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The Quick 10: 10 of the Most-Covered Songs Ever

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I'm one of those music snobs that very rarely likes a cover song more than I like the original, especially when it comes to the Beatles. So when I checked out this list, I was a bit pained to see that half of the 10 most-covered songs are Beatles songs (or songs by ex-Beatles). This isn't an exhaustive list, by the way "“ just some of the most-covered songs.

1. Yesterday, the Beatles. It has been covered more than 3,000 times, including by Joan Baez, Liberace, Sinatra, Elvis, Daffy Duck, En Vogue and Boyz II Men.

eleanor2. Eleanor Rigby, The Beatles. A somewhat surprising choice, I think, but it's been covered 131 times by artists such as Ray Charles, Tony Bennett, Aretha, Kansas and Swedish industrial metal band Pain.

3. Cry Me a River, Julie London. This jazzy number from 1955 has been covered by a huge range of people "“ Barbra Streisand, Joe Cocker, Aerosmith, Rick Astley, Bjork, Merle Haggard, and Olivia Newton John (the new Justin Timberlake Cry My a River is not a cover).

4. And I Love Her, the Beatles. Covered by Bob Marley, Smokey Robinson, Sarah Vaughan, Barry Manilow and Vince Gill, among numerous others. I think this is one of the most gorgeous Beatles songs there is, so while I can't really blame people for trying, I doubt anyone can top the original.

5. (I Can't Get No) Satisfaction, The Rolling Stones. I bet most of us remember Britney's rendition at the 2000 MTV video music awards "“ during the song, she ripped off her black suit, stripper-style. Then, in the nude-colored outfit underneath, she transitioned into Oops! I Did it Again. But it's also been covered by Jimi Hendrix, Cat Power and Vanilla Ice.

6. Imagine, John Lennon. Joan Baez's cover of this is no surprise, nor is Ray Charles or Elton Johns. Some more unconventional versions have been done by Avril Lavigne, Dolly Parton and Queen.

7. Summertime, Abbie Mitchell. She's the one who originally sang it, anyway, in the 1935 opera Porgy and Bess. The Janis Joplin cover is probably the most well-known, but Sonny and Cher did a version as well, and so did REM.

8. Blackbird, The Beatles. Another one of the prettiest Beatles songs, in my opinion, and another one of the most-covered. I'd love to hear the Dave Grohl version, myself, but there's also Phish, Jesse McCartney (hmm), Bobby McFerrin, Eddie Vedder (I bet that one is really good) and Elliott Smith.

garland9. Over the Rainbow, Judy Garland. This one makes me wonder if there is a correllation between the most-covered songs ever and the songs most-frequently performed on American Idol auditions. Non-Idol cover versions include Willie Nelson, Patti LaBelle, Eva Cassidy, Eric Clapton, Chet Atkins, Tori Amos and Israel Kamakawiwo'ole. That last version is the Hawaiian rendition that's mixed with What a Wonderful World that has gotten a lot of play in the last few years.
10. The Look of Love, Dusty Springfield. Written by Burt Bacharach and originally sung by Dusty for the first Casino Royale soundtrack in 1967, it's been covered a lot. Just a few include The Zombies, Diana Ross, Gladys Knight, Nina Simone, Marvin Gaye, Shirley Bassey and Diana Krall.

So, let's talk covers in the comments. Do you have a cover version of a song that you like better than the original? Do you have one you absolutely loathe? A song that should never, ever be covered again?
Here are mine: I think I like the Lily Allen version of Womanizer better than the Britney Spears version (which I acutally like quite a bit, even though I'm not a Brit-Brit fan). And for detesting most Beatles covers, I really like Pearl Jam's You've Got to Hide Your Love Away. I really hate both the Elton John and William Shatner covers of Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds. Ridiculous.

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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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