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7 Geeky-Cool Translations of Hamlet

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Ser o no ser, esa es la cuestión. Être, ou ne pas être, telle est la question. Att vara eller inte vara, det är frågan. Sein oder Nichtsein, das ist hier die Frage. Lenni vagy nem lenni: az itt a kérdés.

Hamlet has been translated into hundreds of languages. But normal human languages can be so, well, normal. Here are seven translations of Hamlet that go beyond the normal, right into the awesome.

1. Klingon

There's a line in one of the Star Trek movies where a Klingon character says, "you have not experienced Shakespeare until you have read him in the original Klingon." Some members of the Klingon Language Institute decided Wil'yam Shex'pir's classic needed to be restored, so they translated the whole play into Klingon. Here's a taste:

taH pagh taHbe’. DaH mu’tlheghvam vIqelnIS.
(One either continues or doesn’t continue. Now, I must consider this sentence.)
quv’a’, yabDaq San vaQ cha, pu’ je SIQDI’?
(Is it honorable, when, inside the mind, one endures the torpedoes and phasers of aggressive fate?)
pagh, Seng bIQ’a’Hey SuvmeH nuHmey SuqDI’,
‘ej, Suvmo’, rInmoHDI’?
(Or, when one obtains weapons to fight a seeming ocean of troubles,
And, by fighting, one finishes them?)

2. LOLspeak

Writer Mandy Keifetz created a beautiful interpretation of the existential ponderings of Lolcat. He's deeper than we knew.

Iz or no iz:
iz hed-skratcher
iz moar good haf hed liek
sry no can haz cheezburger?
Or do teh invisible kung-fu,
an by dis oh noes dey wuz al ded, srsly?
Iz ded; iz slepe; iz end
an fru slepe we sez no moar bummin,
iz cheezburger an kek an kookeys; we can haz?
Iz ded; iz slepe; slepe, mebbe dreem?
Dis teh hol in da bukkit, oh noes!
Cuz in ded slepe, iz kwazee dreem
iz ovah, oh noes!
Iz dis maik lawng lief bummin.

3. Perl

Perl is a programming language that lends itself well to poetry because its commands are recognizable as English vocabulary words and variables are referred to by names. This is a Perl poem by Colin McMillen that is both an interpretation of Hamlet's soliloquy and a functioning program. If you run it, it will output, rather eerily, "We end the heart-ache, and the thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to at line 14."

my ($question, $to_be, $asleep); # version 0.1
 my $author = "Colin McMillen";
 my $apologies_to = "William Shakespeare";
 my $to_be = 1;
while ($to_be || (!$to_be)) {
 $question = "that";
 if (suffer($slings && $arrows_of_outrageous_fortune)
 or
 (take_arms_against($sea_of_troubles) && by_opposing() eq "end +them")) {
 do {
 $to_be = 0;
 $asleep = "no more";
 die "We end the heart-ache, and the thousand".
 " natural shocks that flesh is heir to";
 } while ("'tis a consumation devoutly to be wish'd.");
 }
 }
 sub suffer {
 return true;
 }
 sub take_arms_against {
 return true;
 }
 sub by_opposing {
 return "end them";
 }

4. Emoji

This captures Hamlet pretty succinctly.

5. Facebook Hamlet

Sarah Schmelling, wrote a hilarious book of Facebook interpretations of classic literature after she published this version of Hamlet at McSweeney's. A sample:

Rosencrantz, Guildenstern, and Hamlet are now friends.
Hamlet wonders if he should continue to exist. Or not.
Hamlet thinks Ophelia might be happier in a convent.
Ophelia removed “moody princes” from her interests.
Hamlet posted an event: A Play That’s Totally Fictional and In No Way About My Family
The king commented on Hamlet’s play: “What is wrong with you?”
Polonius thinks this curtain looks like a good thing to hide behind.
Polonius is no longer online.

6. Choose your own adventure

Ryan North, of Dinosaur Comics, started this wildly successful Kickstarter campaign to produce an illustrated choose-your-own-adventure version of Hamlet. It hasn't come out yet, but the 15,000-plus backers who put up almost 30 times the original funding goal of $20,000 will get first dibs when it does.

7. Lego animation

It's not the skull but the cowboy hat that makes this soliloquy so spooky. Enjoy!

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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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May 23, 2017
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