CLOSE
Original image

The Weekend Links

Original image

Excellent article of lessons for this economy ... from a hobbit. What would Bilbo Do? (Thanks Merinda!)
*
Stephen Fry linked to this on his Twitter (and yes, Stephen Fry has a Twitter, and yes he's hilarious ... of course): it's called This is Why You're Fat, and it's filled with positively wonderfully disgusting pictures of food. Speaking of Twitter, all your Flossy bloggers are now all on Twitter, including me, as FlossyAlli! I'll try to post links and oddities throughout the week.
*
Flossy friend Larry sends in a link about words for sale. A website is selling off 1000 words on the internet that will belong to you for 10 years. Get 'em while they're hot! The website design is cool enough to check out regardless.
*
From Andi, 15 remarkable cemeteries and tombs to visit ... before you die.
*
10 Famous Paintings Recreated in Vegetables. (Thanks Jan!)

*
lemon-bus.jpgdragon-pepper.jpgcabbage-duck.jpg
... And even more food art! (Concurrently in the Annals of Too Much Time)

*
Wonder how Lincoln, Darwin and Obama all relate? Check out this brief, intriguing article by my friend Ted over at the Washington City Paper.
*
Kolja wins the award of Most Awesome Link of 2009. I know it's only February, but I'm calling it. These are the best My Little Ponies you've ever seen. Even the scary ones are cute!

*
One might arrrrrrgue that all pirates arrrrrrre great, but here are 8 popular pirates who were actually kind of losers. Arrrrrr (one for the road).
*
From my friend Anderson: Recession stubble? Mustaches for charity? Beards are back, and facial hair is a full-grown trend.
*
According to some person who has seemingly tracked ever meme and viral incident of the past few years, here are 99 Things You Should Have Experienced On The Internet. Save this link for a rainy day. How many have you Flossers seen? Just scanning through I'd say I'm only at 50%, tops, and you guys know how much time I spend online ...
*
lenticular-clouds.jpg 7 (More!) Phenomenal Wonders of the Natural World.

*
Who needs a Top Hat when you have a Top Cat?
*
In the land of turtles!
*
The site F My Life takes awful everyday stories about as long as tweets for your perusal. I don't know if they're all real, but some really made me laugh.
*
Jorge Reyes (aka Hugo on Lost) has a blog that's pretty hilarious. Although I'm pretty proud of my own Ben pic/caption this week.
*
yarnskeleton.jpg There is something so oddly snuggly about this knitted skeleton ...

*
The Geek Revolution continues: 10 Geekiest Graffiti

***
Thanks as always to those who send in links, and don't stop! Email all links, pictures and blogs to FlossyLinks@gmail.com. Have a great weekend!

[Last Weekend's Links]

Original image
iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
technology
arrow
Man Buys Two Metric Tons of LEGO Bricks; Sorts Them Via Machine Learning
May 21, 2017
Original image
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!

Original image
quiz
arrow
Name the Author Based on the Character
May 23, 2017
Original image
SECTIONS
BIG QUESTIONS
BIG QUESTIONS
WEATHER WATCH
BE THE CHANGE
JOB SECRETS
QUIZZES
WORLD WAR 1
SMART SHOPPING
STONES, BONES, & WRECKS
#TBT
THE PRESIDENTS
WORDS
RETROBITUARIES