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15 Sets of Athletic Twins

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Getty Images

There may be plenty of sibling athletes, but it's twice as nice for these 15 pairs of twins from the world of sports.

1. Mike and Marlin McKeever

The University of Southern California's football team recruited the McKeever twins—Mike and Marlin—in the late 1950s in the hope that their toughness would help revitalize the program. With Marlin playing defensive end (among other positions) and Mike at guard, the brothers became the first twins to earn All-American status and even made the cover of Sports Illustrated (which called them "the twin holy terrors of Los Angeles' Mount Carmel High School"). Mike would suffer a head injury that derailed his shot at the pros, but Marlin was selected in the first round of the NFL draft and spent 13 years in the league. Off the field, the twins also delved into acting, playing the Siamese cyclops twins in The Three Stooges Meet Hercules.

2. Paul and Morgan Hamm

The Hamm twins were big hits for the U.S. gymnastics team at the 2004 Summer Olympics, with Paul winning the gold medal in the all-around and both brothers helping the U.S. team to a silver medal finish. The two took some time off after the 2004 games, and ultimately did not compete in 2008. But there's also a persistent question about the brothers: nobody's clear on whether they're actually fraternal or identical twins. Slate's Josh Levin broke down the mystery in 2004.

3. Alvin and Calvin Harrison

In the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, Alvin and Calvin became the first twins to win gold medals on the same relay team, running the first (Alvin) and third (Calvin) legs of the United States' 4x400 meter team. Unfortunately, things went south after that. Both brothers were accused of using banned substances, and their gold medals were eventually stripped when a teammate copped to doping. Alvin accepted a four-year suspension and transferred his allegiance to the Dominican Republic, where he competed after his ban ended. But Calvin poured his life savings into fighting the doping charge before losing his job as a personal trainer in the recession, and ended up homeless in San Diego.

4. Rich and Ron Sutter

Rich and Ron are just two members of the prolific Sutter family, which sent six brothers to the NHL (a seventh had a tryout, but opted out of the sport). Ron was the highest drafted of the six, going fourth overall to the Philadelphia Flyers in 1982, while Rich went 10th overall to the Pittsburgh Penguins. The two ended up as teammates on the Flyers for three seasons, then spent three more campaigns together with the St. Louis Blues. The hockey gene seems to have carried on—two Sutter men in the next generation have played in the NHL, a third was drafted, and two more are in the Western Hockey League.

5. Jose and Ozzie Canseco

Jose Canseco was one of the best hitters of all time, hitting 462 home runs in a career that included an MVP season and four Silver Slugger awards. Of course, steroids may have had something to do with that—he owned up to using them in 2005 and has since stated that many major leaguers use performance-enhancing drugs. People won't accuse his twin brother Ozzie of using steroids—he played just 24 games in the major leagues (including one spell with his brother in Oakland) and never hit a single home run. Now Ozzie manages the Edinburg Roadrunners in the United League.

6. The Steben Twins

Karyne and Sarah Steben have built long careers as gymnasts and entertainers, working for 17 years in Cirque du Soleil and even playing a pair of conjoined twins on HBO's Carnivale. Their specialty is the trapeze, where they innovated the feet-to-feet catching technique. They've credited their twin connection with helping them on the trapeze, saying that it actually helps them understand each other and get in sync.

7. Henrik and Daniel Sedin

Before entering the 1999 NHL draft, the Sedin twins looked for ways to end up on the same team. Why were they so bent on staying together? As Vancouver Canucks scout Thomas Gradin said, "They're good enough to play with anyone, but separately their capacity might decrease by 10 or 15 percent." The Canucks were able to make a series of trades to end up with the second and third overall picks that netted them both twins, who have already led the team to a pair of Stanley Cup appearances.

8. Coco and Kelly Miller

The twin basketball stars were standouts at the University of Georgia, even jointly winning the James E. Sullivan Award in 1999 for the nation's top amateur athlete—the first time the award went to multiple recipients. After graduating with biology degrees, the Miller sisters landed in the WNBA, with Kelly going to the Charlotte Sting and Coco joining the Washington Mystics. They've bounced around teams, even spending time as teammates with the Atlanta Dream in 2010.

9. The Usos

The Samoan brothers Jimmy and Jey Uso made their WWE debut with their manager Tamina in 2010, attacking the Hart Dynasty, and haven't let up since. They're far from the only twin team on the WWE circuit, which includes pairings like the Bella Twins, Kent and Keith Cole, The Headhunters, and Gymini.

10. Hiromi and Takami Ominami

Japanese twin runners Hiromi and Takami Ominami have each won a handful of races, each placing first in a pair of marathons. But perhaps their most interesting record is their status as the fastest marathoning sisters of all time.

11. Rex and Rob Ryan

The twin sons of legendary NFL coach and defensive coordinator Buddy Ryan have found success in the family business. Rex is the head coach of the New York Jets, while Rob is currently the defensive coordinator for the New Orleans Saints. The two have squared off a number of times, but Rex holds the clear upper hand, with his teams winning all five matchups against Rob's defense (most recently on Nov. 3 when the Jets scored a 26-20 upset of the Saints). Rex even successfully trolled his brother by dressing up like him before a 2010 game between the Jets and Rob's Cleveland Browns.

12. Bob and Mike Bryan

As mirror twins (one is right-handed, the other left), tennis's Bryan brothers are an unusual doubles team. That may be a factor in their unprecedented success: they've won more games, tournaments, and Grand Slams than any other doubles pairing, and have held the top spot in the world doubles rankings for 344 weeks. As children, they were actually barred from ever playing each other in competitive matches and if they were ever paired up in a tournament bracket, their parents had them alternate forfeits.

13. Heather and Heidi Burge

The Burge twins—both 6'5"—made waves at the University of Virginia by leading the team to three straight Final Four appearances between 1990 and 1992. The two then went on to play in the WNBA, Heidi for the Los Angeles Sparks and the Washington Mystics and Heather for a year with the Sacramento Monarchs. The twins' life story was celebrated in the Disney Channel movie Double Teamed, which erroneously shows the two facing off against each other in the WNBA. In truth, they were never in the league at the same time.

14. Ronde and Tiki Barber

After successful stints at the University of Virginia, running back Tiki Barber and cornerback Ronde Barber were each selected in the 1997 NFL Draft. Tiki would become the New York Giants' all-time rushing leader over a 10-year career, while Ronde became an all-pro defensive back and, among other accomplishments, the only NFL player in history with at least 40 interceptions and 20 sacks. Since retiring, the two have co-authored eight children's books and have entered the media world. Ronde is an analyst with Fox Sports 1, while TIki's eclectic TV career has included a stint on Today.

15. Herbert and Wilfred Baddeley

As doubles partners, Herbert and Wilfred Baddeley made an intimidating pair on the tennis court. They won the Wimbledon doubles championship four times between 1891 and 1896. Wilfred also won three singles championships at Wimbledon before both brothers retired from the sport to focus on legal careers.

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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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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]