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The 10 Geekiest Lego Creations

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I know, to some extent, all Lego creations made by anyone over the age of 10 are a little geeky, but it takes things to a whole new level of nerdiness to create something based on your favorite sci-fi movie or video game. Even so, the hardest part of writing this article wasn’t coming up with 10 amazingly geeky creations, but deciding which ones not to include. That’s why aside from the geekiness of the subject matter, I had to take into account how much work each project took to make a reality. After all, if there’s anything geekier than a nerdy Lego creation, it’s taking an unbelievable amount of time to construct said design.

Mario Brothers Animation

Making a Mario screen out of your favorite interlocking brick toys is pretty geeky, but taking the extra step to turn the design into a stop motion animation is what makes this Mario Brothers Lego project stand out from the crowd.

Thriller Video

What could be better than a stop-motion Lego recreation of one of the world’s favorite video games? How about a 13 minute long, shot-for-shot remake of one of the most memorable music videos ever created? The dancing might not be as good as the original, but you have to admit, they still have pretty good moves for minifigs.

The Dark Knight Trailer

There are tons of Lego-animated videos on the net, but this one earns a spot on this list thanks to the incredible editing done to really make the shot-for-shot remake of the trailer look like a perfect (albeit Lego-ized) copy of the original. This just might be the most epic-looking Lego video I’ve seen so far.

The Matrix Bullet Scene

This video, made in celebration of the tenth anniversary of the release of the first Matrix movie, took over 440 hours to make. Scene by scene, the quality shows and even those that aren’t fans of the film are certain to be impressed with the level of detail put into filming this incredible Lego remake.

Monty Python’s Crimson Permanent Assurance

If you’ve seen “Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life,” then you’ll remember the introductory scene filled with accountant pirates performing hostile takeovers of other companies. Flickr user gotoAndLego’s Lego recreation of the company’s pirate ship is delightfully faithful to the original –it even includes working interior lights.

M.C. Escher’s Relativity

Andrew Lipson and Daniel Shiu have done a few faithful recreations of MC. Escher pictures, but their massive stairway-filled labyrinth created after Escher’s “Relativity” is my favorite. On Lipson's website, he attempts to explain how the feat was mastered, but personally, I like to remain in the dark, so the illusion seems all that much more mystical.

Star Wars Jawa Sandcrawler

Yes, there are tons of Lego Star Wars works (some of them are even officially manufactured by Lego), but how many of these actually light up, move on their own and can pick up droids? Equally impressive: Marshal Banana’s 10,000-piece LEGO sandcrawler has a fully detailed interior complete with a host of characters from the movie. That’s why this one stands out even with so much competition.

Pinball Machine

While the raised bumps on a Lego brick make them seem like a less-than-ideal material for building a pinball machine, Gerrit Bronsveld and Martijn Boogaarts were able to challenge that idea with a 20,000 block machine that took over 300 hours to complete. While the standard metal ball proved too heavy for the Lego motor, the creators were able to substitute a glass ball in its place and the game was all the rage at the LegoWorld exhibition in the Netherlands where it was debuted.

The Most Useless Machine

While most machines are made to accomplish some type of task, the most useless machine ever was created solely for the sake of creation. If that weren’t a geeky enough objective, the entire point of the Lego version was to create something that existed solely for the point of creating it…in Lego.

Rubik’s Cube Solver

Yes, you read that right. This amazing Lego machine uses custom-made software and a Lego motor to rotate and solve Rubik’s Cubes. The future of geekery is now.

I’m sure any Lego fans reading this will have their own favorite geeky creations. If you’re one of those Lego lovers, feel free to share your links and stories of the geekiest Lego creation you’ve ever seen or made.

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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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Nick Briggs/Comic Relief
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What Happened to Jamie and Aurelia From Love Actually?
May 26, 2017
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Nick Briggs/Comic Relief

Fans of the romantic-comedy Love Actually recently got a bonus reunion in the form of Red Nose Day Actually, a short charity special that gave audiences a peek at where their favorite characters ended up almost 15 years later.

One of the most improbable pairings from the original film was between Jamie (Colin Firth) and Aurelia (Lúcia Moniz), who fell in love despite almost no shared vocabulary. Jamie is English, and Aurelia is Portuguese, and they know just enough of each other’s native tongues for Jamie to propose and Aurelia to accept.

A decade and a half on, they have both improved their knowledge of each other’s languages—if not perfectly, in Jamie’s case. But apparently, their love is much stronger than his grasp on Portuguese grammar, because they’ve got three bilingual kids and another on the way. (And still enjoy having important romantic moments in the car.)

In 2015, Love Actually script editor Emma Freud revealed via Twitter what happened between Karen and Harry (Emma Thompson and Alan Rickman, who passed away last year). Most of the other couples get happy endings in the short—even if Hugh Grant's character hasn't gotten any better at dancing.

[h/t TV Guide]

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