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The Quick 10: The 10 Richest People Ever

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You always hear about how rich Bill Gates is, how rich Oprah is, how rich J.K. Rowling is. But none of them even make the top 10 richest people of all time. Compiled by Forbes magazine, this a list of the wealthiest people ever (EVAR!). They ranked these bazillionaires (my term, not theirs) according to the total GDP of the nation they lived in and adjusted their net worths to account for inflation as of 2007.

rocky1. John D. Rockefeller, worth a staggering $318.3 billion. He could have funded nearly half of the bailout all on his own! He was America's first-ever billionaire (not even including inflation). He was generous with his money, though, and gave away an estimated $550 million to various charities and foundations, including the ones he founded. When he was much older, he was known for giving money away wherever he went - dimes to adults and nickels to children.

2. Andrew Carnegie's steel company earned him about $298.3 billion. Nothing to sneeze at. I recently visited his grave in Sleepy Hollow, N.Y., and was surprised at how modest it was for a billionaire. Watch for more on my trip to the home of the Headless Horseman in a few weeks!

3. Nicholas II of Russia. $253.5 billion, inherited from his dad, Alexander III, who was the previous Emperor of Russia.

4. William Henry Vanderbilt, $231.6 billion, mostly thanks to the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy railroads. He inherited $100 million from his dad, but he definitely had financial chops of his own - by the time he died nine years after the inheritance, he had nearly doubled the fortune ($194 million).

5. Osman Ali Khan, Asaf Jah VII was worth $210.8 billion. He was the last ruler of Hyderabad, which was invaded and annexed by India in 1948. In 1937, Time magazine named Osman Ali the richest man in the world.

6. Andrew Mellon, $188.8 billion. Dude was destined to accumulate wealth: by 17, he had already started his own lumber company. At 17, I was working part-time as a clerk at a drug store and wearing a really sweet mauve smock (that's right: mauve). By 1889, Mellon had expanded to shipbuilding, construction, steel and oil.

7. Henry Ford, $188.1 billion, a fortune was amassed thanks to Ford Motor Company, of course.

8. Marcus Licinius Crassus, $169.8 billion. Never heard of him? That's because he lived more than 2000 years ago. He was a Roman general and politician and the man who suppressed Spartacus' slave uprising. He acquired his wealth through inheritance, slave ownership, land ownership and various mining prospects.

9. Basil II of the Byzantine Empire, $169.4 billion. He came by his by merely being his father's son. His father was Emperor Romanos II. Basil never married or had children (at least, none that are documented), so when he died, his wealth was passed on to successor Constantine VIII and the goverment. He used his financial prowess for the imperial treasury as well - at the time of his death, he had accumulated about 200,000 pounds of gold for it.

10. Cornelius Vanderbilt, $167.4 billion, courtesy of the New York and Harlem Railroad and the shipping industry.

Other notables to make the list include:
#15, Elizabeth I - $142.9 billion.
#17, Sam Walton - $128 billion.
#20, Bill Gates - $101 billion.
#22, Cleopatra "“ $95.8 billion.
#39, Warren Buffett "“ $62 billion.

#45, J. Paul Getty - $50.1 billion.
#52, Howard Hughes "“ $43.4 billion.
#83, Queen Elizabeth II "“ $43.4 billion.
#116, John Hancock, $19.3 billion.
#181, Ben Franklin, $10.3 billion.
#190, Rupert Murdoch, $9 billion.

And Oprah? Oprah is only worth about $2.7 billion. But she's only 54 "“ she's still got time to crack the top 200. J.K. Rowling is said to have $1.1 billion at the young age of 43. With three more Harry Potter movies and the theme park yet to open, I predict that she's definitely in the top 200 by the time she is 50, if not sooner.

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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
Man Buys Two Metric Tons of LEGO Bricks; Sorts Them Via Machine Learning
May 21, 2017
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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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Nick Briggs/Comic Relief
What Happened to Jamie and Aurelia From Love Actually?
May 26, 2017
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Nick Briggs/Comic Relief

Fans of the romantic-comedy Love Actually recently got a bonus reunion in the form of Red Nose Day Actually, a short charity special that gave audiences a peek at where their favorite characters ended up almost 15 years later.

One of the most improbable pairings from the original film was between Jamie (Colin Firth) and Aurelia (Lúcia Moniz), who fell in love despite almost no shared vocabulary. Jamie is English, and Aurelia is Portuguese, and they know just enough of each other’s native tongues for Jamie to propose and Aurelia to accept.

A decade and a half on, they have both improved their knowledge of each other’s languages—if not perfectly, in Jamie’s case. But apparently, their love is much stronger than his grasp on Portuguese grammar, because they’ve got three bilingual kids and another on the way. (And still enjoy having important romantic moments in the car.)

In 2015, Love Actually script editor Emma Freud revealed via Twitter what happened between Karen and Harry (Emma Thompson and Alan Rickman, who passed away last year). Most of the other couples get happy endings in the short—even if Hugh Grant's character hasn't gotten any better at dancing.

[h/t TV Guide]