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In Honor of Titanic's 15th Anniversary, Watch the MythBusters Tackle the Movie's Myths!

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Wednesday marks 15 years since Titanic was released in theaters. Based on the film's profits—it grossed $1.84 billion worldwide—you probably saw it at least once (or if you were a teenage girl at the time, like I was, you saw it many, many more times than that). So I'm sure you were intrigued when a series of photos made the rounds on the internet claiming that Jack and Rose both could have fit on the door at the end of the film.

In the premiere of the latest season of MythBusters, co-hosts Jamie Hyneman and Adam Savage decided to find out definitively whether or not Jack and Rose both could have fit on that door, with a little help from a very special guest: director James Cameron.

Cameron claimed that, though the door appeared big enough to hold both Jack and Rose, the buoyancy of the wood would not have allowed both of them to get on the door without it sinking.

To commemorate the anniversary of Titanic's release, let's have a look back at those tests, shall we?

Scale Test

Savage began by creating a mini-Jack and a mini-Rose to do some scale testing, which seemed to support what Cameron was saying.

Full Scale Test

Then, Jamie (playing Rose) and Adam (as Jack) took a scaled-up replica of the door (adjusted to compensate for their increased mass) out on the water to see if it was possible for both of them to actually make it on the piece of wood.

The verdict? Yes, both Jack and Rose could have gotten on the door, if they'd only used their life jackets for extra buoyancy. Cameron's take? “I think you guys are missing the point here. The script says Jack died. He has to die. So maybe we screwed up and the board should have been a little tiny bit smaller, but the dude’s goin’ down.”

The Hypothermia Test

But that wasn't the end of the testing! Jamie and Adam also wanted to test survival in the water versus on the door. To do that, they built a complex dummy they called "ThermoBoy."

The verdict: In the water, Jack was totally a goner—but it's totally plausible that Rose would have survived on the door long enough to be rescued.

The Aftershow

In this video, Jamie and Adam discuss what it was like to work with Cameron, what Jamie really thought about testing this myth, and why they built ThermoBoy. They also answer the question: Titanic or Avatar?

Behind the Scenes

And for good measure, here are a few videos of Cameron at M5 Industries!

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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
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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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Opening Ceremony
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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:

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Opening Ceremony

To this:

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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]

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