CLOSE
Original image
ThinkStock

Let's Get Neurological!: 11 Really Smart Athletes

Original image
ThinkStock

Fitness doesn’t only apply to the body. Mental fitness is just as important, and while the world’s elite athletes are certainly physical specimens, many are elite brainiacs, as well. Here is a list of some of the smartest athletes out there, from the NFL to Ultimate Frisbee. 

1. Marion Bartoli, Tennis

Marion Bartoli isn’t just a Wimbledon champion—she’s a genius. It has been reported that the French-born tennis ace has an IQ of 175, which is higher than Albert Einstein’s, but below Bobby Fischer’s, and her interests include classical ballet and art. But Bartoli isn’t the only well-rounded tennis player: Daniela Hantuchova is a classically trained pianist and speaks four languages, while Roger Federer speaks five.

2. and 3. Ryan Fitzpatrick and Myron Rolle, Football

Ryan Fitzpatrick is not only quarterback of the Tennessee Titans, he’s also a Harvard graduate. Upon joining the NFL, Fitzpatrick scored a 48 on the Wonderlic test, the exam the league uses to evaluate its players’ ability to comprehend and process information. The QB’s score was the third highest in NFL history. Oh, and he also had a 1580 on the SATs (out of 1600, the old-school SATs).

Former Tennessee Titan Myron Rolle might have Fitzpatrick beat, though. Rolle, who played college ball at Florida State, earned a bachelor’s degree in 2.5 years. He then studied at Oxford as a Rhodes scholar and earned a master’s degree in medical anthropology from the English university in 2010. He now serves as chairman of the Myron L. Rolle Foundation, a nonprofit benefitting children and families in need.

4. Joe Ogilvie, Golf

Joe Ogilvie graduated from Duke with a degree in economics in 1996. During his time on the PGA Tour, he has become the go-to guy for other players’ business questions. He is the founder and CEO of Ogilvie Capital, an investment firm, in addition to serving on the tour’s player advisory council and policy board. Many tout Ogilvie as a future commissioner of the tour. “I'm a policy guy,” he told ESPN in 2011. “I study it a lot and while that may make me a nerd, I like coming up with ideas. I continually want to find ways to make things more efficient. I try to do that with my golf game and I try to do it in other aspects of my life.”

5. Craig Breslow, Baseball

Craig Breslow, a pitcher for the Red Sox, graduated from Yale with a degree in molecular biophysics and biochemistry. He was accepted to medical school at NYU, and also scored a 34 on the MCAT. According to Yale Alumni Magazine, Breslow used to have a picture of Albert Einstein above his locker. Or was that just a mirror?

6. Sarah Hughes, Figure Skating

After extraordinary triumphs, most athletes say they're going to Disneyland. But shortly after Sarah Hughes came from behind to win gold at the 2002 Olympic Games in Salt Lake City, the figure skater went to Yale University. After graduating with a degree in American studies, Hughes worked in the nonprofit sector, largely focused on organizations that promote female involvement in sports.

7. Shannon Miller, Gymnastics

As the most decorated American gymnast of all time, Shannon Miller was always working to master the uneven bars. Now, as a lawyer, she is a master of the legal bar. After her gymnastics career was over, Miller studied marketing and entrepreneurship at the University of Houston. She then went on to Boston College Law School, graduating in 2007. Unfortunately, her professional life was put on hold in 2011, when Miller was diagnosed with ovarian cancer, but she responded well to treatment and has been healthy since.

8. Sócrates, Soccer

Brazilian soccer player Sócrates Brasileiro Sampaio de Souza Vieira de Oliveira, who passed away in 2011, would have to be smart just to remember his long name. To simplify, he was known around the world as Sócrates, and he was a doctor, a political activist and a philosopher, just like his namesake. According to his BBC obituary, Sócrates refused to dedicate himself entirely to soccer until he had finished earning his medical degree. After retiring from the sport, he practiced medicine in Brazil. He’s also credited with starting a political movement called the Corinthians Democracy.

9. Shane Battier, Basketball

Shane Battier has had a smarty-pants reputation since his days playing for Duke. But the Miami Heat forward does truly have a good head on his shoulders. According to Sporting News, Battier graduated from college with a degree in religion, he speaks German, and his off-court interests include sabermetrics, or the statistical analysis of baseball data. He also runs the Battier Take Charge Foundation, which focuses on education for underserved youth and teens.

10. Ryan Newman, NASCAR

Racecar driver Ryan Newman graduated from Purdue University with a degree in vehicle structure engineering (obviously). Newman says his education helps make him a better driver, since he can clearly articulate his needs and questions to race engineers. Newman was NASCAR’s Rookie of the Year in 2002, and he currently ranks seventh in the Sprint Cup Series.

11. All Players, Ultimate Frisbee

In a 2006 study, the University of Washington found that participating in Ultimate Frisbee was an indicator of academic success. The decade-long study showed that, among all 86 private national universities, those ranking in the top half for Ultimate Frisbee have a graduation rate of over 85 percent, compared to a graduation rate of 60 percent among schools in the bottom half. The top half schools also had 208 Rhodes and Marshall scholars, versus 15 from schools in the bottom half. Thank you, University of Washington. 

In sports and in life, it's helpful to have a brain that can process things quickly. As a part of our Let's Get Neurological! initiative, we recommend games and puzzles as a fun form of brain exercise. Get smart like these athletes with games like Smart Mouth; the bioengineering-based strategy game, Strain; Wordie Wars; and Distraction.

And make sure to shop our online store for lots of other ways to pump (clap) your brain up! PLUS, this week in the mental_floss store, 10% off all games and puzzles for FUNdamental brain training!

Original image
iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
technology
arrow
Man Buys Two Metric Tons of LEGO Bricks; Sorts Them Via Machine Learning
May 21, 2017
Original image
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!

Original image
iStock
Sponsor Content: BarkBox
arrow
8 Common Dog Behaviors, Decoded
May 25, 2017
Original image
iStock

Dogs are a lot more complicated than we give them credit for. As a result, sometimes things get lost in translation. We’ve yet to invent a dog-to-English translator, but there are certain behaviors you can learn to read in order to better understand what your dog is trying to tell you. The more tuned-in you are to your dog’s emotions, the better you’ll be able to respond—whether that means giving her some space or welcoming a wet, slobbery kiss. 

1. What you’ll see: Your dog is standing with his legs and body relaxed and tail low. His ears are up, but not pointed forward. His mouth is slightly open, he’s panting lightly, and his tongue is loose. His eyes? Soft or maybe slightly squinty from getting his smile on.

What it means: “Hey there, friend!” Your pup is in a calm, relaxed state. He’s open to mingling, which means you can feel comfortable letting friends say hi.

2. What you’ll see: Your dog is standing with her body leaning forward. Her ears are erect and angled forward—or have at least perked up if they’re floppy—and her mouth is closed. Her tail might be sticking out horizontally or sticking straight up and wagging slightly.

What it means: “Hark! Who goes there?!” Something caught your pup’s attention and now she’s on high alert, trying to discern whether or not the person, animal, or situation is a threat. She’ll likely stay on guard until she feels safe or becomes distracted.

3. What you’ll see: Your dog is standing, leaning slightly forward. His body and legs are tense, and his hackles—those hairs along his back and neck—are raised. His tail is stiff and twitching, not swooping playfully. His mouth is open, teeth are exposed, and he may be snarling, snapping, or barking excessively.

What it means: “Don’t mess with me!” This dog is asserting his social dominance and letting others know that he might attack if they don’t defer accordingly. A dog in this stance could be either offensively aggressive or defensively aggressive. If you encounter a dog in this state, play it safe and back away slowly without making eye contact.

4. What you’ll see: As another dog approaches, your dog lies down on his back with his tail tucked in between his legs. His paws are tucked in too, his ears are flat, and he isn’t making direct eye contact with the other dog standing over him.

What it means: “I come in peace!” Your pooch is displaying signs of submission to a more dominant dog, conveying total surrender to avoid physical confrontation. Other, less obvious, signs of submission include ears that are flattened back against the head, an avoidance of eye contact, a tongue flick, and bared teeth. Yup—a dog might bare his teeth while still being submissive, but they’ll likely be clenched together, the lips opened horizontally rather than curled up to show the front canines. A submissive dog will also slink backward or inward rather than forward, which would indicate more aggressive behavior.

5. What you’ll see: Your dog is crouching with her back hunched, tail tucked, and the corner of her mouth pulled back with lips slightly curled. Her shoulders, or hackles, are raised and her ears are flattened. She’s avoiding eye contact.

What it means: “I’m scared, but will fight you if I have to.” This dog’s fight or flight instincts have been activated. It’s best to keep your distance from a dog in this emotional state because she could attack if she feels cornered.

6. What you’ll see: You’re staring at your dog, holding eye contact. Your dog looks away from you, tentatively looks back, then looks away again. After some time, he licks his chops and yawns.

What it means: “I don’t know what’s going on and it’s weirding me out.” Your dog doesn’t know what to make of the situation, but rather than nipping or barking, he’ll stick to behaviors he knows are OK, like yawning, licking his chops, or shaking as if he’s wet. You’ll want to intervene by removing whatever it is causing him discomfort—such as an overly grabby child—and giving him some space to relax.

7. What you’ll see: Your dog has her front paws bent and lowered onto the ground with her rear in the air. Her body is relaxed, loose, and wiggly, and her tail is up and wagging from side to side. She might also let out a high-pitched or impatient bark.

What it means: “What’s the hold up? Let’s play!” This classic stance, known to dog trainers and behaviorists as “the play bow,” is a sign she’s ready to let the good times roll. Get ready for a round of fetch or tug of war, or for a good long outing at the dog park.

8. What you’ll see: You’ve just gotten home from work and your dog rushes over. He can’t stop wiggling his backside, and he may even lower himself into a giant stretch, like he’s doing yoga.

What it means: “OhmygoshImsohappytoseeyou I love you so much you’re my best friend foreverandeverandever!!!!” This one’s easy: Your pup is overjoyed his BFF is back. That big stretch is something dogs don’t pull out for just anyone; they save that for the people they truly love. Show him you feel the same way with a good belly rub and a handful of his favorite treats.

The best way to say “I love you” in dog? A monthly subscription to BarkBox. Your favorite pup will get a package filled with treats, toys, and other good stuff (and in return, you’ll probably get lots of sloppy kisses). Visit BarkBox to learn more.

SECTIONS
BIG QUESTIONS
BIG QUESTIONS
WEATHER WATCH
BE THE CHANGE
JOB SECRETS
QUIZZES
WORLD WAR 1
SMART SHOPPING
STONES, BONES, & WRECKS
#TBT
THE PRESIDENTS
WORDS
RETROBITUARIES