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The Medical Credentials of 7 Famous Doctors

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Slate's recent shocking revelations about rapper-turned-psychologist Dr. Roxanne effectively knocked the wind out of one of this year's feel-good stories. And while we never really pictured, say, Dr. J performing major surgery, the piece did make us wonder about the credentials of some other famous "doctors."

1. Dr. Roxanne Shanté

Lolita Shanté Gooden was just 14 years old when she first gained fame during the hip-hop "Roxanne Wars" of the mid-1980s. Adopting the stage name of Roxanne Shanté, she recorded "Roxanne's Revenge," one of the many "answer records" to U.T.F.O.'s "Roxanne, Roxanne." She had a few more hits before retiring to a life of relative obscurity.

Her name was back in the headlines recently when the New York Daily News reported that Dr. Roxanne, as she now styled herself, had taken advantage of an "education clause" in her original recording contract with Warner Music. The former rapper had earned a PhD in Clinical Psychology from Cornell University on Warner's dime. Slate's reporter did some digging, however, and couldn't find any evidence that Gooden had ever attended Cornell; in fact, her only record of any post-secondary education was a four-month stint at Marymount Manhattan College. Dr. Shanté, who runs her own therapy practice, is also not licensed to practice psychology in the state of New York.

2. Dr. Martens


The favorite footwear of punks and skinheads was, in fact, invented by a bona fide physician. Klaus Maertens was an Army doctor who injured his ankle skiing while on leave during World War II. His military-issue boots made the pain worse, so he tinkered with the design and came up with his now-patented soft leather, extra cushioned boot.

3. Doc Severinsen

Tonight Show band leader "Doc" Severinsen was born Carl Severinsen, Jr. His father was a dentist, and family and friends called the younger Severinsen "Little Doc" in order to differentiate between him and Carl Senior. Even though his dad urged him to study the violin, Little Doc took up the trumpet at age seven. Five years later he won top honors at the prestigious Music Educator's National Contest.

4. Dr. Seuss

seuss-bigAfter graduating from Dartmouth College, Theodore Seuss Geisel attended Lincoln College at Oxford University with the intent of obtaining a PhD in English, but he found that he enjoyed doodling cartoons more than studying Shakespeare. He left school before getting his degree, but added the medical honorific to his name anyway in order to please his father, who had always hoped to brag to friends that his son was a doctor.

5. Dr. Phil

Phillip McGraw earned a PhD in clinical psychology from the University of North Texas. His father is also a psychologist, and the pair worked together for several years conducting life skills seminars. Dr. Phil later founded Courtroom Sciences, a trial consulting firm, which is how he crossed paths with Oprah Winfrey. Oprah hired McGraw in 1995 to coach her in preparation for her infamous "beef trial" in Amarillo, Texas.

6. Dr. Scholl

William Mathias Scholl obtained his medical degree from what is now Loyola University in 1904. He invented several foot care products (such as arch supports) for his patients while working as a podiatrist, and began marketing them commercially in 1906. Dr. Scholl established the William M. Scholl College of Podiatric Medicine at Rosalind Franklin University in Chicago in 1912.

7. Dr. Ruth

ruthKarola Ruth Siegel Westheimer studied psychology in Paris before moving to the U.S. and getting her master's degree in sociology. Although she has done some post-doctoral work in the study of human sexuality, her official area of expertise is education "“ she earned a Ed.D. from Teachers College at Columbia University.

Believe it or not, she was also a sniper. After Israel declared independence in 1948, (not-yet-Dr.) Ruth was trained by the Israeli military as a sniper. At 4 feet, 7 inches tall, Westheimer made a small target, but she was wounded when a bomb (which killed several of her friends) exploded in her barracks.

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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]