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10 Questions from Liberty University Exams

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We're excited to have author, journalist, and Brown University senior (he's still a senior!) Kevin Roose blogging with us this week. His new book, The Unlikely Disciple: A Sinner's Semester at America's Holiest University is about the semester he spent at Liberty University. We'll let Kevin take it from here:


Picture 32.pngLiberty, as you probably know by now, isn't a middle-of-the-road Christian college. As one of my professors, Dr. Dekker said, only a dozen schools still teach young-earth creationism, and the number of schools with Evangelism 101 classes can't be a whole lot higher. As my finals approached, my classes started o get unbearably hard. In Theology, we had to memorize the details of tiny historical movements like the Montanists and the Novationists. It wasn't easy, even for the seasoned Christian kids in the class. In Old Testament, we learned the structure of the Bible's poetry, categorizing Psalms and Proverbs into a half-dozen rhetorical modes and analyting them for synonymous paralelism and synthetic paralelism. Often, I struggled to tread water in my classes.

In any case, since I've been writing about my semester at Liberty all week, I thought I'd turn the tables today and give you, mental_floss readers, a quiz. I put together a short test based on the easier questions I had to answer in my Liberty classes, which included Old Testament, New Testament, Theology, Evangelism 101, and History of Life (young-earth creationism). I hope you have fun testing your Bible knowledge. And remember, these are questions like the ones on actual Liberty exams, so try to answer as a Liberty student would. Good luck!

1.  True or False: Absolute truth depends on each person's interpretation.

2.  Which of the following is NOT true about a Christian worldview?

a) It evolves with a changing society.

b) It is based on God's unchanging nature.

c) It allows us to discern what is true and right and good and discard the rest.

d) It includes "gray areas," issues on which Christians may reasonably disagree.

3. True or False: Evolution can be tested in a laboratory.

4. True or False: Microevolution, or small-scale change within a "kind," is observable in nature.

5. According to Acts 20:21, which two things are necessary for salvation?

a. Repentance and faith

b. Sorrow and guilt

c. Joy and release

d. Bible study and baptism

6. True or False: Romans 10:9-10 teaches that we have to believe in the Resurrection of Christ to be saved.

7. Which of the following are results of salvation?

A.  Peace with God.

B.  The beginning of true spiritual development.

C.  The withholding of God's just wrath upon us.

D.  All of the above.

8. True or False: The "Romans Road" technique is the only acceptable method of personal evangelism.

9. Who betrayed Samson to the Philistines?

A. Gideon

B. Samuel

C. Delilah

D. Othniel

10. Nebuchadnezzar was the king of which city?

A. Canaan

B. Jericho

C. Jerusalem

D. Babylon


1) False, 2) A. It evolves with a changing society, 3) False, 4) True, 5) A. Repentance and faith, 6) True, 7) D. All of the above., 8) False, 9) C. Delilah, 10) D. Babylon.

Kevin Roose's excellent book The Unlikely Disciple: A Sinner's Semester at America's Holiest University goes on sale nationally next week, but that shouldn't stop you from pre-ordering it today! If you missed Kevin's post from yesterday (on 5 Things I Learned By Being the World's Worst Evangelist), be sure to check that out as well.

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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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Opening Ceremony
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:


Opening Ceremony

To this:


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]