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Massive Box Office Draws Whose Names You Don't Know

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In Hollywood, big box office returns typically give an actor immense power. By that token, Frank Welker should have more sway than Will Smith, Nicholas Cage or Harrison Ford. After all, he’s outgrossed all of them - and everyone else in Tinseltown for that matter. That’s according to the The Numbers All Time Top 100 Stars at the Box Office list recently linked to by Metafilter.

The list ranks performers by the total box office they have generated and contains many of the iconic names you’d expect. But it also contains a variety of people you’ve likely never heard of, such as:

#1: Frank Welker
He may not be the person you expected to see there, but Welker has certainly earned the #1 spot. His vocal talents have appeared in 96 feature films (and earned him a total of 662 acting credits on IMDB). With a wealth of huge moneymakers on his resume (Alice in Wonderland, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, Independence Day, The Lion King, Who Framed Roger Rabbit?), it’s no wonder he finds himself atop the list.

His personal website touts the huge array of material he has cranked out over the last 40 years.

#7: Warwick Davis
You may know him best as Willow. But, that is, in fact, one of Davis’ least profitable movie appearances. He notched his first massive hit when he appeared in 1983’s Return of the Jedi as the Ewok Wicket and then really vaulted up the list more recently by playing multiple roles in Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace, as well as appearances in all eight Harry Potter movies.

#10: Hugo Weaving
If you don’t know Weaving by name, you most likely know his face from The Lord of the Rings and The Matrix trilogies. And just for good measure, he added a few more huge numbers to his overall box office total with a few Transformers movies and a starring role in the new Captain America film.

#30: Michael Papajohn
It seems like a safe bet to assume that if a movie is a big budget Summer blockbuster, Michael Papajohn will be in it. He's probably most recognizable as the carjacker that kills Uncle Ben in Spider-Man and then reappears in Spider-Man 3, but his credits also include Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, Terminator Salvation, Charlie’s Angels, S.W.A.T., and the critically-acclaimed cinematic treasure known as Larry the Cable Guy: Health Inspector.

#34: Frank Oz
A lot of money he makes. Since 1980 Oz has been the iconic backward-speaking voice of the all-knowing Yoda, as well as a myriad of other Muppet characters. Additionally, Oz is an accomplished film director responsible for Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, What About Bob? and Bowfinger.

#91: Chris Ellis
Ellis is one of those guys whose face you probably know, but whose name you’ve never heard. Among his 31 films and $2.1 Billion box office resume are roles in Live Free or Die Hard, Planet of the Apes and Armageddon. And he’s apparently not content with his spot at #91, because he’s currently filming a role in the upcoming film The Dark Knight Rises.

Check out the rest of the list here.

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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
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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Here's How to Change Your Name on Facebook
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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]