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Weird Wedding Laws Still on the Books

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A few of us are off to weddings this weekend. To get in the mood, we decided to re-run Jenn Thompson's piece on weird wedding laws from last year.

We traveled state to state in search of the most curious courtship regulations that are still on the books. As for the question of whether or not these laws of love should actually be enforced—well, we leave that up to you and your better half to decide.


"¢ In South Carolina, if a man over 16 proposes marriage to an unwed woman without actually intending to marry her, he's guilty of a misdemeanor under the Offenses Against Morality and Decency. Don't get too jazzed, though, ladies. You can't bring the sleaze ball up on charges unless you can get someone to corroborate your story that he proposed as a means of seduction. Not to mention, the whole thing is null and void if the accused man can prove that at the time of the alleged seduction the woman in question was behaving "lewd and unchaste." (That's legalese we all can understand.)

"¢ In North Carolina, it's against the law to "pretend" to be married when registering for a hotel room. So next time the unknowing clerk hands you and your bedtime buddy the room keys and says, "Enjoy your stay, Mr. and Mrs. Guest," you may want to swallow the awkwardness and correct him, or risk suffering the consequence of a Class 2 misdemeanor. On the other hand, if the couple checking into the honeymoon suite is legitimately hitched but can't "close the deal" due to one or both parties being sexually impotent, the marriage can be declared null and void. One has to wonder, though: should the advent of Levitra and Viagra make this law null and void?

"¢ In Montana, a couple can marry even if neither of them is present. This miracle marriage is done by way of a "double proxy" ceremony. Particularly popular with soldiers deployed overseas who wish to get married without coming home on leave, this type of marriage is arranged through a lawyer, who then hires two proxies (anyone with a free afternoon and a desire for some extra cash) to come sit before the judge, recite the vows and sign the marriage license on behalf of the absent bride and groom. Also potentially an option for the ultra-lazy couple that can't even be bothered to elope and would prefer to have someone else do the "I do-ing" for them while they relax in front of the TiVo. Actually, that doesn't sound so bad at all.

wedding-laws.jpg"¢ For several embarrassing months in late 2007 and early 2008, Arkansas state law mistakenly allowed persons of any age, even twee toddlers, to marry as long as they had parental consent. The gaff was made when a minimum age requirement was accidentally left out of an amended marriage law aimed at establishing eighteen as the legal age of non-parental consented marriage. The law was finally corrected in April of 2008, meaning Suri Cruise and Shiloh Jolie-Pitt are once again off the market until further notice.


"¢ There is some serious girl power going on down in Alabama, where women are entitled to keep any and all possessions that they acquired prior to the marriage in the event of a divorce, but no such allowance is made for the man. So while angry exes might go 45 rounds arguing over who gets to keep his original vinyl record collection, the five rooms full of Pottery Barn furniture she brought into the marriage will be off the table. He might get to keep the big screen in the end, but she'll dare him to try and enjoy watching the big game without a plush Pearce Sectional Sofa in Oatmeal ultra-suede cushioning his backside. Mwah ha ha ha!

"¢ In New Orleans, Louisiana, it is illegal for anyone claiming to be a palm reader, fortune teller, mystic healer or any other magic-possessing hoodwinker to offer up marriage services (they are also not allowed to proclaim their ability to contact your dead or lost relatives, locate buried treasure or predict the outcome of a lawsuit, just for starters). Too bad though, it really would have been convenient to have a one stop shop for a marriage, a séance, and a chakra cleansing.

Jenn Thompson is a freelance writer for publications including Charlotte Magazine, Weddings Unveiled, and The Atlantan. For the next few days, she'll be sharing her wedding knowledge with us. Superstar researcher Kathleen Pierce helped dig these weird laws up.

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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
technology
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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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Scientists Think They Know How Whales Got So Big
May 24, 2017
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iStock

It can be difficult to understand how enormous the blue whale—the largest animal to ever exist—really is. The mammal can measure up to 105 feet long, have a tongue that can weigh as much as an elephant, and have a massive, golf cart–sized heart powering a 200-ton frame. But while the blue whale might currently be the Andre the Giant of the sea, it wasn’t always so imposing.

For the majority of the 30 million years that baleen whales (the blue whale is one) have occupied the Earth, the mammals usually topped off at roughly 30 feet in length. It wasn’t until about 3 million years ago that the clade of whales experienced an evolutionary growth spurt, tripling in size. And scientists haven’t had any concrete idea why, Wired reports.

A study published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B might help change that. Researchers examined fossil records and studied phylogenetic models (evolutionary relationships) among baleen whales, and found some evidence that climate change may have been the catalyst for turning the large animals into behemoths.

As the ice ages wore on and oceans were receiving nutrient-rich runoff, the whales encountered an increasing number of krill—the small, shrimp-like creatures that provided a food source—resulting from upwelling waters. The more they ate, the more they grew, and their bodies adapted over time. Their mouths grew larger and their fat stores increased, helping them to fuel longer migrations to additional food-enriched areas. Today blue whales eat up to four tons of krill every day.

If climate change set the ancestors of the blue whale on the path to its enormous size today, the study invites the question of what it might do to them in the future. Changes in ocean currents or temperature could alter the amount of available nutrients to whales, cutting off their food supply. With demand for whale oil in the 1900s having already dented their numbers, scientists are hoping that further shifts in their oceanic ecosystem won’t relegate them to history.

[h/t Wired]

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