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8 Bands Named After People Not In The Band

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Bands like Van Halen, The Alan Parsons Project, Phish and Santana all are named after members in the band. But what about bands named after people NOT in the band? Here's a look at eight of them:

1. Pink Floyd

There’s a record executive in the song “Have A Cigar” that says, “Oh, by the way, which one’s Pink?” Thing is, of course, this was the band responding to (and mocking) the often-asked question. But in reality, the name of the band comes from band member Syd Barrett, who took bluesman Pink Anderson and combined it with another bluesman named Floyd Council. So if you’re ever trying to come up with a good name for another successful rock band, you might consider Anderson Council.

2. Lynyrd Skynyrd

Nope, Mr. Skynyrd never played for the southern rockers. In fact, the band named themselves after their gym teacher and basketball coach, Mr. Leonard Skinner. After Skinner died, one of the surviving members of the rock band had this to say: "Coach Skinner had such a profound impact on our youth that ultimately led us to naming the band, which you know as Lynyrd Skynyrd, after him. Looking back, I cannot imagine it any other way.”

3. Hootie and the Blowfish

While some think that front man Darius Rucker was Hootie and his bandmates were the Blowfish, the truth is that Rucker was both Hootie and the Blowfish! As for the meaning: there was a kid in Rucker's high school nicknamed Hootie because he looked like an owl. There was another kid with puffed up cheeks that they called Blowfish.

4. Tilly and the Wall

Nope, no Tilly in this band. The name comes from a kids’ book, according to an interview with one of the dancers, who credits her time as a grade-school teacher prior to joining Tilly for the idea. “It’s actually the title of a children’s book. It’s just about outsiders overcoming obstacles, that kind of story,” she says. “We didn’t even think about the story that much, but it ended up fitting our band really well.”

5. Belle and Sebastian


No Belle. No Sebastian here. Just some band mates inspired by a 1960s novel by Cécile Aubry about a six-year-old boy named Sébastien and his dog Belle,

6. Freddy Jones Band

Sorry to disappoint again, but not only is there no Freddy Jones or Jones Freddy in the band, but apparently the band has never definitively revealed the name's source.

7. Aiden

This Seattle-based band doesn’t have an Aiden. Instead, the band members named the group after a character in the 2002 film The Ring.

8. Alice Cooper


They were first called the Earwigs, then Nazz, before settling on Alice Copper. The name is said to have been inspired by their Ouija Board, which put them in contact with a spirit named Alice Cooper. When lead singer, Vincent Furnier, went solo, he took the name for himself.

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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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May 23, 2017
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