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The House of Blood

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Where is the house of blood? It could be your house with these home furnishings, most of which are available at the click of a mouse. Individually, they might be described as conversation pieces; put them all together and you'll have a house of horrors no one would want to visit twice. One of these products used the description "Gruesome, bloody, and absolutely offensive." This collection is not for the squeamish.

Dining Room

Designer Amy Lau  was inspired by the serial killer show on Showtime when she came up with these Dexter dining room chairs. The chairs are decorated with embroidered blood spatters. There are also bloody dinner plates and disfigured flatware to match, available from Spring Design.

Lighting

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The Blood Bucket Lamp looks like it's pouring all over your desktop, but the blood is the stem and base. Also available in a wall version, and in white if you're squeamish. Ordering information is in Japanese.

Lamp

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This Blood Lamp doesn't look that bloody, but the way you turn it on can be considered gruesome. It only works once, and you need to add of a drop of your blood to activate it! The idea is to stop and think about how badly you need light before you use it. Designer Mike Thompson created the lamp in order to draw attention to how much energy we waste.

Cutlery

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The Bloody Kitchen Knife is food safe, except when someone comes into the kitchen and sees you use it!

Coffee Set

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How about a 14-piece Bloody Coffee Set, complete with drops and smears? From designer Antonio Murado.

Table Linen

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With all these implements of destruction this tableware, you need a tablecloth to match. The Bloody Hand Tablecover is available through Amazon.

Table

550_imm_but_love_me_mainAlthough it wouldn't show the bloodstains on your tableware as well as a white tablecloth, this table by John Nouanesing stands on its own very creepily. The dripping blood masks, or actually are, the table legs. He named the table "Paint or Die, But Love Me." Sadly, it's an art concept and not available to the public.

Candles

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Complete the look of your entertaining experience with Bleeding Pillar Candles that start out as ordinary white candles, but drip red wax as they burn!

Shower Curtain

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Don't forget the bathroom! The Blood Bath Shower Curtain features handprints in just the right shade of red. You'll never be able to shower without thinking of a certain Alfred Hitchcock film.

Towels

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The packaging on these towels spotted by Flickr user MShades lends a gruesome sight to your linen closet. There are towels for each blood type, sold at Loft Umeda in Japan.

Bath Mat

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Complete the murderous bathroom look with the Bloody Bath Mat. It will never look clean, or safe.

For more creepy and bloody home products, see Killer Home Decor and Morbid Home Decor. You can tell I've done some serious online shopping.

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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
technology
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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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iStock
Animals
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Scientists Think They Know How Whales Got So Big
May 24, 2017
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iStock

It can be difficult to understand how enormous the blue whale—the largest animal to ever exist—really is. The mammal can measure up to 105 feet long, have a tongue that can weigh as much as an elephant, and have a massive, golf cart–sized heart powering a 200-ton frame. But while the blue whale might currently be the Andre the Giant of the sea, it wasn’t always so imposing.

For the majority of the 30 million years that baleen whales (the blue whale is one) have occupied the Earth, the mammals usually topped off at roughly 30 feet in length. It wasn’t until about 3 million years ago that the clade of whales experienced an evolutionary growth spurt, tripling in size. And scientists haven’t had any concrete idea why, Wired reports.

A study published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B might help change that. Researchers examined fossil records and studied phylogenetic models (evolutionary relationships) among baleen whales, and found some evidence that climate change may have been the catalyst for turning the large animals into behemoths.

As the ice ages wore on and oceans were receiving nutrient-rich runoff, the whales encountered an increasing number of krill—the small, shrimp-like creatures that provided a food source—resulting from upwelling waters. The more they ate, the more they grew, and their bodies adapted over time. Their mouths grew larger and their fat stores increased, helping them to fuel longer migrations to additional food-enriched areas. Today blue whales eat up to four tons of krill every day.

If climate change set the ancestors of the blue whale on the path to its enormous size today, the study invites the question of what it might do to them in the future. Changes in ocean currents or temperature could alter the amount of available nutrients to whales, cutting off their food supply. With demand for whale oil in the 1900s having already dented their numbers, scientists are hoping that further shifts in their oceanic ecosystem won’t relegate them to history.

[h/t Wired]

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