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Where is Old Jersey? (and 6 other "˜New' location origins)

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I grew up in New Jersey... exit 4, to be more precise. But it wasn't until I left home that I actually started to think about the original Jersey, off the coast of France. Technically, the original Jersey is a bailiwick composed of an island and two groups of small islands, which, along with another bailiwick called Guernsey, make up the Channel Islands. Jersey isn't part of the U.K., nor is it a full-member state of the EU, but is a separate possession of The Crown in Right of the United Kingdom.


So why is New Jersey named after Jersey? Well, When Charles II of England was exiled in Jersey, a man named Sir George Carteret, a royalist statesman in Jersey, often came to the monarch's assistance. To repay the favor, later Charless II gave Carteret a huge tract of land over in the American colonies where Sir Bruce Springsteen would later grow up, which Carteret promptly named New Jersey. This also answers the question: why is there a borough in Middlesex County, NJ called Carteret? Glad we cleared that one up, aren't you?

Okay, but what about New Brunswick, NJ?

Well, in 1714, the area originally inhabited by the Lenape Native Americans was named New Brunswick after the city of Braunschweig, in state of Lower Saxony, in Germany. Bruno II, a Saxon count who lived during the 11th century, settled the original area in Germany and the town is named after him (Bruno + wik).

Leaving New Jersey and traveling into New York, which, of course, was New Amsterdam, we come to the awfully quaint village of New Paltz, NY. Founded in 1678 by French Huguenots, including Louis DuBois, who lived in Mannheim, Germany, for a brief period of time before sailing on to the New Land, New Paltz is probably most famous for being the place Penny got an abortion in the Dirty Dancing.

But what about the name? Well, Mannheim, Germany was a major town of the Rhenish Palatinate or, in German, the Rheinpfalz (try saying that with a saltine in your mouth!). Take away the Rhein and you're left with pfalz, which the good people of Mannheim pronounced Paltz! When they made their way to New York, it was a no-brainer to call the land New Paltz.

New Rochelle, located in Westchester County, New York, was originally settled by refugee Huguenots in 1688 who were on the run from Catholic-instigated massacres back in France. As history would have it, many of the pioneers hailed from the city of La Rochelle, France, which is in south-western France on the Bay of Biscay.

Moving north to Connecticut, we come to one of the most affluent communities in the US, New Canaan, which takes its name first from the parish established in 1731 called Canaan. When the parish finally became a town in 1801, they called it New Canaan. Of course, the original Canaan was a tract of land defined in the Bible as the "Land of Canaan," which, according to the Canaanites, extended from Lebanon southward across Gaza to the "Brook of Egypt" and eastward to the Jordan River Valley.

Our last stop on this Old/New tour is New Hampshire.

The original Hampshire is on the southern coast of England Hampshire, sometimes historically referred to as Southamptonshire, Hamptonshire, and the County of Southampton, which may answer all sort of questions about those precious Hamptons on Long Island. Since Hampshire was on the coast, it made for easy access back in the 17th century for those leaving England and settling in the region they then called New Hampshire.
New Durham, NH was named after Durham, NH, which got its name from England, as well. New Durham is probably best known as the place where Reverend Benjamin Randall founded the then-new religious denomination in 1780 called the Free Will Baptists, later known as Free Baptists. The original Durahm is located in north east of England and is home to Durham University, England's third oldest educational institute after Oxford and Cambridge. It's located not too far from Durham's city center, er, rather centre.

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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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iStock
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Live Smarter
Working Nights Could Keep Your Body from Healing
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iStock

The world we know today relies on millions of people getting up at sundown to go put in a shift on the highway, at the factory, or in the hospital. But the human body was not designed for nocturnal living. Scientists writing in the journal Occupational & Environmental Medicine say working nights could even prevent our bodies from healing damaged DNA.

It’s not as though anybody’s arguing that working in the dark and sleeping during the day is good for us. Previous studies have linked night work and rotating shifts to increased risks for heart disease, diabetes, weight gain, and car accidents. In 2007, the World Health Organization declared night work “probably or possibly carcinogenic.”

So while we know that flipping our natural sleep/wake schedule on its head can be harmful, we don’t completely know why. Some scientists, including the authors of the current paper, think hormones have something to do with it. They’ve been exploring the physiological effects of shift work on the body for years.

For one previous study, they measured workers’ levels of 8-OH-dG, which is a chemical byproduct of the DNA repair process. (All day long, we bruise and ding our DNA. At night, it should fix itself.) They found that people who slept at night had higher levels of 8-OH-dG in their urine than day sleepers, which suggests that their bodies were healing more damage.

The researchers wondered if the differing 8-OH-dG levels could be somehow related to the hormone melatonin, which helps regulate our body clocks. They went back to the archived urine from the first study and identified 50 workers whose melatonin levels differed drastically between night-sleeping and day-sleeping days. They then tested those workers’ samples for 8-OH-dG.

The difference between the two sleeping periods was dramatic. During sleep on the day before working a night shift, workers produced only 20 percent as much 8-OH-dG as they did when sleeping at night.

"This likely reflects a reduced capacity to repair oxidative DNA damage due to insufficient levels of melatonin,” the authors write, “and may result in cells harbouring higher levels of DNA damage."

DNA damage is considered one of the most fundamental causes of cancer.

Lead author Parveen Bhatti says it’s possible that taking melatonin supplements could help, but it’s still too soon to tell. This was a very small study, the participants were all white, and the researchers didn't control for lifestyle-related variables like what the workers ate.

“In the meantime,” Bhatti told Mental Floss, “shift workers should remain vigilant about following current health guidelines, such as not smoking, eating a balanced diet and getting plenty of sleep and exercise.”

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