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Ochre Jelly

Ochre Jelly's LEGO Memes

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Ochre Jelly

Photograph by Ochre Jelly.

Iain Heath is better known on the internet as Ochre Jelly. Under that name, he astounds us on a regular basis with his recreations of real-life events rendered in LEGO bricks. His turnaround on memes is getting faster. I thought about displaying his works here just this morning, and he's already got an extremely-recognizable meme born less than a week ago enshrined in his medium of choice.

LEST WE FORGET. Everyone in America will forever remember where they were as they learned of the traumatic events that unfolded in Brooklyn on the evening of August 25th. For those unfortunate enough to witness them in person, we can only pray for their families and hope that they are eventually able to wash off the stink. Meanwhile, the perpetrators of this hideous debacle are still at large. Authorities are looking for a short uncoordinated woman dressed in an outfit described as "totally f***-witted". Her accomplises are described as an unconvincing Beetlejuice cosplayer and a troop of insane oversided teddy bears from hell. The remaining shreds of Western culture are reported missing, presumed in tatters.

Heath has an eye for figuring out the exact sizes, shapes, and angles to make the bulky and limited LEGO pieces look exactly as they should for the project at hand. Let's look at some more of Heath's versions of pop culture memes.

Shark Riding a Roomba

Photograph by Ochre Jelly.

A few months ago, the internet was charmed by Max-Arthur, the Roomba-riding cat. The video of Max-Arthur riding while wearing a shark costume with a duckling (which also featured a costumed dog) went viral because it was so …unusual. And hilarious. Heath knew it needed the LEGO treatment. This sculpture actually moves -like the original!

Royal Baby

Photograph by Ochre Jelly.

Heath was ready when the news was announced that the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge welcomed a new prince to the British royal family on July 22nd. When you put a little LEGO diaper on a baby, it doesn't matter if you know ahead of time whether it's a boy or a girl. The pacifier is the icing on the cake.

Sharknado

Photograph by Ochre Jelly.

Heath couldn't resist turning the SyFy monster/disaster movie Sharknado into a LEGO work, which we featured about a month ago in a roundup of Sharknado Tribute Art. 

Grumpy Cat

Photograph by Ochre Jelly.

Well, you know it was well within Heath's talents to recreate the adorable face of Grumpy Cat, but it's not complete without some Impact text to go with it.

Y U No

Photograph by Ochre Jelly.

Y U NO Guy is the rage face that launched a thousand jokes. He looks the same in LEGO, thanks to Heath's diligence and free time.

Trololo Guy

Photograph by Ochre Jelly.

Heath was inspired to make a LEGO tribute to Russian singer Eduard Khil on the event of his death in 2012. He had achieved internet stardom as Mr. Trololo in 2010 when a clip of him performing on Russian television in 1976 went viral.

Epic Meal Time

Photograph by Ochre Jelly.

Epic Meal Time is a YouTube cooking show in which guys make extreme food with plenty of bacon. This sculpture is modeled after the episode in which they make Whisky Syrup Bacon Pancakes. There's an entire Flickr set of the sculpture, so you can see it from different angles.

Wil Wheaton Signing Autographs

Photograph by Ochre Jelly.

The photograph of Wil Wheaton wearing that sweater is probably more widely known, but he does sign a LOT of autographs. Heath built this while attending the 2012 Emerald City ComicCon in Seattle.

The idea came about when I learned that some guy goes to each con and makes Mr Wheaton sign a picture of himself from the previous con - that project is about 7 deep at this point! SeaLUG was displaying at ECCC which is how I found myself there. Total build time for this model was about 5 hours (the last 2 of which occurred as I started trying to figure out how to attach the drinks, I ended up having to completely rebuild the table as a result!). To get the model as accurate as possible (for full 'meta' effect) I studied photos taken of the signing session from the day before.

Photograph by Ochre Jelly.

Heath managed to get his LEGO sculpture autographed at the Emerald City ComicCon. It's possible Wheaton was shamed into signing it when he saw this Ochre Jelly interpretation of Star Trek: The Next Generation on display at the Comic Con. Notice where Wheaton's character, Wesley Crusher, is. 

Photograph by Ochre Jelly.

Maybe next, I'll show you how good Heath is at illustrating TV shows in LEGO. See more of Ochre Jelly's work in the previous post Real People in LEGO, and in his Flickr photo stream

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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
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technology
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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Health
One Bite From This Tick Can Make You Allergic to Meat
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iStock

We like to believe that there’s no such thing as a bad organism, that every creature must have its place in the world. But ticks are really making that difficult. As if Lyme disease wasn't bad enough, scientists say some ticks carry a pathogen that causes a sudden and dangerous allergy to meat. Yes, meat.

The Lone Star tick (Amblyomma americanum) mostly looks like your average tick, with a tiny head and a big fat behind, except the adult female has a Texas-shaped spot on its back—thus the name.

Unlike other American ticks, the Lone Star feeds on humans at every stage of its life cycle. Even the larvae want our blood. You can’t get Lyme disease from the Lone Star tick, but you can get something even more mysterious: the inability to safely consume a bacon cheeseburger.

"The weird thing about [this reaction] is it can occur within three to 10 or 12 hours, so patients have no idea what prompted their allergic reactions," allergist Ronald Saff, of the Florida State University College of Medicine, told Business Insider.

What prompted them was STARI, or southern tick-associated rash illness. People with STARI may develop a circular rash like the one commonly seen in Lyme disease. They may feel achy, fatigued, and fevered. And their next meal could make them very, very sick.

Saff now sees at least one patient per week with STARI and a sensitivity to galactose-alpha-1, 3-galactose—more commonly known as alpha-gal—a sugar molecule found in mammal tissue like pork, beef, and lamb. Several hours after eating, patients’ immune systems overreact to alpha-gal, with symptoms ranging from an itchy rash to throat swelling.

Even worse, the more times a person is bitten, the more likely it becomes that they will develop this dangerous allergy.

The tick’s range currently covers the southern, eastern, and south-central U.S., but even that is changing. "We expect with warming temperatures, the tick is going to slowly make its way northward and westward and cause more problems than they're already causing," Saff said. We've already seen that occur with the deer ticks that cause Lyme disease, and 2017 is projected to be an especially bad year.

There’s so much we don’t understand about alpha-gal sensitivity. Scientists don’t know why it happens, how to treat it, or if it's permanent. All they can do is advise us to be vigilant and follow basic tick-avoidance practices.

[h/t Business Insider]

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