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How Did You Know Hoang-Kim Vu, Lealon Winstead & Julie Hayes, and Bridget Driscoll?

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Due to technical difficulties the night the last clue was to be posted, this month's HDYK has 13 winners. Three of those 13 "“ chosen at random "“ have won $50 gift cards to the mental_floss store. The other ten winners will receive various mental_floss prizes, from t-shirts to books to smaller-denomination gift cards to Law School in a Box to the mental_floss board game. (Check your mailboxes next week.) Here are your grand prize winners:

1. Hoang-Kim Vu (Washington, DC)

2. Lealon Winstead & Julie Hayes (Tomball, TX)

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3. Bridget Driscoll (New York, NY)

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Congratulations to This Month's Additional Winners

Let's give a warm round of applause to Katherine Richie, Mark Hilton, Colin Campbell, Erin Lion, Rhonda & Veronica Buness, Zachary Nahlik, Micah Best, Peter Dapier, Jimmy Luth & Bobby Zertuche, and Kathryn Holt, Lara Holt, & Margaret Purdy

(We'll be posting photos of the additional winners soon.)

Please tune in April 21st for the next HDYK when we promise to have the technical difficulties solved! Now let's check out the winning answers...

Final Puzzle - Day 5

How hot is the surface of the star closest to Earth?
5726.85 degrees Celsius (We took other answers for this, as well... so long as you were close and didn't write "Freakin' hot!")

Day 1

1. Hot Blooded - Foreigner (The 13th letter of the alphabet is M. The answer is mauve.
2. Hot - Avril Lavigne (The correct answer is 3.)
3. Hot Stuff - Donna Summer (The 20th letter of the alphabet is T. The name of the movie is Brimstone and Treacle.

Day 2

1. Code word: Garvey (Marcus Garvey is mentioned in the article and Steve Garvey was one of baseball's greatest first baseman.)
2. Code word: Mann (Les Mann is mentioned in the article and Horace Mann is a 19th century American education reformer.)
3. Code word: Beethoven (Ludwig van Beethoven is mentioned in the article)
4. Code word: Douglas (Kirk Douglas is mentioned in the article and Douglas Fairbanks is a famous silent film actor.)
5. Code word: Israel (David K. Israel is mentioned in the article [whoever that is] and Israel is a small country.)

Photos 1, 2, 3 and 5 are alike. Photo 4 is different than the others.
1. Serfs harvesting grain
2. Surfing
3. Computer mouse, used to surf the web
5. Surf and turf

4. Just a card. The ace of hearts. That's it.

Day 3

1. Saturn
2. Neptune
3. Jupiter
4. Mars

Day 4

1. Code word: Swatch (SMART is an acronym from Swatch-Mercedes ART)
2. Code word: Anonymous (AA is an acronym for Alcholics Anonymous)
3. Code word: Compact (CLEVER is an acronym for Compact Low Emission Vehicle for Urban Transport Vehicle)

1. Birdie
2. Par
3. Bogey

Final answer: Sex and the City

Day 5

All the songs had the word HOT in common.
Surf + Ace = surface
Darren Star created Sex and the City
Holst didn't write a piece of music for the Earth

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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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Nick Briggs/Comic Relief
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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]

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