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Hasbro

10 Words That Will Win You Any Game of Scrabble

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Hasbro

Whether you consider winning at Scrabble a case of extreme luck or supreme spelling ability, here are 10 words that—if conditions are right—will help you trump any opponent.

1. OXYPHENBUTAZONE

Definition: An anti-inflammatory medication used to treat arthritis and bursitis.
Conditions: The theoretically highest-possible scoring word under American Scrabble play—as calculated by Dan Stock of Ohio—has never actually been played … and probably never will (unless you’re really, really lucky). That’s because it has to be played across three triple word score squares and build on eight already-played (and perfectly positioned) tiles.
Points: 1778

2. QUIZZIFY

Definition: To quiz or question.
Conditions: Not only will you need to draw the game’s only Q and Z tiles (there’s only one of each), but a blank tile, too (in place of the second Z). Play this verb as your first word across two triple word squares with the Z on a double letter score square and you’ve got the game’s most valuable eight-letter bingo.
Points: 419

3. OXAZEPAM

Definition: An anti-anxiety drug.
Conditions: All that stress will melt away if you can build on one existing letter, play across two triple word score squares, place one of the most valuable tiles (i.e. X or Z) on a double letter score square and net a 50-point bingo.
Points: 392

4. QUETZALS

Definition: The national bird of Guatemala as well as one of its monetary units.
Conditions: Placement is everything to score this whopper of a word: Building on one letter, use all seven letters on your rack for a 50-point bingo, with Q and S on triple word score squares and Z on a double letter score space.
Points: 374

5. QUIXOTRY

Definition: A romantic or quixotic idea or action.
Conditions: In 2007, Michael Cresta used an already-played R and all seven of his tiles across two triple word score squares to earn the most points ever on a single turn, which aided in a second record for the full-time carpenter: the highest-ever individual game score (830 points).
Points: 365

6. GHERKINS

Definition: A small pickle, made from an immature cucumber.
Conditions: In 1985, Robert Kahn paid tribute to the pickle at the National Scrabble Championship in Boston—using an E and R already on the board—to set a record for a non-bingo word score.
Points: 180

7. QUARTZY

Definition: Resembling quartz.
Conditions: "Quartzy" held the record for highest-ever single turn score until "Quixotry" nearly doubled its total in 2007. Play it across a triple word score square with Z as a double letter score, and get a 50-point bingo for using all seven letters on your rack.
Points: 164

8. MUZJIKS

Definition: A Russian peasant.
Conditions: On its own (with no bonuses or extra points), "muzjiks" is worth an impressive 29 points. But exhaust all of your tiles on your first turn to spell it, and you’ll earn more than four times that—which is what player Jesse Inman did at the National Scrabble Championship in Orlando in 2008 to earn the record for highest opening score.
Points: 126

9. SYZYGY

Definition: An alignment of three celestial bodies.
Conditions: Forget trying to pronounce it (though, for the record, it’s "SIZ-i-jee"). Instead, just remember how to spell it—and that it’s worth 21 points au naturel. You’ll need one blank tile to make up for the lack of Ys (there are only two in the game). For a higher total, land the Z on a double letter score square and the final Y on a triple word score square.
Points: 93

10. ZA

Definition: Slang term for pizza.
Conditions: Big words are great and all, but two-letter words can also score big—and be especially annoying to your opponent. Build on two As—one directly below, the other directly to the right of a triple letter square—to spell this two-letter delectable across and down.
Points: 62

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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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Nick Briggs/Comic Relief
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What Happened to Jamie and Aurelia From Love Actually?
May 26, 2017
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Nick Briggs/Comic Relief

Fans of the romantic-comedy Love Actually recently got a bonus reunion in the form of Red Nose Day Actually, a short charity special that gave audiences a peek at where their favorite characters ended up almost 15 years later.

One of the most improbable pairings from the original film was between Jamie (Colin Firth) and Aurelia (Lúcia Moniz), who fell in love despite almost no shared vocabulary. Jamie is English, and Aurelia is Portuguese, and they know just enough of each other’s native tongues for Jamie to propose and Aurelia to accept.

A decade and a half on, they have both improved their knowledge of each other’s languages—if not perfectly, in Jamie’s case. But apparently, their love is much stronger than his grasp on Portuguese grammar, because they’ve got three bilingual kids and another on the way. (And still enjoy having important romantic moments in the car.)

In 2015, Love Actually script editor Emma Freud revealed via Twitter what happened between Karen and Harry (Emma Thompson and Alan Rickman, who passed away last year). Most of the other couples get happy endings in the short—even if Hugh Grant's character hasn't gotten any better at dancing.

[h/t TV Guide]

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