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The Full Names of 26 One-Name Celebrities

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A rose by any other name probably wouldn't smell as sweet, at least not in the cases of some of these one-named celebrities. From A-Z, here are the full names of some of your favorite mononymous stars, and the reasons they dropped the rest of their names.

1. The Celeb: Adele

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The Real Name: Adele Laurie Blue Adkins
The Story: As far as I can tell, Adele’s first name is simply distinctive enough to stand on its own. Plus, “Adele Adkins” sounds a bit like she should be playing at the Grand Ole Opry (which would be lovely, but not quite the sound she’s going for).

2. The Celeb: Bono

The Real Name: Paul David Hewson
The Story: Without a doubt, Bono is the only rockstar in the world named after a hearing aid. His school friends in Dublin all gave each other nicknames, and his was "Bono Vox," Latin for "good voice," based on the Bonavox hearing aid store on O'Connell Street. Eventually he dropped the "Vox" and became the Bono we all know today.

3. The Celeb: Charo

The Real Name: Maria Rosario Pilar Martinez Molina Baeza
The Story: I mean, “Charo” is 31 characters (not including spaces) shorter than her real name, so you can see why she decided to shorten things up. But why “Charo” instead of “Maria” or even something more distinctive like “Rosario”? As it turns out, “Charo” is actually not an uncommon nickname for “Rosario.” Here she is with Siegfried Fischbacher and Roy Horn.

4. The Celeb: Drake

The Real Name: Aubrey Drake Graham
The Story: Drake is a better rapper name than Aubrey. Back when he was an actor on Degrassi, though, Aubrey served him well.

5. The Celeb: Enya

The Real Name: Eithne Ní Bhraonáin
The Story: Because she knew that most of the world would scratch their heads when presented with the Irish “Eithne,” Enya changed her name to the phonetic spelling of her real name. Yep, “Eithne” = “Enya.”

6. The Celeb: Flea

The Real Name: Michael Peter Balzary
The Story: The itchy moniker goes back to his high school days, when friends called him “Mike B the Flea.”

7. The Celeb: Gotye

The Real Name: Wouter “Wally” De Backer
The Story: It’s the French version of his real name, Wouter. In his words:
“I figured my own name was, a) not very showbiz, and b) just didn’t really feel very right. Wally is my nickname but you know, Wally doesn’t really feel right for a performing artist - maybe if I was writing kind of novelty music! I don’t know. Gotye is a name that my mum used to call me sometimes when I was little.”

8. The Celeb: Hammer

The Real Name: Stanley Kirk Burrell
The Story: Yeah, if you’re of a certain age, you probably know him as MC Hammer, but he dropped the Master of Ceremonies a few years back. The “U Can’t Touch This” rapper and former batboy for the Oakland A's received his nickname from an unlikely source: Pedro Garcia, then of the Milwaukee Brewers, who thought a young Burrell was a dead ringer for Hammerin’ Hank Aaron. (Reggie Jackson has also taken credit for the nickname.)

9. The Celeb: Ice-T (yes, I’m totally counting it)

The Real Name: Tracy Marrow
The Story: The name is a tribute to Iceberg Slim, a reformed pimp who later wrote novels. “I’d taken my name as a tribute to Iceberg, and then it hit me one day - dude is a writer. I thought he was fly because he was a pimp, but I realized that I really admired him because he was a writer,” Ice-T said in his autobiography.

10. The Celeb: Jay-Z

The Real Name: Shawn Corey Carter
The Story: There are a few theories, including that he was paying homage to his mentor, Jaz-O, or that it was a nod to the spot in Brooklyn where the J and Z trains meet up. But Carter maintains that it’s just a variation on his childhood nickname, “Jazzy.”

11. The Celeb: Ke$ha

The Real Name: Kesha Rose Sebert
The Story: Kesha’s her own name, obviously (who saw that one coming?), but where did the dollar sign come from? "It’s actually just being ironic about the whole money thing, because I actually stand for the opposite of putting a lot of emphasis on money,” she said in 2009.

12. The Celeb: Ludacris

The Real Name: Christopher Brian Bridges
The Story: “I made my name up. My first name is Chris, and Ludacris means beyond crazy, ridiculous -- which describes my personality, where I'm comin' from with my music, everything.”

13. The Celeb: Moby

The Real Name: Richard Melville Hall
The Story: “The basis for Richard Melville Hall - and for Moby - is that supposedly Herman Melville was my great-great-great granduncle.” While we're in the M section, Madonna was born Madonna Louise Ciccone.

14. The Celeb: Nenê

The Real Name: Maybyner Rodney Hilário
The Story: Nenê is one of the few mononymous people in the U.S. to have legally switched to a single name. The Brazilian, who plays for the Washington Wizards, was called “Nenê” as a child because he’s the youngest kid in his family and “nenê” is Portuguese for “baby.”

15. The Celeb: Oprah

The Real Name: Oprah Gail Winfrey
The Story: Most people have heard the tale: Oprah’s name was intended to be “Orpah,” after a biblical name, but it was misspelled on her birth certificate. Sorry we couldn't come up with a more obscure "O" name.

16. The Celeb: Pink

The Real Name: Alecia Beth Moore
The Story: According to the magenta musician herself, it was a cruel childhood nickname: "It was a mean thing at first; some kids at camp pulled my pants down and I blushed so much, and they were like, 'Ha ha! Look at her! She's pink!' And then the movie Reservoir Dogs came out and Mr. Pink was the one with the smart mouth, so it just happened all over again." Also: The artist formerly known as The Artist Formerly Known as Prince was born Prince Rogers Nelson.

17. The Celeb: ?uestlove

The Real Name: Ahmir Khalib Thompson
The Story: Before he was ?uestlove, the former Ahmir Khalib Thompson wanted to be plain old ?, which he meant to mean “anonymous.” When people started calling him “Question Mark,” he changed his name again to “B.R.O. the R. ?” That didn’t work either - fans thought his name was Brother Question Mark. He finally arrived at ?uestlove because “in the old days, your name ended in rock, ski or love. ?uestrock was not happening and neither was ?uestski. So ?uestlove became my new old school name, ’cause I’m so old school!”

18. The Celeb: Raffi

The Real Name: Raffi Cavoukian
The Story: Because when your name is actually Raffi, you don’t need a surname.

19. The Celeb: Skrillex

The Real Name: Sonny John Moore
The Story: Here’s another case of a high school nickname that got carried over into adulthood. According to Mr. Moore, “Throughout my teen years my friends would call me Skrillex or Skril or Skrilly. Just became a stupid nickname that came out of the social online networking handles. Really means nothing.”

20. The Celeb: Twiggy

The Real Name: Lesley Lawson (née Hornby)
The Story: When the fashion model was just a girl, kids at school referred to her as “Sticks” because she was so thin. Her boyfriend later gave her a slightly nicer (?) version of the nickname, which became her name when she hit it big. “Twiggy is a stupid name for a woman in her 40s,” she once remarked, “But it would be hard to drop.”

21. The Celeb: Usher

The Real Name: Usher Terry Raymond IV
The Story: Let’s just say it’s a good thing Usher didn’t go the route of Drake and other celebs who eschewed their first names for their “cooler” middle names.

22. The Celeb: Voltaire

The Real Name: François-Marie Arouet
The Story: Is it any surprise that Voltaire liked wordplay? The Latinized spelling of his surname is “AROVET LI,” and “Voltaire” is an anagram of that.

23. The Celeb: will.i.am

The Real Name: William James Adams, Jr.
The Story: “I liked playing with words. I noticed that my name was a sentence, meaning one with will, who is strong-willed. And so I called my mom and said, ‘Hey, Mom, do you mind if I call myself Will.i.am?’ She was like: ‘Whaaa? You’re crazy.’ She was cool with it.”

24. The Celeb: Xuxa

The Real Name: Maria da Graça Meneghel
The Story: A quick background, in case you’re unfamiliar with the Xuxa brand: The Brazilian businesswoman started as a model back in the ‘70s but eventually ended up in children’s entertainment, which is how she made her billion-dollar fortune. She picked up her one-word title the way a lot of kids get nicknames: from a sibling. When her parents brought her home from the hospital, her brother declared that she was “My xuxa.”

Random Xuxa note: She dated Pelé, another mononymous person, which makes you wonder what they would have named their kids.

25. The Celeb: Yanni

The Real Name: He was born Yiannis Chryssomallis, though that's sometimes Americanized to John Yanni Christopher.
The Story: See “Raffi,” above. Actually, Yiannis is a very common name in his native Greece. He was known as “John” to his classmates at the University of Minnesota. “Yanni” is a just a slight variation of his given name.

26. The Celeb: Zucchero

The Real Name: Adelmo Fornacirari
The Story: Zucchero is the Italian word for sugar, a name given to him by one of his elementary school teachers. It’s also an apt description for his sweet, sweet music - the Italian musician has worked with everyone from Ray Charles to Pavarotti and has a couple of World Music Awards and a Grammy nom under his belt.

Even More: Björk is Björk Guðmundsdóttir, Cher is Cherilyn Sarkisian, and Seal is Seal Henry Olusegun Olumide Adeola Samuel. Keep the list going in the comments!

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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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