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How Did You Know Dawn Lester and Patrick Mooney?

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I'm happy to announce a winner to our last How Did You Know? 5-day trivia hunt. Please meet Dawn Lester and Patrick Mooney from St. Louis., who now have $100 to spend in our store and will be entered into the drawing to win the HD Flip cam. They blazed through the final puzzle and got all the answers within 18 minutes of the gun! Considering how involved the final challenge was, that's pretty darn fast.

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, as well as the Flip cam winner.

Meantime, our random winner this month is Sejal Vyas, who was one of the few people who saw the toy soldiers appearing and disappearing in the Sister Salad video for Catch-22. Of course, you didn't need to find all the clues to move ahead, but it was interesting to see who came up with what. For instance, very few people noticed the calendar set to July 4th in the Oliver Stone clue. Also, Lizz changed the color of her headband frequently, from red, to white, to blue, and so on. Furthermore, she covered up the word 'stone' on the Harry Potter book cover every time the large rock/stone dissappered. And I don't think anyone caught Alexandra's missing earring, which she 'Lost'! Anyway, thanks again to Sister Salad for all the hard work in the details.
See everyone back for another HDYK on the 25th of August, when Dawn and Patrick will be looking to defend the title. Meantime, let's meet our winners and review their answers:

[caption id="attachment_30647" align="alignleft" width="480" caption="Dawn Lester and Patrick Mooney"][/caption]

Dawn: I'm a graduate of Washington University in St. Louis, with a bachelor's in biology (and a minor in Latin), and a master's in teaching. Currently I teach math and science at an alternative high school in St. Louis. In my spare time I like to sing, and watch reality television, and do puzzles, especially logic puzzles. I also go to trivia nights with my friends. Trivia nights are a St. Louis thing; they're like bar trivia, only there's an entrance fee and the games are 100 questions long.

Patrick: I'm a high school math teacher (also a masters of teaching and a bachelor's in math from Wash. U.) and choreographer, the oldest of 5 siblings. I write trivia nights so I have a large amount of knowledge of lots of different subjects. I love doing puzzles, writing puzzles. They make a very useful tool in the classroom, to help students increase their mathematical ability. We divide the puzzles pretty evenly except for Camouflage which I am much, much better at. I think Will Shortz is the bomb.

Final Answer


(Joseph Stalin was 74 years old when he died.)

Day 1

In the background of the video there is a chalkboard with different numbers. I noticed right away since it seemed like there was an edit cut after every sentence, so I was looking for things to jump around. The numbers are 4, 8, 15, 16, and 42, from "Lost". Since I'm one of the people who played the lottery with those numbers after they aired, I would recognize those numbers anywhere :) The missing number is of course is 23.

The four TV shows mashed up are "Happy Days", "Laverne and Shirley", "Mork and Mindy", and "Joanie Loves Chachi". I knew the first two, and googled "shazbot" to find "Mork and Mindy". The shows are all connected to "Happy Days" somehow; "Laverne and Shirley" and "Joanie Loves Chachi" are spin-offs, and the character of Mork was introduced on "Happy Days". Once I figured out they were all related to "Happy Days" I went to YouTube to listen to theme songs until I found "Joanie Loves Chachi" (also to confirm the other three). So the password is "chachi".

When I saw the photo I wondered about the connection between those shows and human pyramids on water skis, but I had a hunch which I took to to confirm. Henry Winkler has appeared in every show, and he has also "jumped the shark", literally. On water skis.

Day 2

After yesterday's video I was on the lookout for random things in the background, so I spotted the stone that kept appearing and disappearing. I was watching the Harry Potter book, too, and the word "stone" on the cover was taped over and uncovered. So I got Oliver Stone from that. I had to watch a second time for a clue to the movie, and I noticed Lizz's headband had changed colors. It starts out red, then becomes white, and then blue. So from that I got "Born on the Fourth of July". (Or you could have done like Patrick did and saw the daily calendar that said "JULY 4" in big black letters. I like to make things difficult, apparently.)

The circle code threw me for a minute, even though I figured it was an a=1, b=2 type of code, because I wasn't sure where to start or how to tell "1,12" from "11,2". Eventually I just started near the top and tested things. The first name I got was Stephen (actually I got "Tephen" but that was enough to tell me I needed to move back one). I guessed this was the Baldwin brothers and that helped me get Alec, William, and Daniel.

I went to and found that Alec Baldwin was not in "Born on the Fourth of July".

Day 3

As the video goes on there's a rose in the background that appears and disappears, along with Alexandra's baseball cap. I put those two together and came up with Pete Rose, and then googled him to find his nickname of "Charlie Hustle". Patrick informs me the journalist he shares names with is Charlie Pete Rose, Jr.

Your example really helped for the next puzzle. "Joltin' Joe" is a nickname of Joe DiMaggio, so I figured all the other names were baseball players' nicknames. Unfortunately they're not all baseball player nicknames, they're from different sports. Thank goodness for Wikipedia (List of sportspeople by nickname and List of baseball player nicknames). From the top:


So the password is "Joe Namath".

Joe Namath advertised Beauty Mist pantyhose (made by Hanes) in 1973.

Day 4

In the background of the video, the novel Catch-22 by Joseph Heller flips around, upside down and backwards. I think one of the Nerdfighters quoted it. The main character's name is Yossarian.

First I saw the symbol Prince had been going by, and then I saw the map of Arizona with Phoenix marked. I realized that the pictures must all be Harry Potter book titles. From the upper right: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (the guy surrounded by bars like a cage), Harry Potter & the Order of the Phoenix (map of Arizona with Phoenix marked), Harry Potter & the Goblet of Fire (the two faces make a goblet), Harry Potter & the Sorcerer's Stone (the weight of 6.35 kg which equals one stone), Harry Potter & the Chamber of Secrets (the silver man with the red chest markings is a comic book character named Chamber), Harry Potter & the Half-Blood Prince (Prince symbol). The lower left is the Sorcerer's Stone.

I had Patrick help me with Camoflauge. All the novels are from the 1960's. We used the Wikipedia page for help
1. Franny and Zoey - J.D. Salinger
2. Airport - Arthur Hailey
3. To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
4. Portnoy's Complaint - Philip Roth
5. The Godfather - Mario Puzo
6. The Chosen - Chaim Potok
7. Valley of the Dolls - Jacqueline Susann

Day 5

Latitude: Two of the shows ("Happy Days" and "Laverne and Shirley") are set in Milwaukee, which is area code 414. LeBron James was born in Akron, OH which is 330; that gives a latitude of 41 degrees, 43 minutes, 30 seconds.

Longitude: A is 54 (the movie is "Car 54, Where Are You?" with Daniel). B is 8 ("8 Seconds", with Stephen). C is 2 ("2 Bits", with Alec). D is 3 ("Three of Hearts", with William). E is 3 (3 Baldwins were in the movie "Born on the Fourth of July"). Thanks to for that. So the equation is (54 * 8) + [2 * (3 + 3)] = 444

The book is Airport, and the plane is a Boeing 707. Add 20 to get 727; longitude is 44 degrees, 47 minutes, 27 seconds.

The city is T'bilisi which is the capital of Georgia. Removing "age" leaves you with Gori, which is where Stalin was born. He was 74 when he died (Thanks Wikipedia)!

I just have to say, I really enjoyed this round of HDYK? I never felt that anything was too hard or impossible without prior knowledge. And I very much liked the videos.

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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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Nick Briggs/Comic Relief
What Happened to Jamie and Aurelia From Love Actually?
May 26, 2017
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Nick Briggs/Comic Relief

Fans of the romantic-comedy Love Actually recently got a bonus reunion in the form of Red Nose Day Actually, a short charity special that gave audiences a peek at where their favorite characters ended up almost 15 years later.

One of the most improbable pairings from the original film was between Jamie (Colin Firth) and Aurelia (Lúcia Moniz), who fell in love despite almost no shared vocabulary. Jamie is English, and Aurelia is Portuguese, and they know just enough of each other’s native tongues for Jamie to propose and Aurelia to accept.

A decade and a half on, they have both improved their knowledge of each other’s languages—if not perfectly, in Jamie’s case. But apparently, their love is much stronger than his grasp on Portuguese grammar, because they’ve got three bilingual kids and another on the way. (And still enjoy having important romantic moments in the car.)

In 2015, Love Actually script editor Emma Freud revealed via Twitter what happened between Karen and Harry (Emma Thompson and Alan Rickman, who passed away last year). Most of the other couples get happy endings in the short—even if Hugh Grant's character hasn't gotten any better at dancing.

[h/t TV Guide]