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Raising the Bar: 9 Even More Elaborate Proposals

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The modern custom of the elaborate public surprise proposal gives us lots of smiles and a few vicarious tears of happiness, even if we wouldn't want such publicity for ourselves. We've posted several lists of them in the past. It's just lovely to know people in love will go to so much trouble to express it. However, each viral proposal is in danger of being compared to the one before it, and they have escalated to some amazing productions.

1. An iPad for Christmas

Redditor rad_rob used an iPad box to dupe his girlfriend into thinking she was opening a new iPad as a Christmas gift. It was not an iPad. What was inside was a carefully custom-machined aluminum facsimile of an iPad in texture and weight, inscribed with a proposal. She opened the gift in front of the entire family and said yes. As soon as everyone calmed down, he gave her the real iPad as well, which no longer had its box. It was a Merry Christmas all around.

2. DNA Imaging

This proposal takes the award for the specialized knowledge required to pull it off. What do you wanna bet these two met at work? A biologist wanted to propose to his girlfriend, who is also a biologist. He asked her to image his electrophoresis gel, (wink wink) if you know what I mean. But it was a special mixture of DNA fragments he cooked up just for the occasion.

They're 5 sized PCR fragments (roughly 150, 300, 500, 700, 1kb), I went back through my notes to find 5 primer pairs that I knew worked pretty well (so don't feel bad, they're selected out of primers that had been pre-validated =p). The other lanes are just mixes of the 5 sizes (either 2:3:4 or 4:6 volume mixes going in decreasing size, since larger fragments tend to be brighter). The gel actually didn't take that long (though it was terrifying loading it), but I made a mockup in Illustrator beforehand (along with a ladder to test what sizes to use), and then sketched it out beforehand so I knew what to add to each lane.

Well, that makes perfect sense. I just feel so much better to know that they were pre-validated. Anyway, you see the results of the imaging here. And she said yes!

3. Jurassic Park Proposal

In a similar fashion, when a paleontologist asks another paleontologist to marry him (and do paleontology together), it's only natural to do it at Jurassic Park. Actually, Lee Hall took Ashley Fragomeni to the Montana location where the first scene of their common favorite movie was filmed. He coaxed her into re-enacting a scene from Jurassic Park, which he altered just a bit to include an engagement ring. Lee used a velociraptor claw he hand-crafted for the occasion.

4. Arc Reactor Engagement Ring Box

Eddie Zarick made an arc reactor (featured in the film Iron Man) for his girlfriend. As Tony Stark built the original arc reactor as a replacement for his heart, Eddie's arc reactor presented her with an engagement ring "from his heart."

5. Star Trek: TNG Proposal

The cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation were surprised when a fan's photo opportunity turned into a surprise proposal. Wil Wheaton tells the story:

About 30 minutes or so into this particular session, these two people came in. The girl went to stand between Patrick and Frakes, and the guy directed her to stand in the front, instead. All of us tried to figure out what was going on (usually it's small kids who come to the front, usually sitting on Brent's lap or Gates' lap), and the guy said, "I really love Star Trek, but I love [her name] even more." He got down on one knee, and proposed to her.

Marina started to cry, I felt like I was going to cry, and we all applauded and celebrated when she said "yes." Apparently, they'd met Marina earlier in the day, and Marina had given him shit for not marrying her, so Marina was embarrassed about that.

The photograph snapped at that moment managed to capture the famous Picard facepalm. The photo shown here turned out a little better, although Wil acts as if he's the one getting the ring.

6. Live Lip-Dub Proposal

Isaac Lamb enlisted, well, apparently everyone he knew for this elaborate but touchingly personal proposal to Amy last May. The couple are active in Portland, Oregon's theater scene and have some talented friends. Amy went to have dinner with Isaac's family, and his brother invited her to sit in the back of the car while he played a song for her. The car took off, and so did the production! A second camera attached to the hatch top recorded Amy's reaction. Friends and family who live elsewhere even got in on the act with the aid of laptop computers. There's no way she could've said no after all this! She said yes.

7. The Log Ride

When Doug asked Lindsey to marry him, she didn't know until the photograph was flashed on a video screen after the ride. He got several friends together and practiced the seating order and numbered the signs to make sure everything came out right. Doug's friend Joe hid the signs in his backpack until the ride was underway. Oh yeah, Lindsey said yes!

8. Bryant Park Flashmob

This past June, Craig Jones raised the bar for elaborate, theatrical, public marriage proposals. He spent $9,000 to hire a dance troupe for a flash mob at Manhattan's Bryant Park, plus a 140-strong marching band! Jones, who has a reputation for pulling elaborate pranks, made all the arrangements himself.

He was part of the marching band, and broke away to pop the question. Alison said yes, so it was all worth it! The wedding is planned for March 2013. Oh yes, the whole thing was captured on video.

9. The Mechanical Jewelry Box

But the most elaborate proposal so far is also one of the more intimate. Redditor and engineering student curtisabrina spent several months planning, designing, and manufacturing a magical mechanical jewelry box for his girlfriend. First he made two keys that fit together, and presented them to her as a Valentine's Day gift in a custom-made box. Then he decided to propose, and made an elaborate jewelry box that could only be opened by the keys nested within each other. The top section of the jewelry box was pretty standard, and she uses it to store jewelry (including the keys). The bottom compartment held a locked mechanical device that, when the key was inserted, opened as a iris aperture and revealed another custom-made wooden box with a diamond engagement ring inside!

You better believe she said yes. See an album that explains the whole involved process in pictures.

Is the result of all this making ordinary proposals seem humdrum? I rather doubt it. It's not every day that someone asks you to spend the rest of your life with them.

See also: 10 Quirky Marriage Proposals, Modern Marriage Proposals, and 10 Dramatic Marriage Proposals.

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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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