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Photos: Our Readers' Tattoos

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Stacy Conradt asked for photos of your tattoos, and boy did you deliver! Andréa Fernandes sorted through your submissions and has assembled this gallery. To be friendly to those of you with slow Internet connections (like her), she paginated the post so all the photos aren't on one page. Which one's your favorite?

Spencer W: "I wanted this tattoo the moment I saw a news snippet about moustache tattoos being all the rage in Rhode Island... Although it's certainly not original (or probably not that outrageous), it's more than paid for itself in laughs."

Avery W: A Calvin in homage to Dad, who also has a Calvin; a phoenix to symbolize "rebirth" after a period of extreme grief and loss; and a quote from A Midsummer Night's Dream that relates to Avery's having "wandered everywhere."

Mark N: "The summer camp I work at surrounds... Lake Temalo. Being some of the people that help run the camp, my friend and I were labeled Temalo Pirates. Thus the tattoo, paying respect to the camp we grew up and at which we work."

Emily: "I'm a chef, and the laurel means victory and triumph."

Whitney L: "A small tribute to the artist Ralph Steadman."

invisible-mandy.jpgMandy Z: I have the words KNIT and PURL tattooed on my knuckles, because I am a hardcore knitter and I want the world to know it.

I also love toys and comic books, and I wear these loves on my sleeve -- quite literally. I have the most fabulous, and lovingly-detailed tattoo on my arm of Uncle Gabby and Mr. Crow -- from Tony Millionaire's Sock Monkey comic.

And none of this wonderful ink would be possible if not for the outstanding talent of Tyler, from Skeleton Crew Tattoo, in Columbus, IN.

Tami M: "I designed this cross and chose to put it on my back to show that my 'faith was behind me' - guiding and pushing me."

Marc L: "It is a pixelated clover... My 5 month old daughter is named Clover, and it is a throwback to old video games..."

Walter G: "It is a 'Cheeseburger In Paradise'!!!!! A tribute to Jimmy Buffett... I also have a parrot on my leg. On my head would have hurt."

Kat: "This is my phoenix tattoo. I got it to represent the fact that I got through an abusive relationship, survived and was 'reborn' (so to speak)."

Richard Y: "...a Sun Stone, to symbolize the Mexican side of my heritage, and it is located on my right thigh."

Jenna: "My last name is Cotton and I figured that it would be cool to get the cotton logo... A few months after I got it my brother got one too. I like to think that we're the only two people on the planet that have a cotton logo tattooed on us."

Emily B: "It's a treble/bass clef put together to form a heart, with a staff of music stemming from it. There are also thirteen stars going along with the staff of music."

Jen: "It's a butterfly, which I hope is obvious, because I designed it myself!"

stella.jpgStella: "For at least 50 years, my grandfather would draw these on every kid who came through his house- grandchildren (all 26 of us,) great-grandchildren, great-great-grandchildren, random little kids who came around, anybody really. When I decided at age 22 that I needed a tattoo, I could only think of one thing that I would want on my body for the rest of my life. Grandpa usually drew them on stomachs or arms, but I got mine on my lower back because it seemed classier and less painful. This was before the term 'tramp stamp' became popular. I even got Grandpa to draw the candy box on the piece of paper I took to the the tattoo place to get it just like he drew it. The tattoo has been a big hit with the family, though nobody else has gotten one."

Haily W: "The tattoo is a copy of a photography of my grandmother when she was 18... For the 8 last years she has suffered from a severe depression, so the tattoo helps me remember her from before her illness."

Joel: "This is a picture of the tattoo I had done of my dog Magic. She is an American Staffordshire."

Tom B: "Mr. Clemens is on my arm, because he's our country's greatest writer, and an inspiration to me. And also because he looks good with a stogie."

Nikki J: "I had been fluctuating between a lotus and a spider mum, so Paul [Smith at Gully Cat Tattoo in Austin, TX] created a hybrid of the two for me. It's actually a cover up. The rock is hiding a really old chinese symbol for the year of the snake."

Sarah P: "Here's my tattoo, that my mom still doesn't know about thanks to my trusty watch! It's pretty self-explanatory."

Felipe T: "I got this big heart with some other hearts and a anchor back in 2006. I was moving from my hometown and I needed to put some stable symbol in me. The anchor was chosen and I love this. I called it something like 'it was so easy to wear my heart on my sleeve'."

Jeff: "Hope you like my tribal Hammerhead Shark!"

Colin: "It's an abstract of a red lotus which stands for compassion and love. After I wronged one of my friends I decided to get this to be a constant reminder to be a better person and that my friends deserve the best of me."

Elizabeth: "When I read V for Vendetta it really struck a chord with me-- everything about the book spoke to me, and it is now one of my all time favorite books. A month or so before the movie came out, I decided to get the "V" anarchy-like symbol from the book permanently etched on my skin... Right before we got down to business, a reporter from our local public radio station, KWMU came in... He asked if e could interview me for the story as well, and I agreed. The story ended up getting picked up by NPR's Morning Edition."

Cora: "This is my pride and joy, my Harry-Potter tattoo. I drew it myself, and had it inked at Sparky's in Newark, Ohio. It isn't my only HP-tattoo, I also have the Hollows symbol behind my left ear!"

Jim: "In case it's not obvious "“ the design is a stylized infinity symbol that's made out of two interlocked "J"s - I'm Jim, and my girlfriend's Jamie. Awwww."

Lori C: "My husband also has the same one on his back. We both have an Irish heritage and had wanted to get tattoos with Irish knotwork. The claddagh - which is best known as an Irish symbol for friendship, love, and loyalty - was a tattoo we could both agree on and one that very much summarized our relationship."

Jon: (1) "An ambigram with the German word for "now", 'jetzt', on the middle of my chest. I got it before I left for Germany to get my MA." (2) "A hamsa with swirly lines."

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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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© Nintendo
Nintendo Will Release an $80 Mini SNES in September
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© Nintendo

Retro gamers rejoice: Nintendo just announced that it will be launching a revamped version of its beloved Super Nintendo Classic console, which will allow kids and grown-ups alike to play classic 16-bit games in high-definition.

The new SNES Classic Edition, a miniature version of the original console, comes with an HDMI cable to make it compatible with modern televisions. It also comes pre-loaded with a roster of 21 games, including Super Mario Kart, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, Donkey Kong Country, and Star Fox 2, an unreleased sequel to the 1993 original.

“While many people from around the world consider the Super NES to be one of the greatest video game systems ever made, many of our younger fans never had a chance to play it,” Doug Bowser, Nintendo's senior vice president of sales and marketing, said in a statement. “With the Super NES Classic Edition, new fans will be introduced to some of the best Nintendo games of all time, while longtime fans can relive some of their favorite retro classics with family and friends.”

The SNES Classic Edition will go on sale on September 29 and retail for $79.99. Nintendo reportedly only plans to manufacture the console “until the end of calendar year 2017,” which means that the competition to get your hands on one will likely be stiff, as anyone who tried to purchase an NES Classic last year will well remember.

In November 2016, Nintendo released a miniature version of its original NES system, which sold out pretty much instantly. After selling 2.3 million units, Nintendo discontinued the NES Classic in April. In a statement to Polygon, the company has pledged to “produce significantly more units of Super NES Classic Edition than we did of NES Classic Edition.”

Nintendo has not yet released information about where gamers will be able to buy the new console, but you may want to start planning to get in line soon.