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Hakeem Olajuwon's Phantom Quadruple-Double

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The quadruple-double is one of basketball’s most elusive feats. Only four players have managed to rack up double-digit totals in four major statistical categories (points, rebounds, assists, steals, blocks) in a single game since the NBA began tracking steals and blocked shots at the beginning of the 1973-74. Nate Thurmond, Alvin Robertson, Hakeem Olajuwon, and David Robinson all have one quadruple-double to their names.

The NBA very briefly had a fifth quadruple-double in its record books, though. On March 3, 1990, Olajuwon of the Houston Rockets absolutely dissected the hapless Golden State Warriors en route to a 129-109 blowout. Olajuwon ended the game with a monstrous triple-double stat line: 29 points, 18 rebounds, and 11 blocks.


The Dream had come achingly close to a bigger milestone. He finished the game with nine assists, meaning he was only one thin dime away from putting up what would have been the third quadruple-double in league history. Houston’s starting five for the game included such luminaries as Mitchell Wiggins and the immortal Buck Johnson; if just one more of the passes they received from the Hall of Fame big man had turned into a bucket, he would have had his quadruple-double.


It’s not clear whether Olajuwon knew or even cared how close he’d come to the arbitrary milestone, but Rockets coach Don Chaney and team media-relations director Jay Goldberg sure did.

The pair reviewed the game tape immediately after the final buzzer and “found” what seemed to be an uncredited assist for Olajuwon in the first quarter. The team quickly issued a revised box score that credited Olajuwon for 29 points, 18 rebounds, 10 assists, and 11 blocks. Bingo! Quadruple-double achieved!

Recount

The NBA gives its statisticians a bit of latitude when it comes to determining what exactly counts as an assist thanks to the inherently subjective nature of the stat. Having team officials review game tapes and revise box scores goes well beyond “latitude” and right into “chicanery” territory, though. When the league caught wind of the revision, director of operations Rod Thorn asked if he could take his own peek at the tape.

That’s where the quadruple-double got a little less quad-y. Three days later, Thorn announced his findings. On further review, Olajuwon didn’t deserve 10 assists, and the original box score that gave him credit for nine dimes would remain the official record of the game. Thorn didn’t think much of the Rockets’ shenanigans; he publicly said, “A box score should not be changed after the fact for the purpose of achieving a statistical milestone.”

According to Thorn, if the box score had been erroneous, finding and fixing the problem was the league’s prerogative. Thorn opted against fining the Rockets for their box score manipulation. (He could hardly blame Chaney and Goldberg for looking for a bright spot in an otherwise mediocre season that would see Houston post a 41-41 record.) Chaney’s reaction: “What they think is an assist and what we think is an assist must be two different things.”

It Wasn't That Close

The really funny thing, though, is that Thorn was being charitable just by letting Olajuwon keep the nine assists he had received credit for on the undoctored score sheet. According to the story Knight-Ridder ran over the flap, a source at the league office claimed that Thorn and the league might have let Olajuwon keep that phantom tenth assist if the other nine had been legit. The source said that Olajuwon had already received some awfully generous hometown scoring in the original box score; the league thought he had only really earned six or seven assists.

This odd footnote didn’t prove to be much of a setback for Olajuwon. Just three weeks later he dropped a legitimate quadruple-double with 18 points, 16 rebounds, 10 assists, and 11 blocks in a 120-94 Rockets win over the Milwaukee Bucks.

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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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