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The Weird Week in Review

Europe Seeing More Radioactive Wild Boars

Increasing numbers of radioactive boars have become a problem in Germany, where they have attacked people and caused traffic problems. Boar hunting is a lucrative activity in Germany as wild boar meat is popular, but many of the boars bagged this year have been too radioactive to consume. The government compensates hunters who cannot sell the meat due to radioactivity, which is caused by the 1986 nuclear accident at Chernobyl, Ukraine. The wild pigs have reproduced above normal levels because of warmer winters and an increase in corn crops in Germany.

Tokyo's 'Oldest Woman' Hasn't Been Seen for Decades

In the wake of last week's news about Tokyo's oldest recorded man being dead, city officials decided to check on the oldest woman in their records, Fusa Furuya, alleged to be 113 years old. She was nowhere to be found. Furuya's 79-year-old daughter said she hadn't seen her mother since the 1980s. The address she had for her mother turned out to be a vacant lot. Tokyo authorities are now seeking Furuya's son in hopes of settling the mystery of what happened to Furuya.

Woman Finds Husband on Facebook Marrying Another Woman

In early 2009, Lynn France of Cleveland was looking for evidence that her husband was cheating on her. She had already caught him with another woman once, and had evidence that he wasn't traveling to the places he claimed he was. So she typed the name of the "other woman" into Facebook's search field.

Click. And there it was, the stuff of nightmares for any spouse, cuckolded or not. Wedding photos. At Walt Disney World, no less, featuring her husband literally dressed as Prince Charming. His new wife, a pretty blonde, was a glowing Sleeping Beauty, surrounded by footmen.

"I was numb with shock, to tell you the truth," says France, an occupational therapist from Westlake, a Cleveland suburb. "There was like an album of 200 pictures on there. Their whole wedding."

France began divorce proceedings after the discovery. So remember, Facebook is no place to practice bigamy.

Woman Types Help Message With Toes During Robbery

Amy Windom of Atlanta, Georgia was the victim of a break-in at her home. The gunman struck her with a handgun and tied her hands to the bed. She was left tied up for hours, while the intruder robbed the house and left. But Windom didn't take it lying down. She used her laptop to send an instant message to her boyfriend -by typing with her toes! Her boyfriend then called police. The intruder is still at large, believed to be driving Windom's car.

Switched at Birth with a Happy Ending

Dimas Aliprandi of Joao Neiva, Brazil always wondered why he didn't look like his sisters. When he was 24, he finally could afford a DNA test which proved he was not the biological child of his parents. His parents were shocked! Further investigation found that Aliprandi was switched at birth with another boy born on the same day. Elton Plaster and his family agreed to DNA tests that confirmed the two had been switched at the hospital in which they were born. What happened afterward is the most remarkable part. The Plaster family invited the Aliprandi family to come and live on their farm, where they built another house. Both young men are now living with both their biological parents and the parents who raised them.

Robber Calls Wendy's to Complain About Cash

When you rob a fast food outlet, you expect to come away with a lot of cash. One thief in Atlanta was sorely disappointed with his take, so he called the Wendy's he robbed to complain.

"Next time there better be more than $586," he said during one call. He made "a similar threat" in the second call, police said.

About 11:15 p.m., a man wearing a ski mask and holding a gun walked up to the drive-through window at the Wendy's at 1940 Piedmont Road, police said. He told an employee to put the cash drawer on the counter.

Police are hoping to get clues as to the thief's identity by studying the security cameras.

Superman Saves Family Home From Foreclosure

A family in the south US who wishes to remain anonymous was packing up their belongings because their home was in foreclosure. Now, you know that moving house is the time you find things that have been lost for years, but no one in the family expected to find a copy of Action Comics #1. But they did. Action Comics #1 is the first ever appearance of Superman. This particular copy could brings as much as $250,000 at auction.

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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
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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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Here's How to Change Your Name on Facebook
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iStock

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]

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