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5 Things You Don't Know About 5 Pro Wrestlers

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Since WrestleMania is this Sunday, we decided to break with our normal Friday feature to give you five facts you might not have known about some of the biggest wrestlers of the WrestleMania era.

1. Hulk Hogan Wants to Rock

Before Hulk Hogan hit it big as a wrestler he spent close to a decade kicking around Florida as a bassist on the bar-rock circuit. Hogan may have achieved a lot of things since his bass-playing days, but apparently wrestling fame, an unlikely film career, and reality TV stardom haven't killed off the Hulkster's rock-star dreams. In November, he told the Chicago Tribune that he wanted to become the Rolling Stones' bass player.

"I was in England presenting an award with Jerry Hall, Mick Jagger's ex, and she told me the [Rolling] Stones were looking for a bass player," Hogan told the paper. "I sent her a ton of merchandise that she asked for and said, "˜Tell Mick I'm a great bass player.' I never heard a word back."

This rejection wasn't Hogan's first failed effort to join a band, either.

He also told the Tribune, "When Metallica was looking for a bass player, I called and never heard a word back from them either." There are really no words for how funny it would be to see the Hulkster on stage with Metallica, so here's hoping James Hetfield and company can make something happen.

2. He Really Is the Ultimate Warrior

Wrestling fans probably remember the Ultimate Warrior for his over-the-top ring entrances, his face paint, his bulging, tasseled biceps, and his big pinfall win over Hulk Hogan at WrestleMania VI. What they might not know is that he's actually named Warrior. As in, his driver's license just says, "Warrior."

The wrestler was born James Brian Hellwig in 1959, but in 1993 he began to realize that if he left the WWF, he'd lose the rights to the Ultimate Warrior name. To stave off potential advances from Vince McMahon's lawyers, Hellwig legally changed his name to "Warrior."

Believe it or not, the ploy worked. Warrior won legal challenges in 1996 and 1998 that enabled him to keep the Warrior name, gimmick, and mannerisms. Although the Warrior retired from wrestling in 2008, you can still occasionally find him working as a conservative commentator or public speaker.

3. Andre the Giant Had a Custom Ride

If you're at all interested in Andre the Giant, Terry Todd's 1981 profile for Sports Illustrated is a must-read.

Todd reveals all sorts of problems the gigantic Andre had with making it through everyday life, but one of the wrestler's biggest quandaries was being able to fit into a car. When he was wrestling for Vince McMahon in the early 1980s, though, McMahon outfitted Andre with a specialized ride that kept the grappler from having to tuck his head down between his enormous knees. McMahon bought a heavy-duty van, raised the roof by a foot and stuck a couch in the back so Andre could stretch out and have a beer or two. Or 117. (That's how many bottles of German beer Andre allegedly threw back in a single sitting in France in 1969. Other wrestlers would later claim they saw him put down upwards of 325 brews in an evening.)

4. Ric Flair is No Financial Guru

There are a lot of things you'd trust Ric Flair to do. He's tough to beat when it comes to yelling "Woo!" or applying figure-four leg locks. Would you really want to trust him with your finances, though? Apparently not, and Flair found out the hard way. In 2007 Flair opened the online financial company Ric Flair Finance, which promised to help clients secure loans using a "figure-4 process." Apparently the Nature Boy's signature move was more useful in the ring than it was in the loan market; Ric Flair Finance folded just over a year after setting up shop.

5. The Rock has a Guinness Record

Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson was adored by wrestling fans, so his decision to largely leave the business to pursue a film career may have seemed puzzling at first. When you look at the bottom line, though, it makes a bit more sense. According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the $5.5 million salary the Rock received for the 2002 film The Scorpion King was the largest sum ever paid to an actor for his first starring role.

Johnson has been pretty generous with all of that cash, too. In addition to starting a foundation to help terminally ill children, he gave his alma mater, the University of Miami, a $1 million donation to renovate its football facilities. The Hurricanes showed their gratitude by naming their locker room after Johnson.

'5 Things You Didn't Know About...' appears every Friday. If there's someone you'd like to see covered, leave us a comment. You can read the previous installments here.

See Also: WrestleMania Quiz (Part I and Part II), WWF Action Figure Quiz


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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
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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200 Health Experts Call for Ban on Two Antibacterial Chemicals
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In September 2016, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a ban on antibacterial soap and body wash. But a large collective of scientists and medical professionals says the agency should have done more to stop the spread of harmful chemicals into our bodies and environment, most notably the antimicrobials triclosan and triclocarban. They published their recommendations in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.

The 2016 report from the FDA concluded that 19 of the most commonly used antimicrobial ingredients are no more effective than ordinary soap and water, and forbade their use in soap and body wash.

"Customers may think added antimicrobials are a way to reduce infections, but in most products there is no evidence that they do," Ted Schettler, science director of the Science and Environmental Health Network, said in a statement.

Studies have shown that these chemicals may actually do more harm than good. They don't keep us from getting sick, but they can contribute to the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, also known as superbugs. Triclosan and triclocarban can also damage our hormones and immune systems.

And while they may no longer be appearing on our bathroom sinks or shower shelves, they're still all around us. They've leached into the environment from years of use. They're also still being added to a staggering array of consumer products, as companies create "antibacterial" clothing, toys, yoga mats, paint, food storage containers, electronics, doorknobs, and countertops.

The authors of the new consensus statement say it's time for that to stop.

"We must develop better alternatives and prevent unneeded exposures to antimicrobial chemicals," Rolf Haden of the University of Arizona said in the statement. Haden researches where mass-produced chemicals wind up in the environment.

The statement notes that many manufacturers have simply replaced the banned chemicals with others. "I was happy that the FDA finally acted to remove these chemicals from soaps," said Arlene Blum, executive director of the Green Science Policy Institute. "But I was dismayed to discover at my local drugstore that most products now contain substitutes that may be worse."

Blum, Haden, Schettler, and their colleagues "urge scientists, governments, chemical and product manufacturers, purchasing organizations, retailers, and consumers" to avoid antimicrobial chemicals outside of medical settings. "Where antimicrobials are necessary," they write, we should "use safer alternatives that are not persistent and pose no risk to humans or ecosystems."

They recommend that manufacturers label any products containing antimicrobial chemicals so that consumers can avoid them, and they call for further research into the impacts of these compounds on us and our planet.