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The Weekend Links

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Your mom told you, your teacher told you, G.I. Joe told you — but you just wouldn't listen. Here are some humorous video reminders of things you should never do.
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From my friends over at UmpBump.com, a Rays vs Phils competition to correspond with the World Series. Except this has little to do with baseball. Instead,vote for your favorite Rays over Phils ... Philip Seymour Hoffman over Ray Romano, perhaps? Does Ray Charles trump Philip Rivers? Make your opinion known!
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The New Yorker gets hip to the jive by interviewing Randall Munroe of the web comic XKCD, and even participates in a comic battle.
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Now, Randall Monroe may draw simplistic cartoons, but there is an even easier way to create comics. I'm not sure if there's a way to link to the finished product, but if so send me yours for next week's links!
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From Andrea, they say you are what you eat ... but what if you eat what you are??
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If anyone out there is a fan of the ridiculousness that is CSI: Miami, you will enjoy this endless loop of Caruso one-liners.
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From Been-Seen.com, an old jumbo jet in Stockholm that's being turned into a jumbo hostel. Lots of good stuff over on Been-Seen—here's a look at Death Valley rocks that seem to be moving around on their own.

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A beautiful 3D book of the ABCs. Watch the video to see every page of this amazingly crafted tome.
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If you're looking to impress people with your coffee table and not just the books on top of it, the guys at StyleCrave found a pretty great one. (Though it looks like it's not for sale.)
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Atlanta has a restaurant called the Sun Dial on the top floor of a hotel skyscraper that rotates slowly over the course of your meal. Apparently the idea has caught on with houses as well.
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Just because: an Electron microscope image of a fly foot.
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Terribly amusing - carve your own virtual pumpkin (Thanks Jan!)
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A memory matching game - what's your fastest score?
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In this harsh economic climate, we may sometimes be reduced to bartering for our transactions. Regardless, doing so with drugs at a McDonald's is probably not a good idea.
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How familiar are you with classic candies? Take the quiz to find out!

Thanks for all the great links this week! Keep sending your submissions and internet arcana to FlossyLinks@gmail.com

[Last Weekend's Links]

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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
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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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Opening Ceremony
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These $425 Jeans Can Turn Into Jorts
May 19, 2017
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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:

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Opening Ceremony

To this:

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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]

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