different. In 1926, the owner of Noman's Island (a play on "No Man's"; it's about three miles from Martha's Vineyard) spotted a black rock by the water's edge with weird lettering on it. The stone was photographed in 1927 and the owner and the photographer somehow managed to decipher "Leif Eriksson, 1001". Even then, professors had serious doubts about the stone "“ for instance, Roman numerals were used for numbers, but Roman numerals weren't used for dating in Scandinavia until long after Leif Eriksson's time. Supposedly the stone is still on the island somewhere, but the island is extremely dangerous to visit.

7. The Lingsberg Runestones.

These are particularly pretty, I think. They are 11th century and were made by the same family "“ at least, two of them were. There's a little fragment of one that has been difficult to research. The first two, though, honor family members. The first one says, "Danr and Húskarl and Sveinn and Holmfríðr, the mother and sons, had this stone erected in memory of Halfdan, the father of Danr and his brothers; and Holmfríðr in memory of her husbandman."
The second says, "And Danr and Húskarl and Sveinn had the stone erected in memory of Ulfríkr, their father's father. He had taken two payments in England. May God and God's mother help the souls of the father and son."

8. The Heavener Runestone. Found in Heavener, Oklahoma, this stone is so popular that a state park has been erected around it. Locals say the inscription comes from Norsemen, but Scandinavian runologists say there's no way and say it was made as recently as the 19th or 20th century. One other interpretation is that the inscription is a cryptogram that marks the grave of French explorer René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle.

9. Serkland runestones. These are interesting because each of these stones mention voyages to Serkland, which is the Old Norse name for Muslim areas. They are Varangian Runestones, which talk about all of the travels undertaken by the Vikings. Those guys really got around "“ Varangian Runestones make reference to Greece, Italy, England and locations scattered along the Baltic Sea.

10. The Eggja stone There are only 33 surviving Runestones in all of Norway, so you can imagine how excited historians were when this one was ploughed up on a farm in 1917. It's dated to 650-700 A.D. and served as a grave marker. Only a few of the runes have been translated, but due to the metrical form it's written it, scholars think the words are a protection for the grave.

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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
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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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]