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10 Cool Bridges from Around the World

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1. The Moses Bridge, Netherlands

Designed by architecture group RO & AD, The Moses Bridge is constructed out of Accoya wood, a hi-tech wood that is supposedly harder and more durable than some of the best tropical woods. It is treated with a nontoxic anti-fungal coating to maintain its split-the-water functionality.


2. Da Vinci Bridge, Norway

A bridge designed by Leonardo da Vinci to span the Golden Horn in Istanbul has been built some 500 years later! Wild, right? The bridge now spans a motorway in the less exotic setting of Aas, a small town 20 miles north of Oslo, Norway. However, it is the first major civil engineering project to be built from da Vinci's drawings. Da Vinci first sketched the bridge for Sultan Bajazet II, but none of the Sultan’s engineers thought it could be done!

3. Henderson Waves, Singapore


This nearly 900-foot pedestrian bridge is the highest of its kind in Singapore, connecting two parks. The bridge has a wave-form made up of seven undulating curved steel ribs that alternately rise over and under its deck. The curved ribs form alcoves that function as shelters with seats within.

4. The Gateshead Millennium Bridge, England


The Gateshead Millennium Bridge is sometimes referred to as the 'Blinking Eye Bridge' or the 'Winking Eye Bridge' due to its shape and its tilting method. It’s a pedestrian and cyclist tilt bridge spanning the River Tyne in England. Definitely one I need to check out ASAP. Such fun!

5. Rolling Bridge, England


This 39-foot timber and steel bridge was built in 2004 to act as a walkway over a small section of London's Grand Union Canal. An innovative hydraulic system in the bridge's handrail allows it to retract and curl into an octagon, which it does every Friday at noon.

6. Slauerhoffbrug, Netherlands

The Slauerhoffbrug, located in Leeuwarden, was designed by Van Driel Mechatronica and is a fully automatic bridge with the ability to sense and adapt to its surroundings. It’s very Terminator-like in its ability to quickly sense and transform to the position needed, allowing ships to pass. You definitely don't want to get on this bridge's bad side! :-)

7. The Juscelino Kubitschek Bridge , Brazil


Architect Alexandre Chan and structural engineer Mario Vila Verde, both from Rio de Janeiro, entered the idea of this bridge into a competition aiming to solve the problem of closing the gap between commuters and their homes. According to Chan, the idea was “to create a landmark for the enjoyment of the community as much as to simply traverse a body of water.”

8. The Millau Viaduct, France

Designed by French structural engineer Michel Virlogeux and British architect Norman Foster, the Millau Viaduct is the 12th highest bridge in the world, at 890 ft above the road deck.

9. Pythonbrug, Amsterdam

If you’re wondering why you don’t see such works of art stateside, that’s because such a design wouldn't pass muster under the Americans With Disabilities Act, which sets a 5 percent limit on the grade of such structures. Well that, and maybe we don’t have the guts to build such a forward thinking structure? Yes, that’s a challenge folks!

10. Oresund Bridge, Sweden

The Oresund Bridge crosses the Oresund strait and joins Sweden with Denmark. It begins as a cable-stayed bridge in Sweden and ends as a tunnel in Denmark. A small artificial island was built around the tunnel's entrance to keep water from creeping in.

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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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Nick Briggs/Comic Relief
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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]

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