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Shattered Dreams: 9 Tales of Damaged Trophies

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Trent Richardson with the BCS trophy. © Tyler Kaufman/Icon SMI/Corbis

Carleton Tinker, the father of Alabama long snapper Carson Tinker, accidentally shattered the Crimson Tide’s 2012 BCS championship trophy last month. Tinker can take comfort in the fact that he wasn’t the first person to break the crystal football, which is one of nine other examples of accidentally damaged trophies.

1. Terrible First Impression

Florida recruit Orson Charles was touring the Gators’ football stadium in 2008 and accidentally knocked the 2006 BCS championship trophy – a Waterford crystal football – off its pedestal. “If you were outside the stadium, it was so loud, I think you would’ve heard it shatter,” Charles told the Tampa Tribune. “I just stood there with this baby look and said, ‘Sorry.’” Florida assistant coach John Hevesy jokingly told Charles that he had to commit to the Gators, but the highly touted tight end went to Georgia instead. Charles was a fourth-round draft pick of the Cincinnati Bengals in this year’s NFL Draft.

2. One Shining Moment, One Broken Trophy

In 1939, Oregon defeated Ohio State, 46-33, in the first NCAA men’s basketball championship, the culmination of an eight-team, single-elimination tournament. The trophy was delivered to the Webfoots’ locker room in two pieces after Oregon guard Bobby Arnet broke the trophy while trying to save a loose ball during the game.

3. Truman Fumbles the Independence Bowl Trophy

Hours before North Carolina and Missouri squared off in the 2011 Independence Bowl, Missouri’s mascot, Truman the Tiger, dropped the game trophy—a crystal bowl—during a photo opportunity. Missourian reporter Harry Plumer tweeted from the scene: “Asked Truman if he broke the trophy. He nodded. Asked him what happened. Threw his paws in the air, then covered his eyes to mimic sobbing.” The Tigers won the game and hoisted a replacement bowl.

4. The Wheels on the Bus Crush the Copa del Rey Trophy

Sergio Ramos doesn’t have a whole lot of experience using his hands and it showed when the defender dropped the 33-pound Copa del Rey trophy under the wheels of a moving bus after Real Madrid defeated Barcelona in 2011. Emergency services gathered the broken pieces.

5. Kelly Bates, Canadian Trophy Buster

B.C. Lions offensive guard Kelly Bates was a little too excited after his team defeated the Montreal Alouettes in the 2006 Canadian Football League Grey Cup. “I can’t believe it,” Bates said. “I did the same thing when I was at the University of Saskatchewan. I’m not a strong man, but I grabbed the Cup, gave it a shake, and it just broke.” According to SLAM!, a Canadian sports website, the Lions were the second Vancouver-based team to break a championship trophy. In 1979, the Vancouver Whitecaps of the North American Soccer League broke the trophy after defeating the Tampa Bay Rowdies for the league title.

6. Rockets Rough Up Knicks, Larry O’Brien Trophy

The Houston Rockets handled the Larry O’Brien Championship Trophy in much the same way they handled the New York Knicks in the seven-game, rough-and-tumble 1994 NBA Finals. “We broke that son of a gun,” Houston forward Matt Bullard said. “We were handing it around, and the ball just came off.”

7. Yankees Damage World Series Trophy

The 1996 World Series marked the Yankees’ first championship since 1978, so the team can be forgiven for snapping the flag representing the Cleveland Indians off the trophy during the postgame celebration. The Yankees have had a little more experience handling championship hardware since then.

8. Eddie George’s Heisman Loses a Finger

Eddie George was at La Guardia Airport, preparing to return to Columbus after being awarded the Heisman Trophy in 1995. Security officials insisted that George put his new hardware through the X-Ray machine. It emerged on the other side with a bent middle finger and missing the tip of its right index finger. “I’m kind of mad about it, but it doesn’t matter as long as I’ve got it,” George told reporters with a grin. Airport officials promised to pay for the repairs.

9. The Stanley Cup Goes For a Dip

USA TODAY hockey writer Kevin Allen wrote a book about all the crazy adventures of hockey’s iconic trophy. In “Why Is The Stanley Cup in Mario Lemieux’s Swimming Pool?” Allen recounts the story of Phil Bourque throwing the Cup from the top of an ornamental waterfall into Lemieux’s pool in 1991. It took several players to retrieve the Cup, which was reportedly lopsided after being removed from the water.

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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
Man Buys Two Metric Tons of LEGO Bricks; Sorts Them Via Machine Learning
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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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Why Your iPhone Doesn't Always Show You the 'Decline Call' Button
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When you get an incoming call to your iPhone, the options that light up your screen aren't always the same. Sometimes you have the option to decline a call, and sometimes you only see a slider that allows you to answer, without an option to send the caller straight to voicemail. Why the difference?

A while back, Business Insider tracked down the answer to this conundrum of modern communication, and the answer turns out to be fairly simple.

If you get a call while your phone is locked, you’ll see the "slide to answer" button. In order to decline the call, you have to double-tap the power button on the top of the phone.

If your phone is unlocked, however, the screen that appears during an incoming call is different. You’ll see the two buttons, "accept" or "decline."

Either way, you get the options to set a reminder to call that person back or to immediately send them a text message. ("Dad, stop calling me at work, it’s 9 a.m.!")

[h/t Business Insider]