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The First Time News Was Fit To Print

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It's time for another edition of The First Time News Was Fit To Print, the semi-regular feature where we travel into the archives of The New York Times to find the first time the paper covered various subjects. If you have a suggestion for a future installment, leave a comment.

Hubble Telescope

January 3, 1989

Delayed NASA Missions Prepare for Takeoff
hubble.jpgIn December the long-awaited Hubble Space Telescope is scheduled to be lofted into Earth orbit from a shuttle, giving astronomers not only a clearer view of the entire solar system but of stars and galaxies virtually all the way out to the edge of the observable universe. Scientists, barely containing their excitement, believe that the huge optical telescope should bring about a transformation in observational astronomy comparable to the one after the astronomer Galileo looked at the heavens with a telescope nearly four centuries ago.

Keep reading for LeBron James, CNN and more.

LeBron James

July 9, 2001

Hitting the Lottery as a Junior?
lebron-02.jpgA stellar array of basketball cognoscenti that included scouts from almost every N.B.A. team and college coaches...flocked yesterday to see some 220 of the best high school players in the world showcased at Fairleigh Dickinson's Rothman Athletic Center. One player in particular, however, caught much of their attention.


He is a 16-year-old from St. Vincent-St. Mary High School in Akron, Ohio, who will be a junior in the fall. Many of the gathered connoisseurs believed that the lad, LeBron James, a 6-foot-7, 210-pound point guard, shooting guard and small forward -- sometimes he plays as if he is all three in one, a kind of hoops Swiss Army knife -- would have been taken in the first round of the most recent N.B.A. draft, possibly a lottery pick.
* * *
Tom Konchalski, who evaluates high school players for his respected H.S.B.I. Report, said: "LeBron isn't an extraterrestrial athlete, but he has a tremendous feel for the game. He sees situations two passes ahead of the play. He's been compared to Vince Carter and Tracy McGrady. But I think he has a better feel for the game than they do."

He meant than they did when they were James's age, right? "No, I mean right now," Konchalski said. "I doubt seriously if he's going to college."

CNN

May 23, 1979

CNN.jpgCable-TV News Network Set Up
The Cable News Network, to begin operations a year from now, is to be a wholly owned subsidiary of Turner Communications Inc., an Atlanta-based company whose chairman is R.E. (Ted) Turner. The network's principal program, according to Mr. Turner, will be a two-hour newscast that would serve as alternative programming to the prime-time entertainment offerings of the commercial television networks.
* * *
The cable news network has signed as regular contributors Roland Evans and Robert Novak, political columnists; Jean Dixon, astrologer; Dr. Joyce Brothers, psychologist and television personality, and Dr. Neil Solomon, medical reporter.

Secretariat

August 16, 1972

secretariat-MF.jpgLinda's Chief Heads Saratoga Field Today
A meeting between undefeated Linda's Chief and the formidable Secretariat will be the big attraction tomorrow, with the 59th running of the Sanford Stakes. There are five others in this six-furlong sprint for 2-year-olds but the big expectation is a duel between this pair.
* * * * *
Secretariat has yet to compete in stakes, and has a record of two victories in his three attempts. His only setback came in his debut, when he was impeded at the start.

newyorktimes.com

January 22, 1996

NYT.jpgThe New York Times Introduces a Web Site
The New York Times begins publishing daily on the World Wide Web today, offering readers around the world immediate access to most of the daily newspaper's contents.


The New York Times on the Web, as the electronic publication is known, contains most of the news and feature articles from the current day's printed newspaper, classified advertising, reporting that does not appear in the newspaper, and interactive features including the newspaper's crossword puzzle. The electronic newspaper (address: http:/www.nytimes.com) is part of a strategy to extend the readership of The Times and to create opportunities for the company in the electronic media industry.
* * *
With its entry on the Web, The Times is hoping to become a primary information provider in the computer age and to cut costs for newsprint, delivery and labor. Companies that have established Web-based information sites include television networks, computer companies, on-line information services, magazines and even individuals creating electronic newspapers of their own.
* * *
"The market is booming for newspapers on the World Wide Web," consultant John Kelsey said.

From Previous Installments...

Walkman

July 7, 1980

walkman.jpgStereo-to-Go "“ and Only You Can Hear It
Josh Lansing and the young blonde woman had never even met before, but as they passed each other on Madison Avenue the other afternoon, she waved and smiled and he tipped his headphones in salute....What the two well-dressed strangers first noticed about each other was that they were both possessors of the newest status symbol around town: the Walkman, a portable stereo unit (priced in most stores at $200), consisting of an ultra-light headphone set plugged into a cassette player that weighs in at less than 14 ounces, batteries included. "It's just like Mercedes-Benz owners honking when they pass each other on the road," explained Mr. Lansing, whose cassette hung from his Gucci belt.

Digital Camera

May 29, 1991

Kodak Introduces Electronic Camera
old_camera.jpgThe Eastman Kodak Company took its first real step into digital photography by introducing an electronic camera system that can turn a conventional Nikon into a high-tech electronic camera. Kodak's professional digital camera system will sell for about $20,000 and is intended primarily for photojournalists and government surveillance, the company said. The system also marks Kodak's first move into pure electronic photography, where images are captured and created without film.

Books on Tape

February 20, 1977

cassette.jpgCatching Up With the Classics
Want to catch up on your reading while driving cross-country? Or dip into the classics while sunning with eyes closed on a secluded Caribbean beach? A California outfit called Books on Tape makes it happen.

Described as the "thinking man's answer to CB radio," Books on Tape was conceived in Los Angeles a few years back to aid long-haul commuters avoid "cerebral atrophy" occasioned by long traffic tie-ups on freeways.
* * * * *
Clients are able to rent the cassettes at fees ranging from $6.50 to $7.50 for a complete work, based on a one-month rental period, plus $1.75 for postage and handling. If one had to buy the tapes, the purchase price would be somewhere around $50.

Lee Harvey Oswald

November 3, 1959

oswald.jpg
American Awaits Soviet Word

Lee Harvey Oswald shut himself in his hotel room today to await a decision on his request for Soviet citizenship. Mr. Oswald, a former Marine from Fort Worth, Texas, turned in his American passport to the United States Embassy here [in Moscow] last week-end. "I am awaiting a reply from the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet on my application for citizenship and have nothing to say meanwhile," he said over the telephone.

Zip Codes

November 29, 1962

New Mail Codes Will Aid Sorters
use-zip-code.jpgThe Post Office Department will add a five-digit number to everyone's address after July 1. The new number will be called the zip code.


Postmaster General J. Edward Day, who announced the plan today, said the digit code would help postal clerks pinpoint the destination of mail as it was sorted. He said this could speed delivery by as much as 24 hours.

To help publicize the plan, the department has created a cartoon character named Mr. Zip. "Zip" stands for Zone Improvement Plan.
* * * * *
Mr. Day he did not expect the new system to bring about any reduction in the postal payroll or in postal rates. The volume of mail increases every year and, in any case, most postal employees are letter carriers.

"I don't think we'll ever get to the point where a clanking robot brings mail to your door."

David Bowie

July 11, 1971

Bowie, Bolan, Heron "“ Superstars?
davidbowie.jpgMind and music are a powerful team, too. David Bowie is the most intellectually brilliant man yet to choose the long-playing album as his medium of expression. His best album is Man of Words/Man of Music* (Mercury). It is over a year old and not easy to find in record stores, but it is well worth special-ordering or sending to England for or borrowing from a friend. It is worth any three records now on the charts.


*This album was re-released in the United States as Space Oddity in 1972.

See Also...

Greatest Hits of 2007 (Walkman, Email, Jerry Seinfeld and more)
Greatest Hits of 2008 (Princess Diana, Personal Computer, John McCain and more)
"¢ See all the previous installments of The First Time News Was Fit To Print
"¢ November 3, 2007: Appearance on NPR Weekend Edition Saturday

T.jpgWant to play along at home? Get complete access to the New York Times archives by becoming an NYT subscriber.

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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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8 Common Dog Behaviors, Decoded
May 25, 2017
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Dogs are a lot more complicated than we give them credit for. As a result, sometimes things get lost in translation. We’ve yet to invent a dog-to-English translator, but there are certain behaviors you can learn to read in order to better understand what your dog is trying to tell you. The more tuned-in you are to your dog’s emotions, the better you’ll be able to respond—whether that means giving her some space or welcoming a wet, slobbery kiss. 

1. What you’ll see: Your dog is standing with his legs and body relaxed and tail low. His ears are up, but not pointed forward. His mouth is slightly open, he’s panting lightly, and his tongue is loose. His eyes? Soft or maybe slightly squinty from getting his smile on.

What it means: “Hey there, friend!” Your pup is in a calm, relaxed state. He’s open to mingling, which means you can feel comfortable letting friends say hi.

2. What you’ll see: Your dog is standing with her body leaning forward. Her ears are erect and angled forward—or have at least perked up if they’re floppy—and her mouth is closed. Her tail might be sticking out horizontally or sticking straight up and wagging slightly.

What it means: “Hark! Who goes there?!” Something caught your pup’s attention and now she’s on high alert, trying to discern whether or not the person, animal, or situation is a threat. She’ll likely stay on guard until she feels safe or becomes distracted.

3. What you’ll see: Your dog is standing, leaning slightly forward. His body and legs are tense, and his hackles—those hairs along his back and neck—are raised. His tail is stiff and twitching, not swooping playfully. His mouth is open, teeth are exposed, and he may be snarling, snapping, or barking excessively.

What it means: “Don’t mess with me!” This dog is asserting his social dominance and letting others know that he might attack if they don’t defer accordingly. A dog in this stance could be either offensively aggressive or defensively aggressive. If you encounter a dog in this state, play it safe and back away slowly without making eye contact.

4. What you’ll see: As another dog approaches, your dog lies down on his back with his tail tucked in between his legs. His paws are tucked in too, his ears are flat, and he isn’t making direct eye contact with the other dog standing over him.

What it means: “I come in peace!” Your pooch is displaying signs of submission to a more dominant dog, conveying total surrender to avoid physical confrontation. Other, less obvious, signs of submission include ears that are flattened back against the head, an avoidance of eye contact, a tongue flick, and bared teeth. Yup—a dog might bare his teeth while still being submissive, but they’ll likely be clenched together, the lips opened horizontally rather than curled up to show the front canines. A submissive dog will also slink backward or inward rather than forward, which would indicate more aggressive behavior.

5. What you’ll see: Your dog is crouching with her back hunched, tail tucked, and the corner of her mouth pulled back with lips slightly curled. Her shoulders, or hackles, are raised and her ears are flattened. She’s avoiding eye contact.

What it means: “I’m scared, but will fight you if I have to.” This dog’s fight or flight instincts have been activated. It’s best to keep your distance from a dog in this emotional state because she could attack if she feels cornered.

6. What you’ll see: You’re staring at your dog, holding eye contact. Your dog looks away from you, tentatively looks back, then looks away again. After some time, he licks his chops and yawns.

What it means: “I don’t know what’s going on and it’s weirding me out.” Your dog doesn’t know what to make of the situation, but rather than nipping or barking, he’ll stick to behaviors he knows are OK, like yawning, licking his chops, or shaking as if he’s wet. You’ll want to intervene by removing whatever it is causing him discomfort—such as an overly grabby child—and giving him some space to relax.

7. What you’ll see: Your dog has her front paws bent and lowered onto the ground with her rear in the air. Her body is relaxed, loose, and wiggly, and her tail is up and wagging from side to side. She might also let out a high-pitched or impatient bark.

What it means: “What’s the hold up? Let’s play!” This classic stance, known to dog trainers and behaviorists as “the play bow,” is a sign she’s ready to let the good times roll. Get ready for a round of fetch or tug of war, or for a good long outing at the dog park.

8. What you’ll see: You’ve just gotten home from work and your dog rushes over. He can’t stop wiggling his backside, and he may even lower himself into a giant stretch, like he’s doing yoga.

What it means: “OhmygoshImsohappytoseeyou I love you so much you’re my best friend foreverandeverandever!!!!” This one’s easy: Your pup is overjoyed his BFF is back. That big stretch is something dogs don’t pull out for just anyone; they save that for the people they truly love. Show him you feel the same way with a good belly rub and a handful of his favorite treats.

The best way to say “I love you” in dog? A monthly subscription to BarkBox. Your favorite pup will get a package filled with treats, toys, and other good stuff (and in return, you’ll probably get lots of sloppy kisses). Visit BarkBox to learn more.

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