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10 Susceptible Super Bowl Records (and One That Definitely Won't Be Broken)

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[Note: This story from 2012 is getting a ton of search traffic during Seattle's rout of the Broncos. Everyone wants to know if there's ever been a Super Bowl shutout. Not yet! The worst showing is the Miami Dolphins, who lost 24-3 to the Dallas Cowboys in Super Bowl VI.]

What else can we answer for you? Ever wonder how they make that magic yellow first down line?

Anyway, here's some other Super Bowl stuff that made a lot more sense when the Giants were playing the Patriots a couple years ago...

First, here are five records already held by those involved in Super Bowl XLVI:

1.  Patriots receivers Deion Branch and Wes Welker are tied with Dan Ross and Jerry Rice for the most receptions in a Super Bowl game (11). It’s not inconceivable for either (or both) to break this record.

2.  Tom Brady has completed 100 passes in previous Super Bowl games, more than any other quarterback in NFL history. He’s also tied with Drew Brees for the most completions in a single Super Bowl (32).

3.  The New York Giants scored a record 30 points in the second half of Super Bowl XXI.

4.  In Super Bowl XX, the New England Patriots managed only 7 yards rushing the entire game, a record low.

5.  Time is important to the New York Giants, who hold Super Bowl records for time of possession (40:33 in Super Bowl XXV) and drive length (9:59 in Super Bowl XLII).

Now that we know where we stand, let's examine 10 records that could be tied or broken in Super Bowl XLVI:

1.  Should New England lose the game, the Patriots will become the fourth team in history to lose the Super Bowl four times. (The others who have done so are Minnesota, Denver, and Buffalo).

2. No team has ever scored more than 14 points in the first quarter of any Super Bowl game (The Patriots scored 14 in the first quarter of Super Bowl XXXI).

3. In this “Year of the QB,” both Eli Manning and Tom Brady have a chance to better Kurt Warner’s record of 414 yards passing in a Super Bowl game.

4. If Deion Branch catches 12 passes, he’ll tie Jerry Rice’s record for career Super Bowl receptions (33).

5. Hall-of-Famer Jerry Rice is the only player to score 3 receiving touchdowns in a single Super Bowl game. He actually did this trick twice, in Super Bowls XXIV and XXIX.

6. No field goal attempt of 55 yards or longer has ever been made in a Super Bowl game.

7. If New England’s Bill Belichick wins this game, he’ll tie Chuck Noll’s NFL record by winning his fourth Super Bowl game as head coach.

8. No Super Bowl team has ever been shut out, and no Super Bowl game has ever gone into overtime.

9. The Patriots and Giants have each allowed a safety in previous Super Bowls. If either team scores one in Sunday’s game, its opponent will set a new record for most safeties allowed in Super Bowl games.

10. While kickoffs have been returned for touchdowns 8 times in previous Super Bowls, there’s never been a punt returned for a touchdown in a Super Bowl game. Ever. The longest punt return in Super Bowl history was a 45-yard effort by the 49ers’ John Taylor in Super Bowl XXIII.

Finally, here's one NFL record that definitely, absolutely, positively will NOT be broken in Sunday's game:

Jim Turner and Mike Clark kicked record-short field goals of only 9 yards in Super Bowls III and VI, respectively. The goal posts were right on the goal line in those days. They were set back 10 yards into the end zone in 1974, rendering this record impossible to break today.

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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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Name the Author Based on the Character
May 23, 2017
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