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Georges Seguin

12 Beautiful Celebrity Roses

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Georges Seguin

As spring arrives and the rose bushes begin to bud up, what better time is there to look at pictures of gorgeous roses? While looking at pictures, I found some interesting stories behind some of the many rose cultivars that have been named for celebrities. Feast your eyes on the beauty of a dozen of them.

1. President Herbert Hoover

Photograph by Roland zh.

Rose breeder Gene Boerner developed a rose that displayed a gaudy combination of orange, pink, and yellow that won a gold medal at New York's International Flower show in 1929. Inspired by Herbert Hoover's 1928 campaign slogan, "a chicken in every pot and a car in every garage," Boerner named the cultivar President Herbert Hoover. By the time the rose went on sale in 1930, the Great Depression had reared its ugly head, and the rose did not sell well. Boerner learned a lesson, and later advised other growers not to name roses after politicians.

2. Julia Child

Photograph by Stickpen.

Plant breeder Tom Carruth has developed more All-American roses than anyone else. HIs yellow floribunda rose Julia Child won All-American honors in 2006. Chef Julia Child herself selected the rose to be named in her honor before she died in 2004. The rose is sold by Weeks Roses.

3. Ingrid Bergman

Photograph by Flying jacket.

The Swedish actress Ingrid Bergman died of cancer in 1982. It wasn't long afterward that she was honored with a rose cultivar. The World Federation of Rose Societies named the rose known as Ingrid Bergman the "World Favourite Rose" in 2000, and inducted it into their Hall of Fame. It was developed by Pernille and Mogens Olesen of the Danish rose company Poulson in 1983 and has won numerous awards in the years since it was introduced in 1984. The patent for the rose has expired, so it can be grown from cuttings and propagated, but the company registered a trademark on the name, so propagated roses cannot be sold under the name Ingrid Bergman.

4. Dolly Parton

Photograph by Flickr user audreyjm529.

The Dolly Parton rose was developed by Joe Winchell in the basement of his home, where he experimented with growing roses under plant lights through the winter. It was introduced in 1984. The orange-red hybrid tea rose is as colorful and spicy as its namesake. Parton reportedly was flattered that a rose was named after her, as she thought a wildflower might have been more appropriate. Her namesake roses grow at Parton's home and at Dollywood in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee.

5. Lynn Anderson

Photo credit: Getty Images

Lynn Anderson's biggest hit was the 1970 song "Rose Garden," which was #1 on Billboard's country chart for five weeks and reached #3 on their pop chart. Joe Winchell of the American Rose Society cultivated a hybrid tea rose that became known as Lynn Anderson in 1995.

6. Betty White

Finding information on the Betty White rose by search is difficult, because Betty White played a character named Rose in The Golden Girls TV series. Also, there are a lot of white roses. The hybrid tea rose was introduced by Meilland International under the name André le Nôtre in 2001. It was imported to the US in 2004 and renamed Betty White. This rose is old-fashioned, vigorous, and sweet—just like our favorite comedienne.

7. Marie Curie

Photograph by Georges Seguin

The Marie Curie rose was bred by Alain Meilland of Meilland International in 2003. It was introduced in Belgium as the White Marie Curie in 2006, but as you can see, it comes in colors, too.

8. Natasha Richardson

Photo credit: Getty Images

Actress Natasha Richardson died in 2009 in a skiing accident in Quebec. In 2011, her mother, actress Vanessa Redgrave, was at the Chelsea Flower Show for a ceremony to unveil the new cultivar named Natasha Richardson. All proceeds of the sales of the light pink rose go to the Make-A-Wish Foundation. The rose is grown exclusively by UK grower Harkness.

9. Mark Twain

Photograph by Richard Huber AG.

American writer Mark Twain has been honored with schools, buildings, awards, and even an asteroid named after him, so why not a rose? The Mark Twain rose was bred by Richard Huber in Switzerland and named in 2000. It is described as a good rose to cut, and quite durable as well as sweetly-scented.

10. Pope John Paul II

Photograph by Stickpen.

Pope John Paul II died in 2005, after reigning for 27 years. In 2006, rose company Jackson & Perkins worked with the Vatican to develop a white hybrid tea rose named for the late pontiff. Ten bushes were planted at the Vatican, and the company gives 10 percent of the proceeds to the Vatican, which they designated for a charity to aid sub-Saharan Africans.

11. Liv Tyler

Meilland International was commissioned by Givenchy Perfumes to create a rose to be used in a new perfume. The rose was developed in 2001 and the perfume, Very Irresistable, was introduced in 2003. In 2005, the rose cultivar was named after actress Liv Tyler, who was Givenchy's new spokesperson at the time. Tyler still works for Givenchy.   

12. Freddie Mercury

Photograph from Amazon.

A tribute to the singer who died in1991, the Freddie Mercury was introduced in 1994 by Eric Stainthorpe of Battersby Roses. The pink, yellow, and apricot rose is related to the Tina Turner rose. Members of the Freddie Mercury fan club raised £2,000 to name a rose in his honor. The first official bushes were given to his relatives and close friends.

See also: Daffodils Mean Spring is Coming!

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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
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
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]