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Gorgeous Photos of a Bar Made Entirely of Ice

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minus5

While ice bars aren't as impressive as a complete ice hotel—thank you Sweden—visiting an ice bar near you keeps getting easier. The first permanent indoor ice bar was built in 2002 at the Nordic Sea Hotel in Stockholm, Sweden. Since then, the U.S. has certainly worked on catching up. Cities like Las Vegas, Orlando, Beverly Hills, and Boston can all boast ice bar attractions. Even certain Norwegian Cruise Line ships are starting to put ice bars onboard. We got a quick peek at New York’s ice bar, minus5, before it opened in July. 

Constructing Icy Magic

Inside Hilton’s Midtown Hotel, minus5 began construction in January 2013. They started with a specialized unit that creates a mini microclimate. This keeps the bar the perfect icy temperature.

Next, world-renowned ice sculptor Peter Slavin and his team began to hand-carve 80 tons of ice. Everything in the bar is made of the stuff, from the walls and benches to the sculptures and chandeliers. 

While minus5’s inaugural New York design paid homage to Central Park, they have an ice carver who changes the bar and sculptures every 6 to 8 weeks. Every time you visit you’re likely to find a whole new bar on the inside.

Keeping it Chill

The 1000 square foot bar at minus5 stays at a constant temperature of 23 degrees Fahrenheit, or minus five degrees Celsius (hence the name minus5). Before entering the ice bar, guests get outfitted in insulated jackets and gloves. This not only keeps you warm, but also keeps the room from melting underneath everyone’s body heat. Don't make the mistake of wearing open-toed shoes. It’s been proven that your feet have special blood vessels that control cooling and warming. Consider that fun fact before planning your ice bar excursion.

Imbibing on Ice

When visiting minus5, and most other ice bars, you can’t treat it like you’re hitting up a regular bar. In fact, going to an ice bar feels closer to checking out an art gallery or a small amusement park—a small amusement park with booze. And like any amusement park, there is an admission fee, a photographer roaming around taking photos, and a feeling of novelty. The novelty continues in the details; even all the drinks are served out of glasses made completely of ice. They have a long list of fun specialty vodka cocktails, as well as a full bar for all your other favorites. The current guest favorite? The Icy Margarita. Drinks are not included in a basic admission fee, so there’s another tip to keep in mind pre-icy visit.

Whether you’re visiting New York this summer or going to a warmer location this fall, you may want to add ice bar to your vacation bucket list. It may not be as novel as an ice hotel, but it’s a close second in the world of frozen water. And with the U.S.’s hot and/or humid weather this summer, who hasn’t begged for a little snow and ice?

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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
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Man Buys Two Metric Tons of LEGO Bricks; Sorts Them Via Machine Learning
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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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iStock
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Here's How to Change Your Name on Facebook
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iStock

Whether you want to change your legal name, adopt a new nickname, or simply reinvent your online persona, it's helpful to know the process of resetting your name on Facebook. The social media site isn't a fan of fake accounts, and as a result changing your name is a little more complicated than updating your profile picture or relationship status. Luckily, Daily Dot laid out the steps.

Start by going to the blue bar at the top of the page in desktop view and clicking the down arrow to the far right. From here, go to Settings. This should take you to the General Account Settings page. Find your name as it appears on your profile and click the Edit link to the right of it. Now, you can input your preferred first and last name, and if you’d like, your middle name.

The steps are similar in Facebook mobile. To find Settings, tap the More option in the bottom right corner. Go to Account Settings, then General, then hit your name to change it.

Whatever you type should adhere to Facebook's guidelines, which prohibit symbols, numbers, unusual capitalization, and honorifics like Mr., Ms., and Dr. Before landing on a name, make sure you’re ready to commit to it: Facebook won’t let you update it again for 60 days. If you aren’t happy with these restrictions, adding a secondary name or a name pronunciation might better suit your needs. You can do this by going to the Details About You heading under the About page of your profile.

[h/t Daily Dot]

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