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The Weird Week in Review

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18-foot Oarfish Found

Jasmine Santana of the Catalina Island Marine Institute was snorkeling off the California coast when she spotted the carcass of an oarfish 30 feet below the surface. It took the efforts of 15 people to drag the fish onto the shore -it was measured at 18 feet long! Oarfish are rarely seen, as they stay deep in the ocean at depths of more than 3,000 feet. Mark Waddington of CIMI said the last oarfish he'd ever seen was three feet long. However, the fish can reach lengths of 50 feet or more. The Marine Institute displayed the fish, which had died of natural causes, for schoolchildren, then buried it in the sand to decompose. They plan to dig up the bones later for study.

Super Giant Peanut Butter Cup

Chocolatier Nick Monte of the Village Chocolate Shoppe in Bennington, Vermont, made a peanut butter cup that weighs 230 pounds!

It's an impressive peanut butter cup and we have the specs: 59.5 inches wide, an impressive 70.1 pounds of chocolate, and 159.7 pounds of peanut butter on the inside. All total -- weighing in at 229.8 pounds of candy glory.

All profits from selling the pieces are going to Project Against Violent Encounters or PAVE, a local organization helping violence survivors.

Sales of pieces from last Friday alone raised $1,280 for PAVE. Is this a world record? The papers and stats have been filed with the Guinness people, so we will find out soon.

Boy Scout Leaders Topple Ancient Rock Formation

Three men face potential felony charges after they filmed themselves turning over a rock formation in Utah's Goblin Valley State Park. They posted a video of the incident on Facebook, in which the rock is pushed off its pedestal, and the men high-five each other. The men, reported to be Boy Scout leaders, are unnamed in the story, but are tagged on Facebook as Dave Hall, Glenn Taylor and Dylan Taylor. They talk about how they saved some child from potentially being hurt by the precariously-balanced rock. Utah state park officials say there will be consequences for their actions. A criminal investigation is underway. The video is posted at the Salt Lake Tribune.

Florida Alligator Evicted From Hot Tub

Deputies in Vero Beach, Florida, arrived at a home to serve the resident with a drug-related warrant. But they found something more -an alligator in a hot tub! Resident Tony Wells told officers that the alligator was there when he moved in, so he kept feeding it. Well, what would you do under those circumstances? Trying to remove the alligator yourself could be dangerous, and feeding it seems prudent so it won't eat you!  Wells was charged with possession of an alligator without a permit, and the gator was removed by Fish & Wildlife officers.

Man Arrested for Throwing a Parrot at Police

Police in Waterbury, Connecticut, responded to a report of a fight Tuesday night. They did not find a fight, but found Luis Santana running shirtless with a parrot in his hand. They ordered Santana to stop, but instead he threw the parrot at an officer. The parrot bit the policeman's finger and Santana ran into the woods. Santana was later found hiding in a bathroom in a nearby apartment. He was charged with assault, animal cruelty, disorderly conduct, burglary (because the apartment was not his), and interfering with a police officer. The parrot was taken to the Waterbury pound.

Blind Man Leads Cops on High-Speed Chase

Police in Sheffield, England, began to follow a vehicle at 3:30 in the morning, only to find out later that it was driven by a man who is legally blind.

Sheffield Crown Court heard he reached speeds of more than 85mph and went through several red lights in a bid to escape.

He went over roundabouts, ignored signs and bollards and was going so fast the car left the ground at one point and did a 360 degree spin.

Finally officers boxed in the car and saw the driver switch to the passenger side. Malazum Hussain then claimed his cousin had been driving, as he was blind. However, no other person was seen. Hussain suffers from macular degeneration, and can only see a few feet in front of him. He later admitted to driving the vehicle and was sentenced to nine months.

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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
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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Here's How to Change Your Name on Facebook
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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]