The Late Movies: 11 Close Encounters with Sharks

Last night marked the start of Shark Week on the Discovery Channel. The annual summer event is celebrating its 25th anniversary and is broadcast in more than 72 countries. To celebrate everyone's favorite shark extravaganza, we've rounded up 11 videos of close encounters with sharks. Enjoy!

Warning: These videos often include yells of profanity. If you're in an office or around children, you may want to mute your speakers first.

1. The One That Got Away

When this group headed out for an overcast day of fishing at Cherry Grove in Myrtle Beach, SC, they weren't expecting to reel in a bull shark.

2. Best Shark Attack Video

This "media demo edit" is a condensed version of this longer video, which the uploader dubbed "best shark attack video." The group was tarpon fishing on a boat under Long Key Bridge, near Duck Key, FL. A hammerhead shark attacked a tarpon, which the fishing group tried to protect by circling around the fish, creating noise and bubbles to confuse the shark and conceal the tarpon. The shark was victorious, though, and when one of the fishers picked up part of the tarpon carcass to show on the video, the shark emerged to snatch up the remains of its meal. (You can read even more details on the YouTube page for either edit of the video.)

3. Mako Shark Surprises Diver and Blue Marlin

Diver and shark expert Jim Abernethy was actually underwater off Cat Island in the Bahamas to film a blue marlin for a Guy Harvey expedition when a mako shark took him by surprise.

4. Scientists Free a Whale Shark from a Fishing Net

Whale sharks, which are slow-moving filter-feeding sharks, often gather around lift net fishing platforms to eat the small silverside baitfish being caught. Unfortunately, the sharks sometimes swim into the nets and become entangled, as is the case with this whale shark in Indonesia's Cendrawasih Bay, which was freed by scientists from Conservation International.

5. Whale Shark Sucks Fish from Fishing Net

This is what the whale shark in video #4 had been trying to do -- suck little fish straight from the fishermen's lift net. This video was also filmed by Conservation International in Indonesia's Cendrawasih Bay.

6. Shark Steals Camera

As you're probably beginning to notice, sharks are intelligent and curious animals. In this clip filmed at Tiger Beach in the Bahamas, a shark steals a camera from photographer Jim Abernethy (the same Jim from video #3). Luckily, Jim was able to get his camera back eventually!

7. Tiger Shark Near Miss

This video is presumably from one of those "swim with the sharks" excursions. When a tiger shark begins to nose his way through a diver's legs, the diver doesn't get out of the way quickly enough for the shark, who nearly bites the diver's leg.

8. Shark Stalks Boat

These guys were fishing from their boat off the coast of North Carolina when a large shark began following them, circling their boat for about 20 minutes. (As the guys muse at one point, "Maybe it knows something we don't.") In the videos, they debate whether it's a great white shark or a bull shark, but either way, it's a pretty impressive creature filmed in high definition.

9. Close Call with Great White Shark

Two divers were stranded off the coast of Western Australia when a great white shark (referred to as a white pointer in the video) came between them and their boat. Luckily, they were able to scare it away with no injury to themselves. The Australian newscaster narrating the clip enhances the drama.

10. Sharks Feed on Whale

Approximately 100 sharks--mostly blacktip reef sharks, tiger sharks and a few great white sharks--were feeding on a beached whale at Warroora Station in Australia; surfer Rachel Campbell caught the action on film.

11. 5-Year-Old Girl Swims with Sharks

We saved the most controversial for last (of course). This video is of an excursion with Power Boat Adventures off of Nassau in the Bahamas; the staff feed the group of reef sharks, lemon sharks, and nurse sharks to ensure they're not hungry, and then the tourists swim amongst the sharks. But this video stirred up an internet brouhaha over parenting, safety, and sharks, as it features a 5-year-old named Anaia with the sharks. Comments on the video have since been disabled due to the nasty comments Anaia's parents were receiving.

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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
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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Opening Ceremony
These $425 Jeans Can Turn Into Jorts
May 19, 2017
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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]