CLOSE
Original image

10 Non–Rock Stars Who Died at the Tragically Young Age of 27

Original image

© Laurence Baker/Corbis

On Saturday, Amy Winehouse passed away and became the latest member of Club 27—an exclusive club you don’t want to be in. Club 27 is headlined by musicians Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, Kurt Cobain, and Brian Jones, who all died of a drug overdose, suicide, or accident at that young age. But the musically inclined aren't the only ones who die at 27. Here are 10 other people who didn’t live to see 28.

1. Pope John XII. One of the youngest Popes ever, Pope John XII sat on the papal chair from 955-964. He was a rather unethical Pope whose crimes against the chair allegedly included adultery, gambling and even murder. He died under suspicious circumstances, but the rumor is that he was “stricken by paralysis in the act of adultery” at the young age of 27.

2. Pat Tillman. The NFL player, who turned down a $3.6 million contract to enlist in the U.S. Army after 9/11, was just 27 when he was killed by friendly fire in Afghanistan in 2004.

3. Henry Moseley was an English physicist with a promising future ahead of him; he had already identified gaps in the periodic table and was measuring the X-ray spectra of chemical elements. And then World War I hit, so Moseley turned down a job at Oxford to enlist in the Royal Engineers of the British Army. He had served as a technical officer in communications for just four months when he was shot in the head by a sniper on August 10, 1915. “In view of what he might still have accomplished," Isaac Asimov once wrote, "his death might well have been the most costly single death of the War to mankind generally,”

4. Joseph Merrick. The unfortunate fellow you probably know better as The Elephant Man died in 1890, following a lifetime of being exhibited, prodded and poked at. To this day, experts are still not sure what caused Merrick’s deformities, though they think his ailment did contribute to his death at the age of 27. His doctor, Frederick Treves, believed that Merrick had attempted to sleep horizontally in bed like most people do, and as a result, asphyxiated due to the weight of his head.


5. American artist Jean-Michel Basquiat died of a heroin overdose in 1988. It’s said that when Andy Warhol died the previous year, Basquiat was so distressed that his attempts at staying sober took a nosedive. He died in his studio at the age of 27.


6. French mathematician François Proth died of unknown causes in 1879. Though he was young, the self-taught Proth had already developed four theorems and the Proth number.

7. Alfonso XII. Alfonso’s mother, Isabella II of Spain, abdicated in his favor in 1870, making him King of Spain at the age of 13. That gave him nearly 15 years of ruling before he died of tuberculosis in 1885. His youngest child, born seven months after his death, was the grandfather of Juan Carlos I, the current King of Spain.

8. Alain-Fournier was the author of Le Grand Meaulnes, considered by many to be one of the most important works of French literature. It was also his only work. Though he had started another, it was incomplete when he, like Henry Moseley, enlisted to serve his country during WWI. He died a month after joining up in 1914, but his body wasn’t identified until 1991. Alain-Fournier was his pseudonym, by the way - his real name was Henri Alban-Fournier.

9. Reggie Lewis. The pro basketball player had been with the Boston Celtics for six years when he collapsed on the court during an off-season practice at Brandeis University on July 27, 1993. His cause of death was determined to be sudden cardiac arrest.

10. We're reaching on this one, but John Wilkes Booth was a month away from his 27th birthday when he assassinated Abraham Lincoln. Booth, of course, was killed almost two weeks later.

Original image
iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
arrow
technology
Man Buys Two Metric Tons of LEGO Bricks; Sorts Them Via Machine Learning
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
iStock
arrow
technology
Why Your iPhone Doesn't Always Show You the 'Decline Call' Button
Original image
iStock

When you get an incoming call to your iPhone, the options that light up your screen aren't always the same. Sometimes you have the option to decline a call, and sometimes you only see a slider that allows you to answer, without an option to send the caller straight to voicemail. Why the difference?

A while back, Business Insider tracked down the answer to this conundrum of modern communication, and the answer turns out to be fairly simple.

If you get a call while your phone is locked, you’ll see the "slide to answer" button. In order to decline the call, you have to double-tap the power button on the top of the phone.

If your phone is unlocked, however, the screen that appears during an incoming call is different. You’ll see the two buttons, "accept" or "decline."

Either way, you get the options to set a reminder to call that person back or to immediately send them a text message. ("Dad, stop calling me at work, it’s 9 a.m.!")

[h/t Business Insider]

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