Original image

9 Movies That Always Make Me Cry

Original image

Happens every time. Flipping channels on Sunday, Rudy's on, and it's the final game. Obviously, I put down the clicker and prepare to hold back the tears, but it never works. I don't know what it is about that flick, but every single time I watch I'm transformed into an eight-year-old schoolgirl by the time he's carried off the field. So in honor of Daniel "Rudy" Ruettiger, I present clips from nine films that make me—and many other guys I know—well up just a little. It's my first official "TMI" mental_floss post.

[Note: Some spoilers ahead, so if you've never seen Brian's Song, Hoosiers, Ordinary People, Saving Private Ryan, Dead Poets Society, Glory, Scent of a Woman, Field of Dreams or Rudy, you might want to skip over those clips.]

1. Brian's Song

Anyone remember this made for TV movie? The Scene: When Billy Dee says it should be Brian Piccolo accepting the Halas Award instead of him.

2. Hoosiers

The two best moments: When the team manager, Ollie, makes both free throws in the regionals, and when Jimmy Chitwood sinks the shot that wins the finals. (Any scene where Dennis Hopper jumps wildly on his bed is a classic.)

3. Ordinary People

You probably weren't expecting this, but Ordinary People is one of my favorite films of all time, and the final scene always gets me.

4. Saving Private Ryan

My favorite scene in the movie is the Captain Miller monologue after Wade dies ("I'm a school teacher...".), but the line at the end of the final battle (5:33) is the saddest part, IMHO.

(P.S. Maybe someone can answer a question I've always had. Is the German soldier who knifed Pvt. Mellish the same one who Upham didn't want to kill earlier?)

5. Dead Poets Society

"Oh Captain My Captain." The look of terror in the kids' eyes, trying to get up the guts to stand on the desk. Love that scene.

6. Glory

"Give 'em hell, 54th!" The Scene: The march before the final battle.

7. Scent of a Woman

One of my favorite monologues AND tearjerker moments of all time. When Pacino and Chris O'Donnell walk out of the room (7:15), that's when I get a little misty. It's the same effect as when Jamaal and Sean Connery walk out of the classroom in Finding Forrester.

8. Field of Dreams

Do I need to explain? "Hey dad...wanna have a catch?" Classic.

9. Rudy

And of course, the winner. Rudy is a multiple-crying-moment flick. When his best friend dies, when he gets the Notre Dame acceptance letter, when every player puts their jersey on the coach's desk, the team running a different play to get the defense back in, the sack, and getting carried off the field. "Who's the wild man now!"

* * * * *
Your turn. What movies always make you cry?

Original image
iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
Man Buys Two Metric Tons of LEGO Bricks; Sorts Them Via Machine Learning
Original image
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!

Original image
Why Your iPhone Doesn't Always Show You the 'Decline Call' Button
Original image

When you get an incoming call to your iPhone, the options that light up your screen aren't always the same. Sometimes you have the option to decline a call, and sometimes you only see a slider that allows you to answer, without an option to send the caller straight to voicemail. Why the difference?

A while back, Business Insider tracked down the answer to this conundrum of modern communication, and the answer turns out to be fairly simple.

If you get a call while your phone is locked, you’ll see the "slide to answer" button. In order to decline the call, you have to double-tap the power button on the top of the phone.

If your phone is unlocked, however, the screen that appears during an incoming call is different. You’ll see the two buttons, "accept" or "decline."

Either way, you get the options to set a reminder to call that person back or to immediately send them a text message. ("Dad, stop calling me at work, it’s 9 a.m.!")

[h/t Business Insider]