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12 Memorable Biting Incidents in Sports History

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With a spot in the knockout stages on the line, Uruguay and Italy's match at the 2014 World Cup was a real nail-biter. It also was a shoulder-biter, thanks to Luis Suarez. The star Uruguayan striker appeared to take a chomp out of Italy defender Giorgio Chiellini that was caught by the cameras but not the referee. This wasn't Suarez's first toothy incident — the serial biter has done this type of thing before:

In the pantheon of all-time sporting biters, Suarez may be the king. Here are 12 other examples to chew on:

1. In 1997, Mike Tyson bit Evander Holyfield twice in a heavyweight bout. Referee Mills Lane deducted two points the first time. When Tyson bit Holyfield again in another clinch in the third round, Lane called the bout.

STEVE MARCUS/REUTERS/Landov

Announcer Jimmy Lennon Jr.'s reading of the decision -- "Referee Mills Lane has disqualified Mike Tyson for biting Evander Holyfield on both of his ears" -- was perhaps the most interesting in boxing history.

Tyson lost his boxing license but was reinstated a year later and, in 2009, he apologized to Holyfield on Oprah.

More recently, Holyfield had something to say on Twitter about Luis Suarez's incident at the World Cup:

2. In the 1983 NBA playoffs, a scrum broke out between Atlanta's center Wayne "Tree" Rollins and the Boston Celtics' Danny Ainge. Because Ainge was the smaller man and such a pest as a player, many mistakenly believe to this day he did the biting. But it was Ainge who received stitches and a tetanus shot after Rollins clamped down on his finger.

The next day's classic newspaper headline had to suffice: "Tree Bites Man."

3. South African rugby player Johan Le Roux bit New Zealand's Sean Fitzpatrick's ear during a real scrum in 1994. After learning of his lengthy suspension, Le Roux said, "For an 18-month suspension, I feel I probably should have torn it off."

4. Ottawa Senators right wing Jarko Ruutu denied biting the thumb of Buffalo's Andrew Peters in 2009 but was suspended for two games and fined $31,700. Makes the price of Kobe beef look like Alpo.

"I don't think if I did something that stupid I'd really be admitting to it either," Peters said.

5. Sevilla midfielder Francisco Gallardo celebrated a teammate's goal by biting on his genitals in the ensuing pileup. The teammate's genitals. The Royal Spanish Football Federation suspended and fined him for violating "sporting dignity and decorum."

It's the age-old question. Why did he do it? Because he could.

Said Gallardo: “I am sure I didn’t offend anyone. I don’t think what I did was very noteworthy.”

6. An English club rugby player accepted a 80-week ban in 2008 for an incident that left an opponent with "a partial amputation of the right index finger."

7. Vancouver winger Alex Burrows appeared to bite the right finger of Bruins center Patrice Bergeron during the first game of the 2011 Stanley Cup finals.

"They didn't see it," Bergeron said of the refs. "But we were speaking French and I [asked Burrows] why did he do that. That linesman speaks French, and he said that [Burrows'] explanation was that he put my finger in his mouth and he had to do it."

Boston's Milan Lucic taunted Burrows later in the series, offering his finger for a nibble.

8. Philadelphia Flyers enforcer Daniel Carcillo claimed Boston's Marc Savard bit him during Game 2 of the Eastern Conference semifinals series in 2010.

"Last time I have been bit was in grade school. It's not a good feeling. ... Guys don't bite. Men don't bite," Carcillo said.

Said Savard, "He pummeled on my face. He pulled on my teeth, so I guess that's biting when a guy tried and pull your front teeth out like his."

9. Auburn wide receiver Robert Baker caught a touchdown pass on the final play of a 1996 game against Georgia. Auburn won, apparently riling up Georgia Bulldog mascot Uga V, who lunged at Baker in the back of the endzone and tried to bite him. We should probably clarify here that Uga V is an actual canine and not a man dressed up as a dog.

10. Philadelphia's Aaron Asham claimed Pittsburgh Penguins' forward Matt Cooke bit him during a fight. "My glove got tangled in his mouth and he bit me, so I lost it," said Asham.

11. In 1997, broadcaster Marv Albert bit female companion Vanessa Perhach multiple times in Virginia, leading to a trial on assault charges. Albert admitted at the trial that biting was part of their sexual encounters but that long-time acquaintance Perhach had never lodged any complaints over it.

The plea agreement didn't come until after testimony from a surprise witness, Hyatt Hotels concierge Patricia Masten.

She said in another time and place she rejected Albert's biting advances, telling the court, “I went to grab his hair, and his hair lifted off.”

Albert understandably entered the plea agreement soon after and was given a 12-month suspended sentence.

12. In May 2014, catcher Miguel Olivo was playing for the L.A. Dodger's Triple-A affiliate, the Albuquerque Isotopes. He got in a fight during a game with teammate Alex Guerrero and, during the brawl, Olivo bit off part of Guerrero's ear. The incident eventually led to cosmetic surgery for Guerrero and signaled the end of Olivo's baseball career.

Bud Shaw is a columnist for the Cleveland Plain Dealer who has also written for the Philadelphia Daily News, San Diego Union-Tribune, Atlanta Journal-Constitution and The National. You can read his Plain Dealer columns at Cleveland.com. Portions of this post appeared in 2012.

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technology
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Man Buys Two Metric Tons of LEGO Bricks; Sorts Them Via Machine Learning
May 21, 2017
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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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Scientists Think They Know How Whales Got So Big
May 24, 2017
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It can be difficult to understand how enormous the blue whale—the largest animal to ever exist—really is. The mammal can measure up to 105 feet long, have a tongue that can weigh as much as an elephant, and have a massive, golf cart–sized heart powering a 200-ton frame. But while the blue whale might currently be the Andre the Giant of the sea, it wasn’t always so imposing.

For the majority of the 30 million years that baleen whales (the blue whale is one) have occupied the Earth, the mammals usually topped off at roughly 30 feet in length. It wasn’t until about 3 million years ago that the clade of whales experienced an evolutionary growth spurt, tripling in size. And scientists haven’t had any concrete idea why, Wired reports.

A study published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B might help change that. Researchers examined fossil records and studied phylogenetic models (evolutionary relationships) among baleen whales, and found some evidence that climate change may have been the catalyst for turning the large animals into behemoths.

As the ice ages wore on and oceans were receiving nutrient-rich runoff, the whales encountered an increasing number of krill—the small, shrimp-like creatures that provided a food source—resulting from upwelling waters. The more they ate, the more they grew, and their bodies adapted over time. Their mouths grew larger and their fat stores increased, helping them to fuel longer migrations to additional food-enriched areas. Today blue whales eat up to four tons of krill every day.

If climate change set the ancestors of the blue whale on the path to its enormous size today, the study invites the question of what it might do to them in the future. Changes in ocean currents or temperature could alter the amount of available nutrients to whales, cutting off their food supply. With demand for whale oil in the 1900s having already dented their numbers, scientists are hoping that further shifts in their oceanic ecosystem won’t relegate them to history.

[h/t Wired]

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