CLOSE
Original image

9 Historic Moments Captured in Cake

Original image

1. Eruption of Mt. Vesuvius

KefiraDalila’s Pompeii cake may not look all that professional, but that's just part of its charm. Clean-edged fondant sculptures have no place in the chaos of an erupting volcano, and as a bonus, this cake tastes like Teddy Grahams and Fruit by the Foot.

2. First Voyage of Christopher Columbus

In celebration of Columbus Day, TLC’s Cake Boss, Buddy Valastro, created this stunning three-part cake that depicts the travels of the Niña, Pinta and Santa Maria across the turbulent Atlantic. While the cake looks impressive in the picture, it’s even more so when you consider that it had to be moved with a forklift because it is so large.

3. Beheading of Marie Antoinette

Miss Antoinette may never have actually said “let them eat cake,” but that doesn’t make Kakebakery's cake featuring the demise of "Prisoner No. 280" much less ironic.

4. American Civil War

This cake was made by Joseph Pelot’s fiancé to celebrate the 60th birthday of one of their Civil War reenactment friends. She used clay to make molds from the belt buckle and buttons and then created edible fondant items using the molds.

5. Bikini Atoll Atomic Bomb Tests

In 1946, a number of high ranking military officials celebrated the detonation of the largest atomic bomb ever tested by the U.S. with a smashing party that featured this massive A-bomb cake. Unsurprisingly, as the image got around, dubbed “Atomic Age Angel Food” by the press, those involved faced massive criticism from people around the globe for their tasteless celebration.

6. Women in Space

Starting with Valentina Vladimirovna Tereshkova’s first trip into space in 1963, female astronauts have, indeed, come a long way. This cake is a great memorial of their hard work and dedication… despite the obvious phallic imagery that earned it a place on Cake Wrecks.

7. Woodstock

While there are plenty of generic “hippie cakes,” none of them quite capture the time period like this elaborately detailed Woodstock cake that was displayed at the 10th Annual Culinary Olympics. It features two protesters not-warring on top of a pile of drugs, protest signs and musical instruments.

8. Ronald Reagan's Life and Presidency

Too much hippie-dippy nonsense on the last cake? Let's balance it out with the Conservative Political Action Conference’s cake commemorating Ronald Reagan’s 100th birthday, featuring defining moments of his presidency and his favorite places.

9. Chicago’s 174th Anniversary

Every celebration needs a cake, and when the celebration in question is Chicago's birthday, it is only fitting that the cake includes a reference to the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. Thank you to Flickr user Chicago Man for the image.

Original image
iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
technology
arrow
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
Nick Briggs/Comic Relief
entertainment
arrow
What Happened to Jamie and Aurelia From Love Actually?
May 26, 2017
Original image
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]

SECTIONS
BIG QUESTIONS
BIG QUESTIONS
WEATHER WATCH
BE THE CHANGE
JOB SECRETS
QUIZZES
WORLD WAR 1
SMART SHOPPING
STONES, BONES, & WRECKS
#TBT
THE PRESIDENTS
WORDS
RETROBITUARIES