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The Late Movies: Dancing, Star Wars-style

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A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, no one had ever heard of a little movie called Star Wars. Of course, George Lucas' "space opera," which revived sci-fi as a genre for the masses, is now a classic. The Star Wars movies (the first three, at least) were a triumph for nerds everywhere. What better way to celebrate than to dance?

The Muppets meet Mark Hamill

In January of 1980, the Star Wars cast joined Kermit & co. for a special episode of The Muppet Show. Luke Skywalker, C-3PO and R2-D2 blast through a wall in search of Chewbacca, who has been kidnapped. Then Luke's "cousin," Mark Hamill, shows up and things get as weird as you might expect. In pure Muppet fashion, the show closes with a big song-and-dance number:

Donny and Marie ruin everything

This it's-so-bad-it's-funny musical skit stars the Osmond siblings as Luke and Leia, respectively, with special appearances by Redd Foxx as "Obi Ben-Oki-Fenoki," Kris Kristofferson as Han Solo and Paul Lynde as Grand Moff Tarkin. Thankfully, no CGI means no Jar-Jar Binks; however, Donny's chest hair is almost as distracting. *insert laugh track here*

The Tokyo Dance Trooper

This is why TK-421 wasn't at his post. I can only assume this sort of thing happens all the time in downtown Tokyo.

Yoda busts a move

Not to be outdone by a clone, Jedi master Yoda shows some troopers how it's done. Believe it or not, this clip was animated by Industrial Light & Magic, and was an Easter Egg on the Episode III DVD. When 900 years old you reach, dance as good you will not.

Dance-Off with the Star Wars Stars

Whoever came up with the idea for Disney World's "Dance-Off with the Star Wars Stars" deserves a lifetime supply of churros. The dance competition, a highlight of the theme park's annual Star Wars Weekends, is always fun to watch. Luckily for those of us who don't live in Florida, someone has recorded the shows and posted them to YouTube. In 2007, the participants danced to some "classics" of the 1970s:

Here's 2008's showdown, a celebration of the dances of the 1980s. The entrance of Group #3 into the fray cracks me up every time.

And here's this year's competition, dedicated to (you guessed it) the 1990s:

Joey Fatone is a huge nerd

In April of 2007, former *NSYNC-er Joey Fatone brought this geeky dance to the hallowed halls of ABC's "Dancing With the Stars." His partner and coach, wearing the slave-Leia getup, is Kym Johnson. Unfortunately, they didn't let R2-D2 participate in the dance, but at least he was there for the practice.

A stormtrooper dances to Britney Spears

People just love to see these white boys dance, it seems. This is a pretty awesome music video parody, but to appreciate fully, you have to listen to a Britney Spears song in its entirety. So, take your hand off the mute button and watch at your own risk.

Darth strips it down

Someone alert the Team America guys--they no longer have the market cornered on sexually suggestive puppets. My little brain can't fathom what would inspire someone to make a stripper Darth Vader puppet, but I think the world is consequently a better place.

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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
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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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iStock
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Here's How to Change Your Name on Facebook
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iStock

Whether you want to change your legal name, adopt a new nickname, or simply reinvent your online persona, it's helpful to know the process of resetting your name on Facebook. The social media site isn't a fan of fake accounts, and as a result changing your name is a little more complicated than updating your profile picture or relationship status. Luckily, Daily Dot laid out the steps.

Start by going to the blue bar at the top of the page in desktop view and clicking the down arrow to the far right. From here, go to Settings. This should take you to the General Account Settings page. Find your name as it appears on your profile and click the Edit link to the right of it. Now, you can input your preferred first and last name, and if you’d like, your middle name.

The steps are similar in Facebook mobile. To find Settings, tap the More option in the bottom right corner. Go to Account Settings, then General, then hit your name to change it.

Whatever you type should adhere to Facebook's guidelines, which prohibit symbols, numbers, unusual capitalization, and honorifics like Mr., Ms., and Dr. Before landing on a name, make sure you’re ready to commit to it: Facebook won’t let you update it again for 60 days. If you aren’t happy with these restrictions, adding a secondary name or a name pronunciation might better suit your needs. You can do this by going to the Details About You heading under the About page of your profile.

[h/t Daily Dot]

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