CLOSE

The Weird Week in Review

Man Shoots Store Over Crawfish

Larry Wayne Kelly of Ensley, Florida, found he could not buy crawfish from a seafood market on Sunday evening because they were out of stock. He had called the L&T Seafood Market just before closing time at five. Kelly apparently became upset, and continued to call the business many times after they closed. At about 7PM, police were called to investigate shots fired in the neighborhood. After a car chase, they found Kelly with several loaded firearms in his vehicle. They also found eleven bullet holes in the seafood market building. Kelly asserted that he is a “sovereign citizen” and not subject to the law, but he was arrested anyway on 27 felony charges.

Horse Herpes Forces Rodeo Queens to Ride Stick Ponies

An outbreak of equine herpes virus is causing havoc on the rodeo and show horse circuit. Normally, the contestants in the Davis County Sheriff's Mounted Posse Junior Queen Contest in Utah ride horses as they compete, but this year rode stick ponies instead. The competition is a little tougher as the horses will not being doing any of the work. The stick pony competition tests how well the riders know the routine. Although not sexually transmitted, equine herpes is highly contagious among horses, incurable, and can be fatal.

Police Shoot Concrete Alligator

Three policemen in Independence, Missouri spotted an alligator on a lawn. They lined up and got two shots into the alligator before they realized it was made of concrete. Homeowner Rick Sheridan heard the shots from his garage and went around to find the policemen shooting at his lawn ornament. Sheridan plans to patch up the damaged alligator.

Credit Card Found 25 Years Later -Underwater!

John Krayeski of West Palm Beach, Florida, was spear fishing in the waters off Singer Island, specifically at an artificial reef called the Triangle. A responsible diver, he often picks up trash he sees underwater. On this trip, he picked up an old JC Penney credit card. Back on land, he read the name on the card: Jack Jacobs. He knew the name, as Krayeski's construction business had built an addition at Jacob's home. Jacobs' wife told Krayeski that they never had a card from JC Penney, but later Jack Jacobs called and said he'd lost that card 25 years ago, before he was ever married! However, he had no idea how it ended up a mile out at sea.

"I told John I'm going to drop another credit card in the ocean and he has 25 years to find it."

"Make it a gold American Express and I'll find it a lot sooner," Krayeski said.

Bank Robbers Dressed as Nuns

It was a scene modeled after a bank robbery depicted in the movie The Town as two people dressed a nuns robbed the West Englewood branch of TCF bank in Palos Heights, Illinois, Sunday afternoon. They jumped over the counter and forced two employees into the vault where they packed a duffel bag with an undisclosed amount of money. No shots were fired. The two "nuns," later described as a white male and a white female, fled in a silver Chevrolet. The bank was open as usual on Monday. The robbers' disguises were surprising, but even more astonishing is the fact that a bank was open not only on Sunday, but also on a Monday holiday!

Is the Yellow Brick Road in Peekskill?

When L. Frank Baum wrote The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, could the yellow brick road have been inspired by a road in Peekskill, New York? City historian John Curran thinks so, and has done the research. Baum attended Peekskill Military Academy in 1868, when he was 12 years old.

In 2005, a Fulbright scholar and artist persuaded John Testa, who was the mayor of Peekskill at the time, to conduct an authenticity study on the road. Mr. Curran uncovered maps showing that West Street, which leads from the steamboat dock up a hill to the military academy, was indeed made of Dutch pavers, a common yellow-hued brick in the Dutch-settled area.

The maps showed Mr. Baum had to have walked along the road to get to school, Mr. Curran said.

Only a small part of the road is still brick. Curran would like to restore the road, or build a monument of some sort to Oz, but the city does not have the money for such a project.

Stolen 59" TV Transported on Bicycle

Police in South Daytona, Florida, though something looked suspicious when they spotted 23-year-old Steven Long riding a bike with a 59" television wedged between his lap and the handlebars. The rider fled when he saw the cops, and later abandoned both the bike and the TV set. He was arrested in a residential yard after a short chase. Long told police that he had been given the set to settle a debt, and that he ran because "he doesn't like police." Meanwhile, a burglary was reported in which a 59" TV was taken. The victims identified the set, which they had only purchased a week before, but was retrieved broken beyond repair.

Original image
iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
technology
arrow
Man Buys Two Metric Tons of LEGO Bricks; Sorts Them Via Machine Learning
May 21, 2017
Original image
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!

Original image
Opening Ceremony
fun
arrow
These $425 Jeans Can Turn Into Jorts
May 19, 2017
Original image
Opening Ceremony

Modular clothing used to consist of something simple, like a reversible jacket. Today, it’s a $425 pair of detachable jeans.

Apparel retailer Opening Ceremony recently debuted a pair of “2 in 1 Y/Project” trousers that look fairly peculiar. The legs are held to the crotch by a pair of loops, creating a disjointed C-3PO effect. Undo the loops and you can now remove the legs entirely, leaving a pair of jean shorts in their wake. The result goes from this:

501069-OpeningCeremony2.jpg

Opening Ceremony

To this:

501069-OpeningCeremony3.jpg

Opening Ceremony

The company also offers a slightly different cut with button tabs in black for $460. If these aren’t audacious enough for you, the Y/Project line includes jumpsuits with removable legs and garter-equipped jeans.

[h/t Mashable]

SECTIONS
BIG QUESTIONS
BIG QUESTIONS
JOB SECRETS
QUIZZES
WORLD WAR 1
SMART SHOPPING
STONES, BONES, & WRECKS
#TBT
THE PRESIDENTS
WORDS
RETROBITUARIES