CLOSE

The Weird Week in Review

Wedding Goes On as Lodge Burns Down

Mike and Nancy Rogers were to be married in the main lodge at White Point Beach Resort in Nova Scotia last Saturday. However, that building was on fire, so they and their guests were evacuated and they held the ceremony in another resort building. Firefighters from ten different departments battled the blaze, but the 83-year-old wooden lodge was a total loss. No one was injured. But the newlyweds took the opportunity to pose for a wedding portrait in front of the conflagration. That’s one photo composition you don’t see at every wedding!

Battle Over World's Largest Bra

Who made the world's largest brassiere? One bra was recently commissioned by the British Varnish company, and is said to be a size 1222 B-cup. It was hung on a building in London to raise awareness of the fight against breast cancer. When the Guinness Book people proclaimed it the world's largest, New York artist and prankster Joey Skaggs begged to differ. In 1969, he built a bra that was 120 feet long, which he hung on the U.S. Treasury building on Wall Street. His mission was to point out America's fixation on breasts. There is no word yet from Guinness about the challenge.

Husband Searches Through Dump for Ring

Brian McGuinn of Miami, Florida, accidentally tossed his wife's 1.5-carat diamond engagement ring into the bathroom trash when he threw away his disposable razor. By the time it was noticed, the trash has already been taken to a dump in Pompano Beach. McGuinn confronted a nine-ton pile of trash -which contained the ring somewhere. The waste disposal crew gave him protective gear and helped him locate where his trash would most likely be, but they didn't hold out much hope. McGuinn threw up at the sights and smells of the city's garbage, and ended up wading through several inches of watery sludge. But against all odds, after less than an hour of searching, he found the ring! Anna McGuinn says she will never take the ring off again.

Man Charged with DWI Wearing "I'm A Drunk" Shirt

Police in Long Island, New York, arrested 22-year-old Kevin Daly Thursday morning after he crashed his car into a police cruiser. And not just any police cruiser, either -it was a patrol from the Suffolk County Police Department’s SAFE-T (Selective Alcohol Fatality Enforcement Team), which looks for impaired drivers. Daly was taken into custody and charged with driving while intoxicated. At the time, he was wearing a shirt that said, "I'M NOT AN ALCOHOLIC. I'M A DRUNK. ALCOHOLICS GO TO MEETINGS." The entire slogan is visible in his mug shot.

Robber Thwarted by Children

A would-be robber forced his way into a house in Schwanewede, Germany on Monday evening. Only two children and their terrified babysitter were at the home when the robber came in, wearing a balaclava and carrying a gun.

“The children had heard what was going on from upstairs and came down with their money, all their savings,” a police spokesman told The Local on Wednesday.

He said he was not releasing the ages of the children in order to protect them from being identified, but that they were both younger than seven.

“The robber must have realised what he was doing was awful, and simply put his gun away and left,” said the spokesman.

Local police have a description, and are on the lookout for the perpetrator.

Half a Million in Gold Found in Storage Locker

Dan and Laura Dotson run an auction business in which they sell off contents of abandoned storage lockers. They also are the hosts of the TV show Storage Wars. They sold the contents of a couple of lockers belonging to a deceased women to a man from San Jose, California. When the unnamed man looked through his purchase, he found a chest filled with gold doubloons with an estimated value of $500,000! Neither the buyer nor the owner of the storage facility want to be publicly identified. And unfortunately for the TV show, this particular auction was not caught on videotape.

In Line for Black Friday Sale 9 days Early

Christine Orta is one member of three families who are staking their piece of turf outside a Best Buy store in Tyrone Square Mall in St. Petersburg, Florida, for the Black Friday sale. They set up a tent Wednesday, nine days before the sale, ostensibly to be first in line to take advantage of the Christmas shopping deals. Not mentioned was the possibility that Orta and her partners might avoid cooking Thanksgiving dinner while waiting for the sale next week.

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
Here's How to Change Your Name on Facebook
Original image
iStock

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]

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