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Guinness World Records

11 Really Bizarre World Records

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Guinness World Records

Guinness World Records, in theory, are amazing and seemingly unattainable. The record holders are astoundingly strong or fast or otherwise able to push the limits of human ability. Over the years, though, these world record categories have become increasingly bizarre—and I’m not just talking about people with abnormally long fingernails. Some of these records are incredibly specific, while others just prompt questions about the record holder’s sanity. The following 11 records only scratch the surface of the weirdness recorded by Guinness World Record judges. If you’ve always wanted to have your name attached to a world record, though, the wide variety of options represented here might just give you some ideas ... or some hope.

1. The fastest half-marathon pushing a pram

Courtesy of Guiness World Records

This record is one to shoot for if you don’t want to let parenthood slow you down. The female record is currently held by Nancy Schubring of the United States. She completed the half-marathon in 1 hour, 30 minutes, and 51 seconds.

The male record is 1 hour, 15 minutes, and 8 seconds, held by Neil Davison of the U.K.

If you’re not a parent and still want to attempt a bizarre running record, you can always practice running in a full suit, running wearing scuba-diving flippers, or running in several other strange fashions.

2. Most toilet seats broken by the head in one minute

Courtesy of Guiness World Records

You have to wonder who came up with some of these records. Usually the head and the toilet seat are not the most compatible elements, except when stereotypical high school bullies are involved. The record for most wooden toilet seats broken in a minute with the head is 46. The record is held by Kevin Shelley of the United States. See the video here.

3. Most rotations hanging from a power drill in one minute

Courtesy of Guiness World Records

This feat would require a great amount of upper body strength—and it’s much more extreme than boring weight lifting. Still, I don’t think it would be the best idea to try this one at home. The current record is 148 rotations in a minute, achieved by The Huy Giang of Germany.

4. Heaviest weight lifted by . . .

Courtesy of Guiness World Records

Apparently, upper body strength isn’t enough for some. There are Guinness World Records for weight being lifted by many different body parts, the most bizarre of which are seemingly delicate parts of the human head.

The heaviest weight lifted by tongue is 12.5 kg (27 lb 8.96 oz). Thomas Blackthorne of the U.K. holds this record.

The heaviest weight lifted with an eye socket is 14 kg (30.86 lb) by Manjit Singh of the U.K.

The heaviest lifted with both eye sockets is 23.5 kg (51 lb 12.96 oz) by Yang Guang He of China.

The heaviest weight lifted with one ear (using a clamp) is 80.78 kg (178 lb 14.4 oz). This record is held by Rakesh Kumar of India.

5. Full body ice contact endurance

No offense to this record setter or anyone else who may attempt this in the future, but anyone who has spent a winter somewhere with snow should know how stupid this idea is. I suppose if you can put all thoughts of frostbite and hypothermia aside ... nope, it’s still pretty crazy!

This record is held by Wim Hof of the Netherlands for spending 1 hour, 52 minutes, 42 seconds in direct, full body contact with ice. Hof (in the above video) was also featured in the Discovery Channel's Extraordinary People series.

6. Fastest time to burst three balloons with the back

Courtesy of Guiness World Records

This record certainly requires that you have amazing flexibility. Honestly, though, how do you discover that this is one of your talents? Julia Gunthel, aka “Zlata,” of Germany holds this record, taking only 12 seconds to burst three balloons with her back.

7. Most watermelons chopped on the stomach in one minute

Courtesy of Guiness World Records

If you’re curious, the cutting implement used to chop the watermelons was a machete. That just makes this feat even more terrifying. The record is 25 watermelons in one minute, achieved by two Australians. Jim Hunter was the watermelon chopper and Celia Curtis provided her stomach as the cutting board.

8. Most T-shirts removed while heading a football

Yes, by football they mean soccer ball. Apparently this is what some people use their soccer skills for when they can’t make it professionally. Who knew? The record is 21 shirts and is held by Marcelo Ribeiro da Silva of Brazil.

If you don’t have the soccer skills to break this record, or would rather put shirts on than take them off, you could go for the record of most T-shirts worn at once. The current record of 257 might be tough to surpass, though.

9. Most steps walked by a dog balancing a glass of water

Courtesy of Guiness World Records

Don’t worry! Your pets can be world record holders, too. If your dog regularly helps you set the dinner table, this might be the record to shoot for.

Sweet Pea, an Australian Shepherd/Border Collie, currently holds both records in this category. Sweet Pea has walked a record 10 steps up going backwards and 10 steps down going forwards while balancing a glass of water.

10. Loudest purr by a domestic cat

Courtesy of Guiness World Records

If all of the cat lovers out there were feeling left out, don’t be. There’s also a record for your pet to break, as long as they don’t have a problem audibly expressing their love for you.

The loudest purr recorded by a domestic cat is 67.7 dB, which is held by Smokey. According to the Guinness World Record website, “Smokey is a domestic cat and achieved its record in its home, where it felt relaxed and happy. Accessories used during the record attempt include a grooming brush, slices of ham and stroking by hand.”

11. Longest distance pulled by a horse (full-body burn)

Courtesy of TheWondrous

This one may just take the cake for the most bizarre. Neither part of this record—being dragged by a horse or being set on fire—seems at all appealing. Maybe this just goes to show the lengths people will go to get their name in this book.

The record distance is 472.8 meters (1151 feet 2 inches), achieved by Halapi Roland of Hungary.

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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
technology
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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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Stephen Missal
crime
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New Evidence Emerges in Norway’s Most Famous Unsolved Murder Case
May 22, 2017
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A 2016 sketch by a forensic artist of the Isdal Woman
Stephen Missal

For almost 50 years, Norwegian investigators have been baffled by the case of the “Isdal Woman,” whose burned corpse was found in a valley outside the city of Bergen in 1970. Most of her face and hair had been burned off and the labels in her clothes had been removed. The police investigation eventually led to a pair of suitcases stuffed with wigs and the discovery that the woman had stayed at numerous hotels around Norway under different aliases. Still, the police eventually ruled it a suicide.

Almost five decades later, the Norwegian public broadcaster NRK has launched a new investigation into the case, working with police to help track down her identity. And it is already yielding results. The BBC reports that forensic analysis of the woman’s teeth show that she was from a region along the French-German border.

In 1970, hikers discovered the Isdal Woman’s body, burned and lying on a remote slope surrounded by an umbrella, melted plastic bottles, what may have been a passport cover, and more. Her clothes and possessions were scraped clean of any kind of identifying marks or labels. Later, the police found that she left two suitcases at the Bergen train station, containing sunglasses with her fingerprints on the lenses, a hairbrush, a prescription bottle of eczema cream, several wigs, and glasses with clear lenses. Again, all labels and other identifying marks had been removed, even from the prescription cream. A notepad found inside was filled with handwritten letters that looked like a code. A shopping bag led police to a shoe store, where, finally, an employee remembered selling rubber boots just like the ones found on the woman’s body.

Eventually, the police discovered that she had stayed in different hotels all over the country under different names, which would have required passports under several different aliases. This strongly suggests that she was a spy. Though she was both burned alive and had a stomach full of undigested sleeping pills, the police eventually ruled the death a suicide, unable to track down any evidence that they could tie to her murder.

But some of the forensic data that can help solve her case still exists. The Isdal Woman’s jaw was preserved in a forensic archive, allowing researchers from the University of Canberra in Australia to use isotopic analysis to figure out where she came from, based on the chemical traces left on her teeth while she was growing up. It’s the first time this technique has been used in a Norwegian criminal investigation.

The isotopic analysis was so effective that the researchers can tell that she probably grew up in eastern or central Europe, then moved west toward France during her adolescence, possibly just before or during World War II. Previous studies of her handwriting have indicated that she learned to write in France or in another French-speaking country.

Narrowing down the woman’s origins to such a specific region could help find someone who knew her, or reports of missing women who matched her description. The case is still a long way from solved, but the search is now much narrower than it had been in the mystery's long history.

[h/t BBC]

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