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The Weird Week in Review

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Perry Mason Not a Lawyer

A man named Perry Mason was arrested in Houston Tuesday. The offense? Practicing law without a license. The 43-year-old man was charged with barratry, which is a third-degree felony. No one named Perry Mason is licensed to practice law in Texas, according to bar records. The TV character Perry Mason was an excellent lawyer, winning almost all his cases when the show aired from 1957 to 1965.

Laundry Retrieved from Retriever

When Bailey the retriever went to the veterinary clinic in Corfe Mullen, Dorset, England, the doctor thought he had a tumor. What veterinarian Keith Moore found inside the dog was five golf gloves, ten socks, one stocking, and part of a towel! Moore believes Bailey must have been eating laundry for years to accumulate such a mass. The dog has fully recovered from surgery and acts like a puppy again.

Man Bites Python

Ben Nyaumbe of the Malindi area of Kenya was working on a farm when he was attacked by a python. The huge snake wrapped around Nyaumbe and dragged him up a tree! During the struggle that lasted for several hours, Nyaumbe bit the python on the tail. When the snake relaxed its grip for a moment, he was able to reach his cell phone and call for help. Rescuers helped to free Nyaumbe and battled the python into three bags, from which it later escaped. Nyaumbe suffered bruises and a cut lip.

Fir Tree Removed from Patient's Lung

150fir.jpg28-year-old Artyom Sidorkin of Izhevsk, Russia complained of chest pains and was coughing blood. Doctors suspected cancer, and took a biopsy. Surgeon Vladimir Kamashev was astonished to find green needles in the tissue! A five centimeter fir seedling was removed from Sidorkin's lung at the Udmurtian Cancer Center. Doctors believe that Sidorkin inhaled a fir seed or bud which grew in his tissue, since a branch that size could not have been inhaled. Botanists are skeptical, because a plant needs light to begin growing. If you wish, you can see a very graphic video of the procedure.

Speeding While Engaged in Sex

A 28-year-old man was pulled over on a highway in Norway when police observed the car speeding and swerving. The driver was distracted because he was having sex with his girlfriend!

"[The vehicle] was veering from one side to the other because the woman was sitting on the man's lap while he was driving and doing the act, shall we say," he added.

"He couldn't see much because her back was in the way."

The unnamed driver will face a fine of several thousand kroner and a driving ban for reckless driving.

Passenger Lands Plane After Pilot Dies

150dougwhite.jpgDoug White of Archibald, Louisiana and his family boarded a flight from Florida to Mississippi last Sunday after a funeral. Pilot Joe Cabuk had the Super King Air two-engine turboprop at 5,000 feet and climbing when he collapsed and died. White, who was licensed to fly single engine planes, had to take the controls. The only thing he knew how to do in a Super King was to use the radio, which he did. Air-traffic controllers in Miami and Fort Myers guided him in, with help from Kari Sorenson, a Super King pilot in Danbury, Connecticut who was consulted by cell phone. White landed the plane at Fort Myers' Southwest Florida International Airport. Audio tape of the emergency landing is available.

Snakes On A Plane

A Qantas flight from Alice Springs to Melbourne had to be diverted when four baby pythons escaped from their shipping container. The 6-inch Stimson's pythons were not found, but passengers were transferred to another plane. Airline officials don't know how they escaped, but ascertained that they were not eaten by the other snakes by weighing the remaining pythons.

"They're not endangered so a decision was made to fumigate...if these snakes turn up they will be very much dead snakes," David Epstein of Qantas said.

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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
Man Buys Two Metric Tons of LEGO Bricks; Sorts Them Via Machine Learning
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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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Here's How to Change Your Name on Facebook
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Whether you want to change your legal name, adopt a new nickname, or simply reinvent your online persona, it's helpful to know the process of resetting your name on Facebook. The social media site isn't a fan of fake accounts, and as a result changing your name is a little more complicated than updating your profile picture or relationship status. Luckily, Daily Dot laid out the steps.

Start by going to the blue bar at the top of the page in desktop view and clicking the down arrow to the far right. From here, go to Settings. This should take you to the General Account Settings page. Find your name as it appears on your profile and click the Edit link to the right of it. Now, you can input your preferred first and last name, and if you’d like, your middle name.

The steps are similar in Facebook mobile. To find Settings, tap the More option in the bottom right corner. Go to Account Settings, then General, then hit your name to change it.

Whatever you type should adhere to Facebook's guidelines, which prohibit symbols, numbers, unusual capitalization, and honorifics like Mr., Ms., and Dr. Before landing on a name, make sure you’re ready to commit to it: Facebook won’t let you update it again for 60 days. If you aren’t happy with these restrictions, adding a secondary name or a name pronunciation might better suit your needs. You can do this by going to the Details About You heading under the About page of your profile.

[h/t Daily Dot]