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After Pearl Harbor, the Rose Bowl Relocated to North Carolina

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In 1942, the Rose Bowl game between Oregon State and Duke was transferred from California to North Carolina in the wake of the attack on Pearl Harbor. Here’s a brief look back at one of the greatest upsets in Rose Bowl history.

Oregon State vs. Duke

Led by tailback Don Durdan and a suffocating defense, Oregon State College won the Pacific Coast Conference title in 1941. As was the custom at the time, the Beavers got to select their opponent for the Rose Bowl game to be held on New Year’s Day in Pasadena, California. Oregon State invited Duke, the undefeated and untied champions of the Southern Conference, and the Blue Devils, led by legendary head coach Wallace Wade, happily accepted.

Pearl Harbor Attack

Shortly after the Rose Bowl matchup was set, Japan attacked Pearl Harbor. The game, it seemed, would take on a much different feel, but the Blue Devils had no intentions of canceling their trip to the West Coast. “Heck, no; we’re not scared to go out there,” one Duke player told the Associated Press. “The war situation puts a little more glamour into the game.” Indeed, the demand for tickets increased in the days that followed. Duke planned to leave for Pasadena via train on Dec. 20, making one stop for practice on Dec. 22 in Lubbock, Texas, and arriving in Pasadena on Dec. 24. Fans could purchase a first-class roundtrip ticket with stops in New Orleans, San Antonio, El Paso, Mexico, and the Grand Canyon, on a special train called “The Duke” for $126.74. A week before the team was scheduled to depart, however, the military announced that it was canceling the game out of fear of another attack on the West Coast. Game organizers began looking into alternative sites. Chicago’s Soldier Field was considered, as was New York City. A third possibility was Durham, North Carolina.

Wallace Wade’s Invitation

Before the game in Pasadena was officially canceled, Wade sent the following telegram to Oregon State athletic director Percy Locey: “We regret that conditions have developed that have influenced the military authorities to suggest cancellation of the Rose Bowl game. Duke is ready to accept the decision of Oregon State and the Tournament of Roses committee. We wish to suggest for your consideration the possibility of playing the game at Durham in the Duke Stadium, either with Rose Bowl sanction or otherwise. We can accommodate about 50,000 spectators. Our climate at New Year’s is usually favorable for football.” The military granted its approval to relocate the game and the Rose Bowl Committee gave its blessing as well. Oregon State accepted the invite. “From a football standpoint, it is a tough assignment,” Beavers head coach Lon Stiner said. “But we’ll be in there doing our best even with these added odds against us.”

Duke Heavy Favorites, Home for the Holidays

Duke was a 12-to-5 favorite when the game was first announced and the odds increased to 3.5-to-1 after the game was moved to Durham. “I don’t quite understand why my boys should be rated so low for this game with Duke,” Stiner said. “They may be light, but they are poised and tough and not upset at the prospect of meeting high scoring Duke.” Despite its two losses, Oregon State was the first team to stop Stanford’s unconventional T attack. The Beavers’ 10-0 win over Stanford was the first of its five shutouts that season. Still, Oregon State didn’t get much respect from the media. As one East Coast scribe wrote, “The Oregon entry is undoubtedly a strong, steady ball club, but it’s doubtful if it has struck anything with the impact of Duke.” As Robert Coleman, a sophomore guard on Oregon State’s redshirt squad in 1941 (and my girlfriend’s grandfather) told me, “The Beavers of OSU were often the doormat of the league, and to be going to the Rose Bowl was considered a sure chance of failure.”

Duke’s players were so unhappy that their trip to the West Coast was canceled that they initially voted against hosting the game in Durham. To appease his team, Wade gave the players time off to go home for Christmas. Oregon State’s redshirt squad was equally disappointed with the change of venue, which squashed their hopes of traveling to the game with the starters.

Preparations

Image credit: Duke University Archives

Duke’s stadium usually only held 35,000, which was much less than the Rose Bowl in Pasadena. North Carolina, North Carolina State, and Wake Forest loaned portable bleachers to help increase the capacity to 55,000. The game would draw the largest crowd since 52,880 packed the stadium for the Duke-UNC game in 1939. Tickets, priced at $4.40 apiece, sold out in three days. One reporter noted that “hotel rooms are scarcer than candid camera shots of J.P. Morgan.” Duke received more than 120 requests for working press, which was double the capacity of the stadium’s press box. “The lads who will be most disappointed are those who usually see the Duke games on complimentary tickets,” another reporter wrote. “There will be no Annie Oakleys except for the working press and radio.”

Durham Hospitality

Two thousand spectators and the Durham High School band greeted Oregon State at the train station following their cross-country trip. Lampposts along Main Street in downtown Durham featured electrically lighted Santa Clauses with “Welcome Oregon State” scrawled across Santa’s waistline. Placards in the team’s breakfast room at the Carolina Inn in Chapel Hill read, “A merry Christmas to the Oregon State football team – with reservations about the happy New Year.” Oregon State’s players received gifts manufactured in North Carolina factories and took golf lessons one day at the Pinehurst Country Club. Duke’s players returned to campus to start preparing for the game on Dec. 26.

Tournament of Roses President Robert McCurdy, a quartet of committeemen, and 25,000 football programs printed in Pasadena made the trip East. Dolores Brubach, the Tournament of Roses Queen, was originally scheduled to attend the game with her Royal Court, but the plans fell through. “I guess it just couldn’t be arranged, and since we didn’t really plan on going, we’re not disappointed,” Brubach said.

The Buildup

Oregon State certainly had fun, but the trip was primarily business. “We feel that a lot of people around here are going to be mighty surprised,” Oregon State captain Marion Chaves said. There was a lot of buzz about the game, both locally and nationally. A few reporters dubbed it “The Pine Bowl.” Another wrote, “Tobacco town turned into Times Square with a southern accent today.”

The Game

Wet conditions in Durham slowed Duke’s vaunted offense and the Blue Devils never led. Oregon State’s Gene Gray caught a 68-yard touchdown pass from Bob Dethman in the third quarter that proved to be the difference in the Beavers’ 20-16 win, which is still considered one of the greatest upsets in Rose Bowl history. Oregon State varied its defensive looks, from a 6-2-2-1 to 5-3-2-1 and occasionally a 7-man line, according to the game recaps. The Beavers also recovered three Duke fumbles and intercepted four passes. “I guess everybody knows now that we play in a mighty tough league,” said Stiner, who received a 4-year contract for $7,000 a year.

The War

According to Coleman, nearly the entire Oregon State team was in the ROTC or National Guard at the time. One newspaper account indicated that at least a couple Oregon State players enlisted after the game in Pasadena was canceled and were persuaded by Stiner to return to school to become eligible for the game in Durham. “We all knew we were going to be involved,” Oregon State tailback Bill McInnis told USA Today in 2001. One Oregon State player (Everett Smith) and three Duke players (Walter Griffith, Al Hoover, and Bob Nanni) died in the war.

This story originally appeared in 2011.

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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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