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12 of Wikipedia's Greatest Sentences

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The English version of Wikipedia features over 4.1 million entries. If my calculations are correct, I’ve read most of them. While the encyclopedia is a terrific repository of knowledge—particularly if you don’t mind doing a little fact checking on your own—it really shines as a source of collaboratively edited prose. So without further ado, here are the 12 finest sentences in the English Wikipedia:

1. From “Boo-Boo Bear

It is not readily apparent whether Boo-Boo is a juvenile bear with a precocious intellect or simply an adult bear who is short of stature.
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2. From “McDonaldland

Even though hamburgers in McDonaldland were anthropomorphized and spoke, they were picked by characters such as Ronald McDonald and the Hamburglar for consumption.

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3. From “Curly Howard

Never an intellect, Curly simply refrained from engaging in "crazy antics" unless he was in his element: with family, performing, or intoxicated.
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4. From “Ouija board

Some journalists have described reports of Ouija board findings as 'half truths' and have suggested that their inclusion in national newspapers lowers the national discourse overall.
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5. From “Cookie Puss

In his television commercials, Cookie Puss has the ability to fly, though he requires a saucer-shaped spacecraft for interplanetary travel.
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6. From “Dogbert

Adams sent in a sketch of Dilbert and Dildog, but realized he had to make "Dildog" more newspaper friendly (any printing error that dropped the G would wreak havoc) so he changed it to Dogbert.
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7. From “Blimpie

Although Blimpie remained far behind Subway in the battle for hoagie supremacy, the new ownership and leadership perhaps signaled the beginning of a brighter era for Blimpie.

8. From “Roddy Piper”

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He earned the nickname "Rowdy" by displaying his trademark "Scottish" rage, spontaneity and quick wit.
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9. From “Lohan Holiday

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The current CEO of YMC Records asked Dina Lohan if Lindsay Lohan would be interested in doing a Christmas album, and Dina responded that Lindsay was tied up with film projects, but would he be interested in Ali Lohan, her younger sister?

10. From “Prom

An adult prom is a social event that is almost perfectly similar to a high school prom in terms of themes and attire, except that adult proms usually serve alcohol, and most require those attending to be at least 21 years of age to attend.
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11. From “Tater Tots

In some regions, the term "tater" is informally dropped, and the snack is simply called "tots.”
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12. From “Zima

Originally popular among young women, Coors made its first attempt at attracting young men to the brand in 1995 by marketing Zima Gold, an amber-colored beverage that promised a "taste of bourbon"; the drink was unpopular and disappeared from store shelves within the year.

See Also...

Best of Wikipedia: 11 Bad Jokes and Other Deleted Nonsense

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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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