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Art at Large: 11 Record-Holding Paintings, Drawings, Photos and Sculptures

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Ever wonder what the world's biggest photograph looks like? How about the largest knitted pink bunny? Wonder no more, flossers; here are 11 bizarre and/or massive works of art, each of which holds a current world record.

1. Largest photograph, taken with the world's largest pinhole camera

The Great Picture features a 32'x111' panoramic view in black-and-white negative of El Toro Marine Corps air station. To take the photograph, an entire jet hangar was converted into the world's largest pinhole camera. It took 80 volunteers five hours to develop in a custom vinyl tray the size of an Olympic swimming pool.

2. Biggest marble mosaic

For the 40th anniversary of Oman's Sultan Qaboos bin Said's accession, a mosaic of his likeness was produced to celebrate. At 5.3 meters wide and 8.3 meters tall, the piece contains 128,274 individual marble tiles in 90 different natural shades, all of which were sourced from the mountains and sea beds of Oman.

3. Longest paint-by-number

To kick off World Wetlands Day 2010, 2041 people got together at Hong Kong Wetland Park and painted "Birds and Wetlands," a continuous 959.35-meter by 1.2 meter painting of marshy landscapes, to strengthen wetland ecology awareness.

4. Largest knitted sculpture

If you're ever hanging out in the Artesina, Piemont, Italy, area and feel compelled to take a stroll through the hills, make sure you keep your eyes open for the 200-foot-long knitted bunny lying on the roadside. His name is Hase, and he's made of 2200 pounds of baby-pink wool.

5. Largest animated mobile device mosaic

Blinkendroid app developers broke the previous record for building an animated mosaic using mobile devices with only 72 phones. Watch the record-making in action:

Unhappy with the lower-than-expected turnout, Blinkendroid is organizing an event to break their own record next February in Barcelona. If you'll be in the neighborhood and own an Android device, you can check out the details here.

6. Longest drawing by an individual

Fourteen-year-old P. Nivedha used only crayons, markers, and colored pencils to create her 382.63 m (1,255 ft., 4 in.) record-holding work, which depicts various aspects of nature conservation.

7. Largest underwater painting

At a modest 8.61 ft2, this is the smallest "largest" item on the list, but that doesn't mean it was the easiest to execute. Alexander Belozor, the preeminent underwater painter in the Ukraine, where that's a thing, dove to the floor of the Red Sea off the coast of Hurghada, Egypt, and reportedly painted the piece in just 40 minutes—the amount of time allowed by his oxygen tank.

8. Largest scrap-metal sculpture

Geese in Flight is a permanent installation on North Dakota's Enchanted Highway. It stands 110 feet tall, weights 157,659 pounds, and took four years and the help of hundreds of volunteers to complete. The auto paint used to seal the metal cost more than $9,000.

9. Largest sushi mosaic

What do 8,374 pieces of sushi smell like? (Don't answer that.) We do know they look like this when you assemble them into the world's largest sushi mosaic—a process that took more than six hours to complete, minus preparation time. The project, celebrating the 10,000,000th Norwegian salmon to enter Japan, required 120 kilos of rice and 65 kilos of fish.

(Skip to 0:35, unless you like to watch people stand around not making a sushi mosaic.)

10. Tallest ice sculpture

If you've got 2,000 friends, 15 days, a few hundred tons of ice, and more than a few colored LEDs on hand, you might consider trying to break the record for tallest ice sculpture set at the 2010 Harbin Ice & Snow Festival in China. Dreaming Castle was 53 feet, 2.58 inches tall at the top of the tallest spire, and at night looks like something straight out of a Disney movie, thanks to the (uncounted) thousands of lights embedded in the ice.

11. Largest sky drawing

Technically, this record is for the largest sky drawing by a jet aircraft display team, but that's a little cumbersome. The title goes to the Saudi Hawks for their "emblem move," a synchronized effort that produces a smoke drawing of the Royal Saudi emblem of four palms and a pair of crossed swords, measuring 56,909,105 square feet when complete. If you're thinking it's a little simplistic, you're right; the record is for largest sky drawing, not most intricate.

For 11-11-11, we'll be posting twenty-four '11 lists' throughout the day. Check back 11 minutes after every hour for the latest installment, or see them all here.

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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
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
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]