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The Quick 10: The 10 Best-Selling LPs of All Time

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As of yesterday, LPs (long-playing records) have been around for 61 years. It was June 21, 1948 that Columbia Records first unveiled a record that would hold at least 20 minutes per side. The first 10" LP ever released was a reissue of The Voice of Frank Sinatra. Since then, of course, millions of records have been released - but only a select few can be considered the best-selling records of all time. Here they are, with a disclaimer: they might be slightly out of order, as different reports have sales varying by a couple of million here and there.

[caption id="attachment_26625" align="alignnone" width="300"]'Cause this is THRILLER!![/caption]1. Thriller, Michael Jackson, 100-109 million copies. Knowing that Michael Jackson has the best-selling album ever by more than 50 million copies makes his current state of affairs even sadder (creepier... weirder... Whatever). Released in 1982, seven of its nine tracks made the Billboard 200 top 10.
2. Back in Black, AC/DC, 45 million copies. And nearly half of those came from the United States alone, however, although it's the second-best selling album in the world, it's only the fifth best-selling album in the U.S. This was the band's first album without Bon Scott; he had died of alcohol poisoning (although the actual cause of death is debated) just five months before the record was released.

3. Bat out of Hell, Meat Loaf, 43 million copies. The third-best selling album in the world was almost never made because Meat and songwriter Jim Steinman couldn't find a record company to sign them. Their manager later joked that people were forming record companies just so they could reject the Meat Loaf project. Clive Davis was particularly mean to the duo, asking if they had ever even heard pop music before. Todd Rundgren finally got behind the album, but even so, the album wasn't an immediate smash hit. It has only been through steady sales over time that Bat out of Hell has reached the #3 spot.

4. Their Greatest Hits, Eagles, 42 million copies. It's #4 in the world but #1 in the U.S., edging out even Thriller. Nine of the 10 songs on the album made the Top 40, the exception being "Tequila Sunrise."

5. The Bodyguard, Whitney Houston and various artists, 42 million copies. I had this one, too, and I'm in good company since this is the best-selling soundtrack of all time. Two of the songs - "Run to You" and "I Have Nothing" were nominated for the Best Original Song Academy Award but lost out to "A Whole New World" from Aladdin.

6. Dirty Dancing, various artists, 42 million copies. After the movie's 1987 release, the soundtrack took off. I, for one, am guilty of loving this soundtrack. The album, which included "(I've Had) The Time of My Life" and song sung by Patrick Swayze ("She's Like the Wind"), is so popular overseas that it still re-enters the Irish pop charts from time to time.

7. The Phantom of the Opera, Andrew Lloyd Webber, 40 million copies. That this album is the only soundtrack to a musical on the list is a testament to its popularity. It was the first album to ever enter the UK Albums chart at #1.
8. Millennium, Backstreet Boys, 40 million copies. If you were in junior high or high school when this album was released, no doubt you're familiar with its hits: "I Want It That Way" and "Larger Than Life." When it was first released, it set the record for the most albums sold worldwide in one week - 2.2. million copies.
9. Saturday Night Fever, the BeeGees and various artists, 40 million copies. Although artists like Kool & the Gang and KC and the Sunshine Band played on this album, no doubt most people associate this album with the falsetto-singing band. It's credited with reviving disco, which had been on its way out before Travolta and Co. made it cool again.

10. Rumours,, Fleetwood Mac, 40 million copies. The band members have acknowledged that the album was almost entirely about their struggles and affairs with one another, because at the time, Mick Fleetwood split from his wife, Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks had just ended their relationship, and John and Christine McVie had separated as well. To deal with the stress of having to hang out with one another to finish this album, they all wrote songs about one another. The personalization panned out pretty well for the group, who won Album of the Year at the 1978 Grammies and spent 31 weeks at the top of the Billboard charts.

11. The Dark Side of the Moon, Pink Floyd, 40 million copies. I've talked about Dark Side before, but I didn't want to leave it off the list since it's tied with the others at 40 million copies.

Any surprises? I'm surprised the Beatles don't chart higher - they come in at 32 million for Sgt. Pepper, right behind Shania Twain's Come on Over,, Led Zeppelin's Led Zeppelin IV, and Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill (I literally wore that CD out). Share your shockers in the comments.

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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
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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Opening Ceremony
These $425 Jeans Can Turn Into Jorts
May 19, 2017
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Opening Ceremony

Modular clothing used to consist of something simple, like a reversible jacket. Today, it’s a $425 pair of detachable jeans.

Apparel retailer Opening Ceremony recently debuted a pair of “2 in 1 Y/Project” trousers that look fairly peculiar. The legs are held to the crotch by a pair of loops, creating a disjointed C-3PO effect. Undo the loops and you can now remove the legs entirely, leaving a pair of jean shorts in their wake. The result goes from this:


Opening Ceremony

To this:


Opening Ceremony

The company also offers a slightly different cut with button tabs in black for $460. If these aren’t audacious enough for you, the Y/Project line includes jumpsuits with removable legs and garter-equipped jeans.

[h/t Mashable]