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How Did You Know, Hoang-Kim and Cara Vu?

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First a little update: We're now over 820 fans over on the Hunt's Facebook page! Gamers are taking it upon themselves to trade answers through cryptic clues! Nice going Fans! Keep on using the page in new, and cool ways as the community grows.

As always, we got dozens of submissions with all the correct answers. In fact, as I type this, they're still coming in! And you all will be entered into the drawing to win this month's Vado HD cam, courtesy of our sponsors. Likewise, anyone who submitted any answer at all is eligible for the free premium subscription on motionbox.com.

But enough chatter. On with the winners!

schoolofathensYou'll recognize the team of Hoang-Kim and Cara Vu from April 2009. We'll post all their work after the jump, but first a little bit more about them: My sister Cara and I are ecstatic and obviously honored to finally be back in the winner's circle. Since we live far apart now, HDYK is actually our way of sibling bonding; we both try to solve the day's challenges by ourselves and then compare answers at night. Part of me looks forward to HDYK every month for the week of daily frustrated text messages, culminating in a frantic screaming ten-minute phone call at 8pm on Monday. But we have a blast every time, and everyone in our family knows to stay away from us the last week of the month (unless they can contribute). When we're not trying to match up audio clip mashups on Youtube, Cara is a high-school senior in New Jersey (and perhaps UChicago-bound!), and I'm a George Washington alum, working in international development in DC.

Thanks again for the amazing trivia hunt, and see you next month!

Final Answer

The phone number is for the Glendale Public Library, found on East Harvard Street. It has a internationally known "Cat Collection."

Day 1

D1L1

The beaks are as follows (we watch a lot of cartoons):
1) Beaky Buzzard
2) Woodstock
3) Owl from Winnie the Pooh
4) Daffy Duck
5) Tweety Bird
6) Twitter Bird
7) Sam the Eagle (!)
8) Foghorn Leghorn
9) Big Bird
10) Roadrunner

D1L2

The answers are as follows: Scissors, Clan, Wave, Reed, Hanks, Lasagna, Leaf (knew everything but Leaf off the top of my head, looked that one up).
The birds are: Cardinals, Seahawks, Falcons, Ravens, and Eagles, which are all teams in the NFL.

D1L3

The nine songs are as follows (figured that Free Bird and Fly Like An Eagle would be in there, and everything else fell into place):
1) Songbird (Eva Cassidy)
2) Sparrow (Simon and Garfunkel)
3) Disco Duck (Rick Dees)
4) Doin' the Pigeon (Sesame Street)
5) Free Bird (Lynyrd Skynyrd)
6) Fly Like An Eagle (Bee Gees)
7) When Doves Cry (Prince)
8) I'm Like a Bird (Nelly Furtado)
9) Blackbird (The Beatles)

Day 2

D2L1

1) Pretty in Pink
2) The Breakfast Club
3) Sixteen Candles
4) St. Elmo's Fire
5) Revenge of the Nerds
6) Amadeus
7) Ferris Bueller's Day Off

D2L2

1) Michael Jackson's "Thriller" Becomes Best-Selling Record Ever
2) "Live Aid" Concerts in London And Philadelphia Raise Money for Famine Relief
3) "Baby Jessica" McClure Falls Down Well
4) United States Hockey Team Defeats Russia to Win Olympic Gold Medal
The Texas town in #3 is Midland.

D2L3

1) Kool and the Gang - Celebration
2) Rolling Stones - Emotional Rescue
3) Toni Basil - Mickey
4) Steve Winwood - Roll With It
5) Starship - Nothing's Gonna Stop Us Now
6) Michael Jackson - Billie Jean

Day 3

1) Cop Rock (a rock with a policeman's hat)
2) NYPD Blue (the letters NYPD are in blue)
3) Barney Miller (Barney the dinosaur and beer)
4) Chips (British word for fries)
5) Law and Order (Jude Law, and a restaurant check order)

D3L2

12 pm: Lunch
1pm: The Return of the Pink Panther
3pm: The Haunted Showboat
5pm: Charlie's Angels
7pm: Dinner
8pm: A Study in Scarlet
10pm: Rear Window
12am: The Melted Coins

The director of the last film he watched is Alfred Hitchcock.

D3L3

1) Anthony Kennedy
2) Sonia Sotomayor
3) Antonin Scalia
4) Ruth Bader Ginsburg
5) John G. Roberts
6) Clarence Thomas
7) Samuel Alito
8) John Paul Stevens

The missing name is 9th Justice Stephen Breyer.

Day 4

D4L1

Hexagon
Taxidermy
Vixen
Mexico
Jukebox
Netflix
Xylem
Xylitol
Foxtrot
Lennox
Anthrax
Xerox

The phrase spells out "Greek Letter X" which is Chi.

D4L2

HA+NG = Hang Ten
PO+WER+SOF = Powers of Ten
TH+EW+HO+LE + YA+RDS = The Whole Ten Yards
TOP + LI+ST = Top Ten List
BIG + CON+FE+REN+CE = Big Ten Conference
PI+NB+OWL+ING = Ten Pin Bowling
CO+MM+AND+MEN+TS = Ten Commandments
DO+WN+IN+GS+TR+EET = Ten Downing Street
The blogger's last name is Higgins.

D4L3

9, 2, 3, 3, 6
8, 9, 7, 2, 9, 5
6, 1, 4, 3, 7, 1, 4
5, 2, 1, 7, 8
3, 6, 4
2, 5, 4, 8, 6
2, 9, 5, 1, 5, 7, 2
6, 8, 3, 3, 5, 8
7, 4, 9, 4, 1

Day 5

Big Bird appeared in an episode in 1981.
The number of different consonants in Breyer's name is 8.
Cop Rock was ranked #5 in the worst shows of all time.
The orange box had an 8 in it.
Josh read A Study in Scarlet at 8pm, or 2000.

The number is as follows: 818-548-2020

The number is for the Glendale Public Library, found on East Harvard Street. It has a internationally known "Cat Collection/"

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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
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technology
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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© Nintendo
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fun
Nintendo Will Release an $80 Mini SNES in September
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© Nintendo

Retro gamers rejoice: Nintendo just announced that it will be launching a revamped version of its beloved Super Nintendo Classic console, which will allow kids and grown-ups alike to play classic 16-bit games in high-definition.

The new SNES Classic Edition, a miniature version of the original console, comes with an HDMI cable to make it compatible with modern televisions. It also comes pre-loaded with a roster of 21 games, including Super Mario Kart, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, Donkey Kong Country, and Star Fox 2, an unreleased sequel to the 1993 original.

“While many people from around the world consider the Super NES to be one of the greatest video game systems ever made, many of our younger fans never had a chance to play it,” Doug Bowser, Nintendo's senior vice president of sales and marketing, said in a statement. “With the Super NES Classic Edition, new fans will be introduced to some of the best Nintendo games of all time, while longtime fans can relive some of their favorite retro classics with family and friends.”

The SNES Classic Edition will go on sale on September 29 and retail for $79.99. Nintendo reportedly only plans to manufacture the console “until the end of calendar year 2017,” which means that the competition to get your hands on one will likely be stiff, as anyone who tried to purchase an NES Classic last year will well remember.

In November 2016, Nintendo released a miniature version of its original NES system, which sold out pretty much instantly. After selling 2.3 million units, Nintendo discontinued the NES Classic in April. In a statement to Polygon, the company has pledged to “produce significantly more units of Super NES Classic Edition than we did of NES Classic Edition.”

Nintendo has not yet released information about where gamers will be able to buy the new console, but you may want to start planning to get in line soon.

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