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7 Schools Where Streaking Is An Organized Sport

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At some schools, stripping down is a serious sport. Here are seven colleges that place streaking on par with other organized athletic endeavors.

1. Hamilton College

Hamilton College’s varsity streaking team, Streak to Win, is dedicated to destroying the competition with their athletic prowess and, of course, bare skin. Like any sports team, they have plenty of away games. During fall of 2008, the 18-person team launched their tour de force, streaking 12 peer institutions in a five-day span.

2. Dartmouth College

At Dartmouth, ambitious athletes complete the Ledyard Challenge – a brutal test of speed and physical conditioning. Athletes strip down, swim across the Connecticut River to Vermont, and then sprint across the bridge back to New Hampshire. Because streaking is illegal in New Hampshire, athletes have hidden out for hours on the Vermont side of the border — where streaking is a-ok — to avoid being apprehended by the Hanover Police.

3. Denison College

Denison has an entire week in February dedicated to streaking and other naked revelry. Each night of Naked Week has a different theme — formal night, animal night, war paint night, zombie night, etc. — and participants do their best to accessorize accordingly. Naked Week culminates in a frigid, clothes-less Ultimate Frisbee game on Saturday. Students meet on the quad and play until they’re tired or lose sensation in their limbs. Then they return to their rooms and try to figure out how they’re going to explain the embarrassing frostbite to their physicians.

4. Williams College

Williams College in Massachusetts has a large, loosely organized streaking team known as the Springstreakers. Each semester during finals period, team members quietly sneak into the library before going on a rampage, running naked through the stacks and screaming, “Study harder!” In recent years, the team has also streaked freshman orientation, a Psych 101 lecture, countless Super Bowl parties and a Fox News interview with former Massachusetts governor Jane Swift. The team has a few rules that it (mostly) follows: only streak while sober, never streak children, and only streak events worth being streaked/struck/stricken. (Grammar varies by region.)

5. Rice University

At 10 p.m. on the 13th and 31st of every month (or the 26th for months without 31 days), Rice students run around campus wearing nothing but shoes and shaving cream. Each run attracts between 2 and 196 adventurous athletes who streak the campus, fending off attackers armed with water balloons and hoses. The event happens year-round, but Halloween is the most popular — and the most dangerous. In 2008, a student shattered a window while attempting to stamp his buttocks on the pane and had to be rushed to the hospital. This past fall, another student broke the very same window during the Halloween streak.

6. University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill

Like any other Tar Heels game, the bi-annual finals week run draws hundreds of onlookers. Streakers run down each floor of Davis Library, outside into the student union, and then across the courtyard and into the Undergraduate Library, where they sing the alma mater. But the tradition has recently come under fire from its founders, who are angry that the event seems to have lost its shock value. When a Facebook event was created to advertise the streaking, some of the originals left a note at the streakers’ meeting place condemning campus-endorsed streaking as an affront to everything streaking is supposed to be. The debate has raised an important question about the essential nature of the sport: is it really streaking without the element of surprise?

7. Reed College

At Reed College, streaking isn’t just a flippant display of youthful rebellion: it’s war. Each year during the school’s annual fair, a group of Reedies strips down and covers themselves in blue paint in homage to the Picts, a Celtic tribe who supposedly went into battle wearing nothing but blue paint. The Picters launch an attack on their mortal enemy, the Copters, a group of clothed students armed with squirt guns and orange paint. While the Copters pelt the Picters with orange paint, the Picters chase them down and attempt to give them wet, paint-filled hugs.

And two teams that died out . . .

Princeton University’s Nude Olympians

The Nude Olympics, a beloved Tiger tradition for almost a quarter century, used to take place following the first snowfall of each year. Two torch-bearers led the charge of 350 naked students running circles around the courtyard, screaming and cartwheeling and whooping for joy. Though there wasn’t any actual competition, it was still quite a spectacle and regularly drew crowds of 700 or more. Administrators likened the event to Pamplona’s running of the bulls. But after a particularly rowdy ceremony that sent 7 students to the hospital, the Board of Trustees voted to nix the event in 1999.

University of Vermont’s Naked Bikers

Each semester on the last day of classes, UVM students gathered at midnight for a clothes-less extravaganza. Participants rode around a lit, barricaded loop guarded by campus police and student volunteers. While the event was known as the “Naked Bike Ride,” only some of the participants cycled. Others rode skateboards, ran, or pushed shopping carts. But this year, UVM’s president pulled the plug on the event for safety reasons. He also pointed out that the money spent on the event — about $17,000 per semester, which came directly from school funds — could probably be put to better use.

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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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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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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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