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Discover Magazine

6 Terrific Tattoos On Teachers

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Discover Magazine

While we’ve seen librarians and scientists with tattoos, there is still a bit of a stigma against teachers coming into school with full sleeves of ink. Most K-12 teachers have to hide their tattoos, but college students seem to prefer it when their professors have them. A study by Brookdale Community College in New Jersey found that undergraduates tended to believe that potential teachers with tattoos would motivate them more and give them more creative assignments. Even without taking classes from the tattooee, the students were more likely to recommend the subject as an instructor. As these students grow older and have kids of their own, maybe we’ll start to see more tattooed kindergarten teachers bearing their ink proudly.

1. Teacher From the Black Lagoon

Beware ill-educated, co-ed swimmers: This monster is ready to make sure you sit down and learn! For some, this threat is far more terrifying than the idea of being ripped apart. While I can’t tell you who bears this great work, I do know it is being done (it's not yet complete in this image) by Mez Love of Tattoo Boogaloo in San Francisco.

2. Darwin Kong

Both Chris and his wife teach science in eastern Massachusetts, and in each of their classrooms, they hang this New Yorker cartoon. As such, it was particularly fitting for Chris to get this design tattooed on his leg. He really likes the cartoon because he sees it as “the establishment trying to destroy Darwin for the same reason it destroyed Kong: it just didn’t understand him.”

3. Preschool Teacher

Perhaps there would be fewer stigmas against teacher tattoos if the artwork was all as adorable as Leslie Duss' ink, who proudly celebrates her role as a pre-school teacher with this cute, sketch-like design.

4. Moth

Hannah Rosa teaches science in Central London and was one of 100 people who agreed to tattoo a drawing by Jai Redman of a rare or endangered British animal as part of the Ext-inked Project. Hannah’s particular endangered species under the project is the narrow bordered bee hawk-moth, a unique insect that mimics the look of the bumblebee for its own protection. Before working as a teacher, Hannah worked with endangered species during college, and for this reason, she felt that participating in the Ext-inked project would allow her to serve as “a life-long ambassador so that I can educate others about the impacts of climate change and other human activities, which are threatening hundreds of species in the UK alone.”

5. The Quadratic Formula

Flickr user Azchael met the bearer of this tattoo at a summer festival in 2008. The girl with the tattoo is an elementary school teacher who has to cover up her tattoo while at work. She quickly pointed out that her students would hardly recognize the quadratic formula anyway—it's a little too advanced for the young children she teaches.

6. Banksy-Style

Flickr user Bart Heird spotted this tattoo at the Chicago Comic Con, and upon talking to the woman with the artwork, he found out that the piece was particularly fitting as she was an art teacher.

There are surprisingly few pictures of tattooed teachers online, but we can change that! If you’re a teacher and you have any interesting ink, post a picture or a link in the comments. Maybe we can start the first real definitive collection of teacher tattoos.

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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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Name the Author Based on the Character
May 23, 2017
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