Original image

11 Classic Tongue Twisters

Original image

You guys are still into tongue twisters, right?

I didn't want to admit it. Even for me, it just seemed too childish. But recently a Jason Mraz-tweeted tongue twister had me delighting in my inability to enunciate “Irish wristwatch.” I texted it to all my friends.

So, if you, too, are ready to admit your fondness for such puerile phonetic frivolity, please join me in celebrating 11 classics in the field.

1. A Tudor who tooted a flute ?
tried to tutor two tooters to toot.
?Said the two to their tutor, ?
"Is it harder to toot?
or to tutor two tooters to toot?"

2. Imagine an imaginary menagerie manager ?
imagining managing an imaginary menagerie.

3. You've no need to light a night-light?
On a light night like tonight,?
For a night-light's light's a slight light,?
And tonight's a night that's light.?
When a night's light, like tonight's light,?
It is really not quite right?
To light night-lights with their slight lights?
On a light night like tonight.

4. She stood on a balcony inexplicably mimicking him hiccuping and amicably welcoming him in.

5. Chop shops stock chops.

6. A tree toad loved a she-toad?
Who lived up in a tree.?
He was a two-toed tree toad?
But a three-toed toad was she.?
The two-toed tree toad tried to win?
The three-toed she-toad's heart,?
For the two-toed tree toad loved the ground?
That the three-toed tree toad trod.?
But the two-toed tree toad tried in vain.?
He couldn't please her whim.
?From her tree toad bower?
With her three-toed power?
The she-toad vetoed him.

7. If you stick a stock of liquor in your locker,
?It's slick to stick a lock upon your stock,
?Or some stickler who is slicker
?Will stick you of your liquor
?If you fail to lock your liquor?
With a lock!

8. There was a minimum of cinnamon in the aluminum pan.

9. Once upon a barren moor?
There dwelt a bear, also a boar.?
The bear could not bear the boar.?
The boar thought the bear a bore.?
At last the bear could bear no more
?Of that boar that bored him on the moor,?
And so one morn he bored the boar —
?That boar will bore the bear no more.

10. Give papa a cup of proper coffee in a copper coffee cup.

11. One smart fellow, he felt smart.?
Two smart fellows, they felt smart.?
Three smart fellows, they all felt smart.

(This one contains some bonus juvenile fun.)

* * *

What's your favorite tongue twister that I may one day text my friends?

Original image
iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
Man Buys Two Metric Tons of LEGO Bricks; Sorts Them Via Machine Learning
May 21, 2017
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
Opening Ceremony
These $425 Jeans Can Turn Into Jorts
May 19, 2017
Original image
Opening Ceremony

Modular clothing used to consist of something simple, like a reversible jacket. Today, it’s a $425 pair of detachable jeans.

Apparel retailer Opening Ceremony recently debuted a pair of “2 in 1 Y/Project” trousers that look fairly peculiar. The legs are held to the crotch by a pair of loops, creating a disjointed C-3PO effect. Undo the loops and you can now remove the legs entirely, leaving a pair of jean shorts in their wake. The result goes from this:


Opening Ceremony

To this:


Opening Ceremony

The company also offers a slightly different cut with button tabs in black for $460. If these aren’t audacious enough for you, the Y/Project line includes jumpsuits with removable legs and garter-equipped jeans.

[h/t Mashable]