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How Did You Know Neil Konouchi?

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I'm happy to announce a winner to our last How Did You Know? 5-day trivia hunt. Please re-meet Neil Konouchi of Nashville. You may recall that Neil won the pilot HDYK way back in March, 08, when we were only giving away bragging rights and a t-shirt. So congrats Neil, who now has $100 to spend in our store. He blazed through the final puzzle and got all the answers within 8 minutes of the gun!

Dozens of you got all the answers correct, and I'll be sure to post the top 10 in the order we received them over on our Facebook page soon.

Meantime, our random winner this month is Allison Jirsa, who says she forgot all about the final puzzle, and was ready to kill herself at 2am last night when she finally remembered. (And remember she did, taking only 15 minutes to get through the whole thing!) We'll be in touch soon with your spoils.
See everyone back for another HDYK on the 28th of July, when Neil will be looking to defend the title. Meantime, let's meet our winner and review his answers:

[caption id="attachment_28164" align="alignleft" width="512" caption="Neil Konouchi"][/caption]

I live in Nashville, Tennessee where I work in the music business and also as a freelance tuba player (not a joke). I'm a big time trivia/puzzle junkie, can often be found at the local pub trivia games, and always have fun with these HDYK puzzles every time they come around (been trying to repeat since the inaugural game!). I have to give credit to my wife for giving me "The Supremes," as I couldn't get past "The Justice League," clearly my brain trying to squeeze The Human League into the context of the puzzle. I knew it wasn't right, but just couldn't get that idea out of my head.

Appropriately for this edition of HDYK, the picture I've attached is of me with my friend Steven when we did The Price Is Right live in Las Vegas. Unfortunately neither of us were selected to play, but it turns out I would have grossly overbid on the Showcase anyway.

Thanks for the hunt, looking forward to the next one!

Final Answer


Mark David Chapman killed John Lennon that day while carrying a copy of Catcher In The Rye

Day 1

1. A Full Count (aka 3-2 count)
2. Safe!
3. Pitcher
4. Batter
5. Strike (a match)
6. The Lineup
7. Green Monster (at Fenway Park)
8. Double Play (Name of Moby's Album pictured here x2)

Theme Songs:
1. The Price is Right (knew)
2. Card Sharks * (sounded familiar, verified on YouTube)
3. Jeopardy! (knew)
4. Who Wants to Be a Millionaire (knew)
5. Hollywood Squares (finally found it after browsing themes on YouTube. Pure luck.)

* Card Sharks theme is the same as Double Dare, but this recording matches the Card Sharks recording.

Day 2

Each letter is assigned a number based on its place in the alphabet A=1, B=2, C=3, etc.
A = 1
D = 4
G = 7
J = 10
M = 13

A G D J G M ?
1 7 4 10 7 13

So the pattern is +6, -3

1 (+6) 7 (-3) 4 (+6) 10 (-3) 7 (+6) 13 (-3) = 10

10 = J

Part 2: Assassins (Victims in Parentheses)

1. Mark David Chapman (Lennon)
2. Leon Czolgosz (McKinley)
3. John Wilkes Booth (Lincoln)
4. Charles Guiteau (Garfield)
5. John Hinckley (Reagan attempt)
6. Yigal Amir (Yitzhak Rabin)
7. Khalid Islambouli (Anwar Sadat)
8. James Earl Ray (MLK Jr.)
9. Jack Ruby (Lee Harvey Oswald)

John Hinckley was the only of those that was unsuccessful in his attempt.

Day 3

"Writers, indeed, need time to write. And critics, who, I presume, are also writers, of a sort, need time to critique. Then again, no one ever erected a statue for a critic." paraphrases Sibelius' famous quote, "Pay no attention to what critics say. No statue has ever been put up to a critic."

Sibelius' Finlandia was used in Die Hard 2
Die means "The" in German ("No, that's German for 'The Bart, The.'")
"die" is feminine
Lothar-Günther Buchheim wrote Das Boot in 1973
"das" is gender-neutral
"der" is the masculine version

Part 2: Cryptographs
(each letter to the next in the alphabet) Each sentence in this puzzle is governed by its own rules, so that every word in the sentence can be deciphered using the same rule.
(back one in the alphabet) Some sentences use the same rule as other sentences.
(back one space on the keyboard) This was only done because the author is lazy.
(back one in the alphabet) When read backwards the final word in the next sentence is your secret code word and final puzzle answer today.
(next in the alphabet) David Israel is nuts!

Last word backwards: STUN

Day 4

1. Nickelback (back side of a nickel)
2. Phish (school of fish)
3. Led Zeppelin (it's a zeppelin)
4. Queen (she's the Queen)
5. The Supremes (Supreme Court Justices)
6. Nine Inch Nails (maybe not quite nine inches, but very long nails)

Phish was formed at the University of Vermont in 1983.

Part 2:

Any letter in the "secret word" AIR gives me the same answer for number of vowels.

A: OAk (2) AIr (2)
I: dIE (2) AIr (2)
R: AIr (2)

For all other words:

D: dIE (2) cOd (1)
I: dIE (2) AIr (2)
E: dIE (2) cUE (2)

C: cOd (1) cUE (2)
O: cOd (1) OAk (2)
D: dIE (2) cOd (1)

O: cOd (1) OAk (2)
A: OAk (2) AIr (2)
K: OAk (1)

C: cOd (1) cUE (2)
U: cUE (2)
E: dIE (2) cUE (2)

The clue is that "if we were to tell you any one letter of the secret word, you'd be able to tell how many vowels are in the word." So you tell me A, I tell you 2 (I presume the word is AIR or OAK). You tell me I, I tell you 2 again (DIE or AIR). You tell me R, I tell you 2 (AIR is the only answer for that one). I'll be honest, though, this seems too easy to be the correct solution. I'm not sure I'm totally understanding this puzzle.

Day 5

Searching on CastTV for Jacob plays Money Game in hopes of winning a car! turns up episode 4635
Lat Min.Sec: 46.35

John Hinckley Jr. Tried to assassinate Reagan, President #40
Lat Degrees: 40

Backwards word was STUN
Re-reverse it: NUTS, add P = PNUTS = "Peanuts" by Charles M. Schulz
He moved the family to Sebastabol in 1958 (via Wikipedia)
Long Min: 58

The ZRS-4, USS Akron crashed April 1933, killing 73 (via Wikipedia)
Long Degrees: -73
Long Sec: 33

Zooming in puts me at Central Park West and W. 72nd, where the Dakota is

John Lennon and Yoko Ono lived in The Dakota
Mark David Chapman killed John Lennon that day while carrying a copy of Catcher In The Rye by...

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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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One Bite From This Tick Can Make You Allergic to Meat
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We like to believe that there’s no such thing as a bad organism, that every creature must have its place in the world. But ticks are really making that difficult. As if Lyme disease wasn't bad enough, scientists say some ticks carry a pathogen that causes a sudden and dangerous allergy to meat. Yes, meat.

The Lone Star tick (Amblyomma americanum) mostly looks like your average tick, with a tiny head and a big fat behind, except the adult female has a Texas-shaped spot on its back—thus the name.

Unlike other American ticks, the Lone Star feeds on humans at every stage of its life cycle. Even the larvae want our blood. You can’t get Lyme disease from the Lone Star tick, but you can get something even more mysterious: the inability to safely consume a bacon cheeseburger.

"The weird thing about [this reaction] is it can occur within three to 10 or 12 hours, so patients have no idea what prompted their allergic reactions," allergist Ronald Saff, of the Florida State University College of Medicine, told Business Insider.

What prompted them was STARI, or southern tick-associated rash illness. People with STARI may develop a circular rash like the one commonly seen in Lyme disease. They may feel achy, fatigued, and fevered. And their next meal could make them very, very sick.

Saff now sees at least one patient per week with STARI and a sensitivity to galactose-alpha-1, 3-galactose—more commonly known as alpha-gal—a sugar molecule found in mammal tissue like pork, beef, and lamb. Several hours after eating, patients’ immune systems overreact to alpha-gal, with symptoms ranging from an itchy rash to throat swelling.

Even worse, the more times a person is bitten, the more likely it becomes that they will develop this dangerous allergy.

The tick’s range currently covers the southern, eastern, and south-central U.S., but even that is changing. "We expect with warming temperatures, the tick is going to slowly make its way northward and westward and cause more problems than they're already causing," Saff said. We've already seen that occur with the deer ticks that cause Lyme disease, and 2017 is projected to be an especially bad year.

There’s so much we don’t understand about alpha-gal sensitivity. Scientists don’t know why it happens, how to treat it, or if it's permanent. All they can do is advise us to be vigilant and follow basic tick-avoidance practices.

[h/t Business Insider]