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Amazing Aqueduct Architecture

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Most people know that Romans were pretty good architects and added impressive aqueduct systems to most of the areas they conquered. But just how amazing these marvels of ancient architecture are is often overlooked. A recent WebUrbanist article takes an in-depth look at these marvels of design and also includes a number of stunning photos of those still in existence.

The aqueducts are fascinating not only because they helped bring clean water into city centers, allowing the residents to thrive, but also because the Roman engineers who designed and built the structures were so amazing. Many of the aqueducts survive to this day thanks to the use of structurally strong arches. Many of the arches were so well built that no mortar was used in their construction.

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Watch How Computers Perform Optical Character Recognition
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iStock // nikolay100

Optical Character Recognition (OCR) is the key technology in scanning books, signs, and all other real-world texts into digital form. OCR is all about identifying a picture of written language (or set of letters, numbers, glyphs, you name it) and sorting out what specific characters are in there.

OCR is a hard computer science problem, though you wouldn't know it from its current pervasive presence in consumer software. Today, you can point a smartphone at a document, or a sign in a national park, and instantly get a pretty accurate OCR read-out...and even a translation. It has taken decades of research to reach this point.

Beyond the obvious problems—telling a lowercase "L" apart from the number "1," for instance—there are deep problems associated with OCR. For one thing, the system needs to figure out what font is in use. For another, it needs to sort out what language the writing is in, as that will radically affect the set of characters it can expect to see together. This gets especially weird when a single photo contains multiple fonts and languages. Fortunately, computer scientists are awesome.

In this Computerphile video, Professor Steve Simske (University of Nottingham) walks us through some of the key computer science challenges involved with OCR, showing common solutions by drawing them out on paper. Tune in and learn how this impressive technology really works:

A somewhat related challenge, also featuring Simske, is "security printing" and "crazy text." Check out this Computerphile video examining those computer science problems, for another peek into how computers see (and generate) text and imagery.

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fun
Can You Solve This Fish Riddle?
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Transporting cargo by boat doesn’t usually require solving tricky brainteasers. That’s not the case with this fishy riddle from TED-Ed.

For this scenario, imagine you're a cargo boat director who’s charged with shipping several tanks of rare fish to an aquarium. The tanks are tossed overboard during a rough storm and it’s your job to retrieve them. There’s a mini-sub onboard that might be of assistance, but there’s a problem: You only have enough fuel for it to make one quick trip. Before launching your rescue mission, you need to figure out exactly how many tanks fell into the water and where they landed.

After referring to sonar data, thermal imaging, and your shipping notes, you come up with this list of information to help narrow down your search.

1. There are three sectors where the cargo landed.

2. There are 50 animals in the area, including the lost fish and deadly sharks.

3. Each sector contains between one and seven sharks and no two sectors have the same amount of sharks.

4. The tanks each have the same amount of fish.

5. There are 13 tanks at most.

6. The first sector has two sharks and four tanks in it.

7. The second sector has four sharks and two tanks.

So how many fish are there? If you came up with 39, you’re right. There can only be 39 fish spread out across 13 tanks, which means there are three fish in each.

In case you’re feeling more confused now than you were before, you can refer to TED-Ed’s full explanation in the video below.

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