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The First Beatles Record

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Most any musical history book will tell you that the first Beatles record was "Love Me Do."


Sure, "Love Me Do," released October 5, 1962. It went to #17 on the British charts.


Ringo Starr had the great indignity of having to play a lousy tambourine on a few takes instead of his customary drums, and a substitute session drummer named Andy White was called in to play drums in Ringo's stead.


Ringo is featured on the single of "Love Me Do," but it's Andy White's drum we hear on the album version of the song.

Yes, that's all true. But let's go back a few years in our imaginary time machine.

Back to a Sunday afternoon on July 14, 1958—the day The Beatles actually did make "their first record."

Meet The Quarrymen!

This was pre-Ringo—it would actually be a full four years before Ringo would find his niche of immortality as the Fab Four's drummer.

The "Beatles" line-up—they were actually called "The Quarrymen" at this early point in their young career—did, however, include John Lennon, Paul McCartney, and George Harrison. The 15-year-old George had only been with the band for a few months at this time. Colin Hanton was the band's drummer and John "Duff" Lowe played the piano.

The five young and excited musicians had rehearsed earlier on that fateful summer day at Paul's house. They trooped off to the bus stop and boarded the local, each carrying his own instrument. A piano must have already been in the studio; obviously Lowe didn't carry one onto the bus.

The five broke band members got the fee together and plunked it down at the Percy Phillips Recording Studio in Liverpool. The fee was roughly $2.00.

Two songs were recorded at this historic session. One was buddy holly's classic "That'll Be the Day." John sang the lead on this number. Even at this early point, Lennon displays a bit of panache as we listen to the first strains of his trademark slightly-nasal voice. For a 17-year-old novice, he displays considerable talent.

Lennon mimics his idol, Holly, in a pretty dead-on hiccuping singing style and tone that belies both his youth and complete lack of experience.

“McCartney-Harrison.” But Mostly McCartney.

But the second song is a bit more interesting. It's called "In Spite of all the Danger." Most every source credits this song to "Paul McCartney-George Harrison," which makes it the only "McCartney-Harrison" song ever recorded.

(Although it's credited to Paul and George, Paul later claimed it was "his" song, written without George's help. Paul does admit that George played lead guitar on this record. Paul claims he wrote the song when he was 14, part of an early batch of songs he wrote at the time).

Another oddity: John sings lead on this song, too.

This is strange, in view of the later unalterable iron-clad agreement between John and Paul throughout all the years of the band: Whoever wrote the song, or a majority of it, automatically would sing the lead.

"We ran through it very quickly," Paul said. "Quarter of an hour and it was all over."

After the 10-inch 78 rpm record was pressed and given to the boys, an agreement was made. Each band member could keep it for a week, then that member would hand it over to the next.

So, John held the treasured record for a week, then Paul held it for a week, then George held it for a week, then Colin for a week, then "Duff" Lowe got it and held it—for 23 years!

The Rarest Record in the World

Somehow, long after Lowe had left and the band had moved on, the record had remained in his possession. In the mid-1960s, he did put in a call to The Beatles, informing them that he still had their "first record."

His call was never returned.

(Who knows why this call was ignored? Maybe the message never got to John or Paul? Maybe at the time they were so busy they couldn't be bothered?)

In the 1980s, Paul discovered the treasured artifact and bought it from Lowe for an undisclosed amount. He made 50 pressings of it and gave them away as Christmas presents to a list of special friends—two of whom were named George and Ringo.

According to Record Collector magazine, this double-sided single is "The rarest record in the world." It's estimated to be worth somewhere between $150,000.00 and $300,000.00. This is probably a conservative estimate.


Eddie Deezen has appeared in over 30 motion pictures, including Grease, WarGames, 1941, and The Polar Express. He's also been featured in several TV shows, including Magnum PI, The Facts of Life, and The Gong Show. And he's done thousands of voice-overs for radio and cartoons, such as Dexter's Laboratory and Family Guy. Eddie is a self-confessed Beatles nut and has read over 600 books on The Fab Four. This month, he'll be contributing a handful of Beatles stories to mentalfloss.com. Make him feel welcome!

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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
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Man Buys Two Metric Tons of LEGO Bricks; Sorts Them Via Machine Learning
May 21, 2017
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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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8 Common Dog Behaviors, Decoded
May 25, 2017
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Dogs are a lot more complicated than we give them credit for. As a result, sometimes things get lost in translation. We’ve yet to invent a dog-to-English translator, but there are certain behaviors you can learn to read in order to better understand what your dog is trying to tell you. The more tuned-in you are to your dog’s emotions, the better you’ll be able to respond—whether that means giving her some space or welcoming a wet, slobbery kiss. 

1. What you’ll see: Your dog is standing with his legs and body relaxed and tail low. His ears are up, but not pointed forward. His mouth is slightly open, he’s panting lightly, and his tongue is loose. His eyes? Soft or maybe slightly squinty from getting his smile on.

What it means: “Hey there, friend!” Your pup is in a calm, relaxed state. He’s open to mingling, which means you can feel comfortable letting friends say hi.

2. What you’ll see: Your dog is standing with her body leaning forward. Her ears are erect and angled forward—or have at least perked up if they’re floppy—and her mouth is closed. Her tail might be sticking out horizontally or sticking straight up and wagging slightly.

What it means: “Hark! Who goes there?!” Something caught your pup’s attention and now she’s on high alert, trying to discern whether or not the person, animal, or situation is a threat. She’ll likely stay on guard until she feels safe or becomes distracted.

3. What you’ll see: Your dog is standing, leaning slightly forward. His body and legs are tense, and his hackles—those hairs along his back and neck—are raised. His tail is stiff and twitching, not swooping playfully. His mouth is open, teeth are exposed, and he may be snarling, snapping, or barking excessively.

What it means: “Don’t mess with me!” This dog is asserting his social dominance and letting others know that he might attack if they don’t defer accordingly. A dog in this stance could be either offensively aggressive or defensively aggressive. If you encounter a dog in this state, play it safe and back away slowly without making eye contact.

4. What you’ll see: As another dog approaches, your dog lies down on his back with his tail tucked in between his legs. His paws are tucked in too, his ears are flat, and he isn’t making direct eye contact with the other dog standing over him.

What it means: “I come in peace!” Your pooch is displaying signs of submission to a more dominant dog, conveying total surrender to avoid physical confrontation. Other, less obvious, signs of submission include ears that are flattened back against the head, an avoidance of eye contact, a tongue flick, and bared teeth. Yup—a dog might bare his teeth while still being submissive, but they’ll likely be clenched together, the lips opened horizontally rather than curled up to show the front canines. A submissive dog will also slink backward or inward rather than forward, which would indicate more aggressive behavior.

5. What you’ll see: Your dog is crouching with her back hunched, tail tucked, and the corner of her mouth pulled back with lips slightly curled. Her shoulders, or hackles, are raised and her ears are flattened. She’s avoiding eye contact.

What it means: “I’m scared, but will fight you if I have to.” This dog’s fight or flight instincts have been activated. It’s best to keep your distance from a dog in this emotional state because she could attack if she feels cornered.

6. What you’ll see: You’re staring at your dog, holding eye contact. Your dog looks away from you, tentatively looks back, then looks away again. After some time, he licks his chops and yawns.

What it means: “I don’t know what’s going on and it’s weirding me out.” Your dog doesn’t know what to make of the situation, but rather than nipping or barking, he’ll stick to behaviors he knows are OK, like yawning, licking his chops, or shaking as if he’s wet. You’ll want to intervene by removing whatever it is causing him discomfort—such as an overly grabby child—and giving him some space to relax.

7. What you’ll see: Your dog has her front paws bent and lowered onto the ground with her rear in the air. Her body is relaxed, loose, and wiggly, and her tail is up and wagging from side to side. She might also let out a high-pitched or impatient bark.

What it means: “What’s the hold up? Let’s play!” This classic stance, known to dog trainers and behaviorists as “the play bow,” is a sign she’s ready to let the good times roll. Get ready for a round of fetch or tug of war, or for a good long outing at the dog park.

8. What you’ll see: You’ve just gotten home from work and your dog rushes over. He can’t stop wiggling his backside, and he may even lower himself into a giant stretch, like he’s doing yoga.

What it means: “OhmygoshImsohappytoseeyou I love you so much you’re my best friend foreverandeverandever!!!!” This one’s easy: Your pup is overjoyed his BFF is back. That big stretch is something dogs don’t pull out for just anyone; they save that for the people they truly love. Show him you feel the same way with a good belly rub and a handful of his favorite treats.

The best way to say “I love you” in dog? A monthly subscription to BarkBox. Your favorite pup will get a package filled with treats, toys, and other good stuff (and in return, you’ll probably get lots of sloppy kisses). Visit BarkBox to learn more.

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