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From Barbies to Maggots: The Nicknames of 25 Fan Bases

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The world is full of obsessed music lovers - I just hope someday when throngs of admirers come to see me in concert (hopefully they like horrible singing), they have a nickname as cool as these.

1. Fanilows - fans of Barry Manilow. The Fanilows have been around for quite some time, but really reached a pop culture high when a Will & Grace episode titled "Fanilow" outed Will as a Barry fan.

2. Beliebers - fans of Justin Bieber. It appears that the "Belieber" tag came from the depths of Internet fandom, but some belieb the nickname was created by a malevolent force. Hey, you know who's a Belieber? Johnny Depp.

3. Little Monsters - fans of Lady Gaga. Would you believe Lady Gaga has only been using that term for her fans since the summer of 2009? The name is derived from her album The Fame Monster.

4. Claymates - fans of Clay Aiken. Some of the Claymates even divide themselves into subcategories such as "Claysians."

5. Maggots - fans of Slipknot. Apparently the members of the band were inspired to call their fans by the descriptive name because of the way they writhed and squirmed during their shows.

6. Black Stars - fans of Avril Lavigne.

Avril uses this term to refer to her fans and her perfume.

7. Blockheads - fans of New Kids on the Block. So what are fans of the newly-formed NKOTBSB called?

8. Parrotheads - fans of Jimmy Buffett. But I hardly need to tell you that. Children of Parrotheads or younger Buffett fans are referred to as Parakeets. I consider myself the former.

9. The Apple Scruffs - not just fans of the Beatles, but very specific fans that would be probably best classified as groupies. The Apple Scruffs waited outside of the Beatles' Apple Corp offices for the Beatles to come an go, and even managed to get into Paul McCartney's house to steal a pair of pants. They went in through the bathroom window… sound familiar?

10. The Victims - fans of the Killers.

11.  Deadheads - fans of the Grateful Dead, of course. The first time the term appeared was in 1971 on the sleeve of their second live album:

DEAD FREAKS UNITE: Who are you? Where are you? How are you? Send us your name and address and we'll keep you informed. Dead Heads, P.O. Box 1065, San Rafael, California 94901.

Famous Deadheads include Tony Blair (played in a Grateful Dead-esque band in college), Walter Cronkite (2 concerts, but he was good friends with dreamy Mickey Hart) and Ann Coulter (67 concerts).

12. The Blue Army - fans of Aerosmith. Back in the mid-70s, the phrase referred to the masses of Aerosmith fans who came to concerts decked out in denim - jeans and jackets in particular. It was also meant to refer to their blue collar fan base. The term is still used, but Aerosmith also now has an official fan club called Aero Force One.

13. The KISS Army - fans of KISS. One of the biggest fan clubs in the world started as the result of humble efforts by two fans who wanted their local radio station to play KISS music. When phone calls didn't work, the duo started a letter-writing campaign, signing their pleas with the official-sounding titles of "president" and "field marshall" of the army.

14. RihannaNavy - fans of Rihanna.

15. Grobanites - fans of Josh Groban.

16.  Juggalo/Juggalette - fans of Insane Clown Posse. If you didn't know that before this year, you probably heard the term after Charlie Sheen's appearance at the annual Gathering of the Juggalos. The term comes from the band's song "The Juggla."

17. Katy-Cats - fans of Katy Perry. Supposedly Perry came up with the name herself during the Hello Katy tour, which I can believe: she also named her real cat Kitty Purry.

18. Swifties - fans of Taylor Swift. Go figure.

19. Killjoys - fans of My Chemical Romance. From what I can tell (feel free to chime in, fans), Killjoys is a relatively new nickname based on the band's latest album, Danger Days: The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys. Prior to that, most fans called themselves the MCR-my (and many still do).

20. Sweet Ps - fans of Pia Toscano from American Idol.

21. Barbies - fans of Nicki Minaj. Nicki explained the name in a 2009 interview:

It's like a term of endearment for me. "I used to call people sweetie and honey now I say Barbies. A lot of girls call themselves Barbies. Nicki Minaj did not invent that. People always add something to their Barbie name and because I love the Harajuku culture I made my Barbie the Harajuku Barbie, I thought it was unique and no one has ever said that kind of Barbie before. The girls ran with it, they gave it a life of its own. I never set out to be on no Barbie Movement. My Barbies made the barbie movement."

22. Phans - fans of Phish. Fans of Phantom of the Opera on Broadway are also known as Phans.

23. Wayniacs - fans of Lil' Wayne… and also Wayne Newton. I'm guessing it's OK if they share a nickname since there's probably not much overlap in fan base.

24. Diamond Heads - fans of Neil Diamond.

25. Taylors or Taylor Gang - fans of Wiz Khalifa. The rapper is obsessed with his Chuck Taylor shoes, and fans took note.

No doubt I'm missing many - let me know if your favorite band has a particularly interesting or pun-ny nickname for fans.

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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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Name the Author Based on the Character
May 23, 2017
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