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Daily Mail

The Weird Week in Review

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Daily Mail

GPS Lands Belgian Woman in Croatia

Sabine Moreau left her home in Solre-sur-Sambre, Belgium, for trip to Brussels, about 38 miles away. But the 67-year-old ended up in Zagreb, Croatia -900 miles away!

Despite crossing five borders and seeing multiple-language traffic signs, she did not stop to question her sat-nav until two days later when she realised that she may not be in Belgium any more.

Although she stopped to refuel her car several times, Ms Moreau did not think her TomTom could be leading her down the wrong path.

Moreau's son had already reported her missing by the time she called home to say she was in Zagreb. 

Motorist Arrests Policeman for Driving Drunk

Russell George was driving in Prestbury, South Africa, when he noticed a police van swerving. The officer would come to a stop and start off again, leading George to believe the driver was drunk. The van came to a stop and George called police, but when they did not arrive within a few minutes, he approached the officer, smelled alcohol, pulled the policeman out of the car and locked him up in the back of the van! The inebriated police officer was arrested and his firearm was taken away. There had been a report earlier that same evening of the cop pulling a gun on his girlfriend at a nightclub, and a motor vehicle collision in which witnesses reported a police van that had left the scene. The unnamed  officer did not deny being drunk.     

Smurfs Arrested for Assault

First it was Oomps-Loompas, then came Smurfs. Four men painted blue and dressed as Smurfs entered a store in Pascoe Vale, a suburb of Melbourne, Australia.

A 37-year-old Pascoe Vale man was buying cigarettes at a convenience store when he was approached by a man painted blue and dressed as a character from the 1980s cartoon show, police say.

The Smurf asked for a cigarette and was offered one, but he demanded the man light the cigarette before handing it over.

The man refused and was later assaulted.

Police appealed to the public and asked the four men to come forward. Three unidentified 19-year-men and one 18-year-old turned themselves in, and will be charged with "assault-related offences."

Fire Breaks Out During Surgery

A fire started in an upstairs dishwasher at Medivet veterinary clinic in Southend, Essex, England. When the Essex Fire and Rescue Service arrived, they found a vet performing surgery on a dog. The crew determined that the surgery could continue, with a little help. Firefighters battled the blaze and evacuated other animals, and also protected the operating room until the surgery could be completed. They used a high pressure fan to ventilate the operating area. The fire was brought under control in a half hour, and the animals were taken to another clinic.

$4,000 Golden Vibrator Stolen

An armed man entered a luxury sex shop in Brazil, tied up the clerk, and took only one item: an 18-carat gold-plated vibrator with a retail price of $4,000. He neglected to take the charger. The store owner said the thief would have a difficult time removing the gold plating, as the vibrator has a stainless steel core. Besides, the value of the item as stolen goods is questionable. If it was meant to be a gift, the lack of a charger might raise suspicions.

Cat Survives 1,700 Miles Under Train

Polly the cat was found after riding 1,700 miles around England and Wales in the undercarriage of a train. It is thought that she stayed in the undercarriage for at least two days in fear after badly mangling her front limb. Train manager Emily Mahoney-Smith found her when she heard meows on a stop on the way to Cornwall. Taken to a veterinary clinic, the cat was almost put down until the vet scanned for a microchip and found one from a cattery in Plymouth, where Polly's owners had adopted her a couple of years before. Arthur and Louisa Westington hadn't seen Polly in three weeks, and didn't even know she had been microchipped. They gave permission for the cat's limb to be amputated. Polly is now recovering nicely, and will be taken home soon.     

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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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