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9 Passions that are Due for a Comeback

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ThinkStock

Tastes change over time, but if you're a certain age, you no doubt remember being a passionate fan of these fashions, items, and activities in your younger days. We think you'll agree that they're all long overdue for a comeback.

1. Slap Bracelets 

The forgotten accessory passion of the early '90s is well overdue for a comeback, even though many schools initially banned the bracelets for being potentially dangerous once they lost their cloth covers. One of the perks of adulthood is that you can't get sent to the principal's office, so let's revive this springy, metallic glamor.

2. Playing Cards In Bicycle Spokes

How has this one not roared back to cultural relevance yet? All the noise of a motorcycle combined with all the work of a bike! As anyone who slipped an ace of spades between their spokes knows, it's instant credibility on your block.  

3. Red Rover

In an age of adult dodgeball and kickball leagues, how has Red Rover not made a comeback? Probably because it was super dangerous. But an uptick in Red Rover games would revive another trend: Signing your friends' casts. 

4. Claymation

Sure, today's movies and shows are full of lush HD and three-dimensional effects, but where's the clay? Pick any of the top-grossing superhero movies of the last few years and try to honestly tell yourself that it wouldn't be better as claymation. You can't.

5. Clear Sodas

Were color-free colas a poorly planned whiff by big beverage companies ... or a brilliant idea that was before its time? There's only one way to find out. Bring them back! 

6. Striped Tube Socks

Anyone can pull on a pair of plain white tube socks. It takes a special sort of sophistication to slip into a pair of hosiery adorned with a set of understated stripes. Sock makers of the world: bring back the color!

7. Novelty Sneakers

How can today's young people expect to perform well in sports? They can't even inflate their sneakers or count on them to light up with each passing step!

8. Monkey Bars

Modern gyms let you tone your body with elliptical machines, yoga, spinning, and all sorts of complicated equipment. But nothing can match the upper body workout you got from a long journey across the monkey bars. 

9. Grunge

Flannel-clad, arbitrarily gloomy rock music that offers few opportunities for dancing? Bring back the heavily distorted guitars and threadbare jeans! And if you need an excuse to wear grunge's flannel, remember that it's really stood the test of time - similar fabrics date all the way back to 16th century Wales.

Want to see your passions and connections to your friends? Check out Nissan's Passion Genome to create your interactive Passion Portrait and share the passions that make you, you.

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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
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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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Nick Briggs/Comic Relief
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What Happened to Jamie and Aurelia From Love Actually?
May 26, 2017
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Nick Briggs/Comic Relief

Fans of the romantic-comedy Love Actually recently got a bonus reunion in the form of Red Nose Day Actually, a short charity special that gave audiences a peek at where their favorite characters ended up almost 15 years later.

One of the most improbable pairings from the original film was between Jamie (Colin Firth) and Aurelia (Lúcia Moniz), who fell in love despite almost no shared vocabulary. Jamie is English, and Aurelia is Portuguese, and they know just enough of each other’s native tongues for Jamie to propose and Aurelia to accept.

A decade and a half on, they have both improved their knowledge of each other’s languages—if not perfectly, in Jamie’s case. But apparently, their love is much stronger than his grasp on Portuguese grammar, because they’ve got three bilingual kids and another on the way. (And still enjoy having important romantic moments in the car.)

In 2015, Love Actually script editor Emma Freud revealed via Twitter what happened between Karen and Harry (Emma Thompson and Alan Rickman, who passed away last year). Most of the other couples get happy endings in the short—even if Hugh Grant's character hasn't gotten any better at dancing.

[h/t TV Guide]

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