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Shut Up and Take My Money

11 Nerdy Toilet Seats

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Shut Up and Take My Money

It’s official: geek décor has invaded the lavatories of nerds worldwide, with some wonderfully-creative sci-fi and fantasy-themed toilet seats cropping up on the net in recent years. Here are 11 of the most outlandish.

1. It’s A Crap!

Etsy

Available for purchase on etsy.com (at the modest price of $12.99), this pun-derful lid satirizes the rebel alliance commander’s immortal observation in Return of the Jedi.

2. May the Force be With You

Etsy

For the Star Wars fan with a comparatively dry sense of humor and/or unruly derriere, etsy also offers this somewhat subtler laser-printed model.

3. Eliminate and Destroy

Amazon

Dr. Who fans needn’t climb into the nearest TARDIS to locate Dalek-themed toiletries: Amazon.co.uk offers cotton covers to appease the time lord’s insatiable fanciers.

4. Iron Throne

Shut Up and Take My Money

“You’ll be number one while you’re taking a number two” boasts the sales pitch for this sword-studded applique.

5. A Hogwarts Collage

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Though the prospect of doing one’s business in full view of Albus Dumbledore’s penetrating gaze might not sound terribly appealing, demand for the product led to the creation of a Facebook page which currently boasts 1,711 “likes."

6. Holy Indoor Plumbing, Batman!

eBay

The Dark Knight’s somber persona wasn’t enough to prevent at least one toilet seat artist from conjuring up this garish cover.

7. “One does not simply pee on the seat.”

RedBubble

Boromir’s face isn’t just for one-note memes anymore… among the more intricate entries on this list is the handiwork of one Shannon Oglesby, as part of her hand-painted “Pimp Your Pooper” project.

8. Magical Defecation

Imgur

While not strictly “nerdy," this Disney Princess-themed toilet-training seat comes with a rather questionable caption.

9. Super Smash Brothers

Etsy

Mario seems a bit flushed after his latest adventure.

10. Undead plumbing

Party City

Given this zombie’s facial expression, one might actually be tempted to leave the toilet seat up permanently.

11.  A dangerous enterprise

Who Buys These Things

As the author of this page suggests, anyone who wasn’t immediately thinking up a “To Boldly Go” pun upon seeing this thing has a purer mind than I.  

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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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