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10 Book Sequels Not Written by the Original Authors

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1. Pride and Prejudice

There are a host of sequels to and adaptations of Jane Austen’s most famous work, but the one that turns the beloved story on its head is P.D. James’ Death Comes to Pemberley. The celebrated mystery writer sets a murder at the home of Elizabeth and Fitzwilliam Darcy with the dastardly Mr. Wickham cast as the prime suspect.

2. Peter Pan; or, The Boy Who Never Grew Up

J.M. Barrie left the rights to all his works—including Peter Pan, published in 1911—to the Great Ormond Street Hospital in London. In 2004, the hospital held a competition to write the official sequel, which it awarded to Geraldine McCaughrean for her manuscript, Peter Pan in Scarlet. The book follows the adventures of Peter Pan, the Darlings, and the Lost Boys in 1926. Captain Hook, having escaped the crocodile, makes his malevolent appearance as well; the book ends with Pan and Hook still in Neverland, Hook plotting his revenge.

3. Gone with the Wind

The zaniest of the four sequels to Margaret Mitchell’s Civil War saga is Scarlett, the authorized follow-up by Alexandra Ripley. In it, Scarlett endures Mammy’s death, sex in a cave following a shipwreck, and a return to her roots when she moves to Ireland and rebuilds the old family estate, Ballyhara. 

4. The Godfather

In 2004, author Mark Winegardner wrote The Godfather Returns, which picked up immediately where The Godfather left off and has the events of the film The Godfather: Part II as its background. Two years later, Winegardner wrote The Godfather’s Revenge. Just as the first book’s Johnny Fontaine was an analogue of Frank Sinatra, Winegardner’s books feature analogues of Joseph, John, and Robert Kennedy.

5. Rebecca

In Susan Hill's Mrs. De Winter, the ever-nameless narrator of Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca returns to England with her husband 10 years after the burning of Manderley. The couple continues to feel the weight of Rebecca’s ghostly presence and find themselves threatened by a revenge-seeking Mrs. Danvers. In essence, nothing has changed.

6. The James Bond series

Just like in the movies, Ian Fleming’s super-spy never ages—he just adapts to the technology and weaponry of the times. Since Fleming’s death in 1964, authorized sequels have been written by seven different authors ranging from the literary lion Kingsley Amis to the latest, novelist and screenwriter William Boyd.

7. Wuthering Heights

Emily Brontë’s only novel gets a follow-up as labyrinthine as the original in Nicola Thorne’s Return to Wuthering Heights. In it, Catherine’s nephew Hareton and daughter Cathy wed, only to have their passion disrupted by the arrival of Heathcliff’s secret son. Romantic (and melodramatic) troubles ensue. 

8. The Boxcar Children

In 1924, Gertrude Chandler Warner wrote the first of 19 books about the Boxcar Children, a family of four orphans who fashion a home from an abandoned boxcar in the forest. When they are adopted by their grandfather, he moves the boxcar to his own property so that they can use it as a playhouse. There are now more than 150 books in the series, including two scheduled for publication next year. While the original books were set in the 1920s and 1930s, the recent books are set in the present day. 

9. The Foundation Series

Isaac Asimov wrote the Hugo Award-winning Foundation trilogy about the rise and fall of two empires, a thousand years apart. He later expanded it with four other titles and peripherally encompassed within it the Robot series and the Empire series. Following Asimov’s death in 1992, seven additional novels were written by other authors to expand the series, lengthening the time covered in the original series by more than 20,000 years.

10. The Catcher in the Rye

The Salinger Trust took a dim view of Swedish author Frederik Colting’s sequel to the famed novel of teenage angst.  In 60 Years Later: Coming Through the Rye, a septuagenarian “Mr. C.” escapes from a nursing home to return to the Manhattan haunts of his youth. The book cannot be published in the United States or Canada until the copyright on The Catcher in the Rye has expired.

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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
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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Creative Bar Owners in India Build Maze to Skirt New Liquor Laws
June 20, 2017
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Facing a complicated legal maze, a bar in the southern Indian state of Kerala decided to construct a real one to stay in business, according to The Times of India. Aiswarya Bar, a watering hole that sits around 500 feet from a national highway, was threatened in 2016 after India's Supreme Court banned alcohol sales within 1640 feet of state and country-wide expressways to curb drunk driving. Instead of moving or ceasing operation, Aiswarya Bar's proprietors got creative: They used prefabricated concrete to construct a convoluted pathway outside the entrance, which more than tripled the distance from car to bar.

Aiswarya Bar's unorthodox solution technically adhered to the law, so members of the State Excise Administration—which regulates commodities including alcohol—initially seemed to accept the plan.

"We do [not] measure the aerial distance but only the walking distance," a representative told The Times of India. "However, they will be fined for altering the entrance."

Follow-up reports, though, indicate that the bar isn't in the clear quite yet. Other officials reportedly want to measure the distance between the bar and the highway, and not the length of the road to the bar itself.

Amid all the bureaucratic drama, Aiswarya Bar has gained global fame for both metaphorically and literally circumnavigating the law. But as a whole, liquor-serving establishments in India are facing tough times: As Quartz reports, the alcohol ban—which ordered bars, hotels, and pubs along highways to cancel their liquor licenses by April 1, 2017—has resulted in heavy financial losses, and the estimated loss of over 1 million jobs. Aiswarya Bar's owner, who until recently operated as many as nine local bars, is just one of many afflicted entrepreneurs.

Some state governments, which receive a large portion of their total revenue from liquor sales, are now attempting to downgrade the status of their state and national highways. To continue selling liquor in roadside establishments, they're rechristening thoroughfares as "urban roads," "district roads," and "local authority roads." So far, the jury's still out on whether Kerala—the notoriously heavy-drinking state in which Aiswarya Bar is located—will become one of them.

[h/t The Times of India]