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The Quick 10: 10 Really Large Creative Works

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I don't really have an anecdotal explanation for today's Quick 10. It's pretty self explanatory"¦ it's really large creative works. In fact, the largest creative works of their kind. That's all I have for you! Plus, I'm conserving my energy today for all of the Hawkeye-bashing I'm required to do tomorrow. Without further ado"¦

1. The longest musical performance. It began on September 5, 2001, and won't end for another 639 years. It's called, appropriately, As Slow As Possible. This work by John Cage is so slow that the first note of it wasn't actually heard until February 5, 2003. That's when the first chord was played"¦ it lasted until July 5, 2005. The most recent note was played on January 5, 2006, and will last until July 5, 2012. The specific number of 639 years was chosen because the work is played on an organ, and it's estimated that 639 years is about how long an organ will last.


2. If you've ever been to the Bellagio in Las Vegas, you've seen the largest glass sculpture "“ it's the Fiori di Como on the ceiling. It's 2,000 feet. It took more than 100 people to create, about 10,000 pounds of steel, and about 40,000 pounds of hand-blown glass. There are more than 2,000 pieces of individual glass.

3. The Yongle Dadian Encyclopedia is the world's largest encyclopedia. It was commissioned in 1403 by Chinese Ming Dynasty emperor Yongle. Texts of at least 8,000 ancient works were included. It was almost destroyed in 1557 when a fire ravaged the Forbidden City; after such a close call another copy was made. There were only three copies ever made, less than 400 volumes of those three copies still survive. No one knows what happened to the original, although many suspect it is hidden in the Yongling tombs.

4. The longest epic is the Epic of King Gesar.

According to legend, King Gesar ruled the Kingdom of Ling and the epic tells of his various battles and adventures. If all of the volumes were put together, it's estimated that it would be more than 120 volumes, more than 20 million words and more than a million verses.

meet5. The longest-running T.V. show is Meet the Press. It first aired on November 6, 1947. You can still see it every Sunday morning. The first guest ever was James Farley, who was the former Postmaster General and the former DNC Chair.
6. As our friend Andy Luttrell told us, The Cure for Insomnia is the longest movie ever, clocking in a 87 hours. It consists of the writer reading his poem of the same title, mixed with clips of porn and heavy metal. That would certainly cure any insomnia I had...

7. Speaking of poems, the longest poem (thus far) is the Mahābhārata. It's has more than 74,000 verses and about 1.8 million words. It talks about human goals and likely dates back about the eighth century, B.C.

cork8. The biggest cork mosaic. I didn't even realize this was an artistic category, but I suppose there's artistry in almost everything, if you want there to be. Just recently "“ September 4, to be exact, an Albanian artist made a 998 square foot mosaic out of 229,675 bottle corks.

9. In June, a painting nearly 663 feet long was created in China. The coolest part? It was a paint-by-number, making it the largest paint-by-number ever. More than 400 artists helped create the painting, and kids from the Dandong Youth and Children Palace painted it. The scene depicted the picturesque view of Yalu River banks.

toothpicks10. The same guy responsible for the cork mosaic also made the largest-ever toothpick mosaic. It's 86.11 square feet and used 1.5 million toothpicks. Even though he just set the cork mosaic record about a week ago, he's already figuring out what to do next.

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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]