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10 Crazy Cupcakes

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The cupcake is an art form we can all get behind. It involves baking, an art form in itself, decorating, where the sky is the limit, and photography if the results are good. The best part is that even if the decorating isn't the greatest, you get to eat them! The decorations are excellent in these ten crazy cupcakes.

1. Spaghetti and Meatball Cupcakes

Lisa Smiley showcases many kinds of cupcakes on her site Smiley's Sweets and Creations. One that caught my eye was a cupcake with spaghetti and meatballs on top!

2. Knit Night Cupcakes

Lauren Ulm of Vegan Yum-Yum made these intricately knitted cupcakes for a Knit Night gathering that included a goodbye party for one member. The knitting on top of these cupcakes is made of marzipan yarn. They went over so well, the process of "knitting" them was featured on The Martha Stewart Show.

3. Sushi Cupcakes

Craftster member eggyolk put together Bento boxes of mini-cupcakes that look exactly like sushi. The rice you see is actually white sprinkles. Chopsticks and gummy fish added the finishing touch.

4. Murdered Cupcakes

Craftster member Lethargic made a special batch of cupcakes for a gathering to watch a season premiere of the TV show Dexter, which is about a serial killer. They feature bloody wounds made by knives fashioned from white chocolate. Inside the cupcakes: red velvet cake, of course!

5. Vegetables

Broccoli cupcakes? You heard right! Karen Tack and Alan Richardson of Hello, Cupcake! have produced a series of books on cupcakes. They find there is nothing that doesn't go on a cupcake, one way or another. The book What's New, Cupcake? will show you how to make Lo Mein Chinese cupcakes, which have broccoli on top. Yes, but this is no ordinary broccoli. Each floret is made from candy and sprinkles.

6. Robot Cupcakes

Hello Naomi makes individual cupcakes that are works of art, but are even more awesome in a set, like these robot cupcakes that can be mixed and matched to build cute robots. She also has sets of Pac-Man, Super Mario, and Space Invaders cupcakes in her extensive repertoire.

7. Pickle and Ice Cream Cupcakes

Unlike the other savory food cupcakes in this collection, these are made with real pickles, both in the cake and on top! Stefani Pollack of The Cupcake Project made a batch of pickle cupcakes to announce her pregnancy to blog readers last year. The recipe includes dill, onion, chopped pickles, and pickle juice in the cake itself.

8. Brain Slug Cupcakes

Alicia Traveria made these brain slug cupcakes featuring the critters seen on the TV show Futurama perched on little icing brains. Parasites have never been so cute!

9. Cheeseburger Cupcakes

KateDW's boyfriend surprised her on her birthday with these cupcakes that look just like mini cheeseburgers. She posted illustrated instructions for making them in this Flickr set. The sesame seeds are real!

10. The 100 Cupcakes Game

Robin Dahlberg and her roommates rang in the New Year with a party and 100 cupcakes. Each was decorated differently, to illustrate a game: board games, video games, even games you play in the back seat of a car on long trips. The cupcakes were photographed before being eaten and shared with the rest of us. How many of the 100 games can you identify from the cupcakes?




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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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Here's How to Change Your Name on Facebook
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Whether you want to change your legal name, adopt a new nickname, or simply reinvent your online persona, it's helpful to know the process of resetting your name on Facebook. The social media site isn't a fan of fake accounts, and as a result changing your name is a little more complicated than updating your profile picture or relationship status. Luckily, Daily Dot laid out the steps.

Start by going to the blue bar at the top of the page in desktop view and clicking the down arrow to the far right. From here, go to Settings. This should take you to the General Account Settings page. Find your name as it appears on your profile and click the Edit link to the right of it. Now, you can input your preferred first and last name, and if you’d like, your middle name.

The steps are similar in Facebook mobile. To find Settings, tap the More option in the bottom right corner. Go to Account Settings, then General, then hit your name to change it.

Whatever you type should adhere to Facebook's guidelines, which prohibit symbols, numbers, unusual capitalization, and honorifics like Mr., Ms., and Dr. Before landing on a name, make sure you’re ready to commit to it: Facebook won’t let you update it again for 60 days. If you aren’t happy with these restrictions, adding a secondary name or a name pronunciation might better suit your needs. You can do this by going to the Details About You heading under the About page of your profile.

[h/t Daily Dot]