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10 Roads Every Passionate Driver Should Cruise Once

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ThinkStock

Love getting behind the wheel? Then make sure you cross these amazing stretches of pavement off your bucket list.

1. Transfăgărășan, Romania

It‘s difficult to pronounce and hard to drive, but boy is it fun. The former military route through Transylvania features 55 miles of twists, hairpin turns, and a drive by Count Dracula’s castle, Poenari Fortress.

2. Stelvio Pass, Italy

Peaking at 9045 feet, the Italian road in the Eastern Alps boasts 75 hairpin turns and has been called the “best road in the world” by more than a few gearheads.

3. Big Sur Coast Highway, USA

If you can roll by the parade of campers and motor homes in your way, you’ll see why the coastal California highway has been dubbed an “All-American Road.”

4. Conor Pass, Ireland

If you’re visiting Ireland, the Ring of Kerry must be on your list of “must-drives.” But if you have to pick one patch of road, pick Conor Pass. It runs along the scenic Dingle Peninsula—one of the most beautiful stretches of road in the world.

5. Nurburgring Nordschleife, Germany

By day, it’s a grand prix racetrack. By night? A toll road. As long as you’ve got 24 euros in your pocket, you can navigate the track’s 154 turns whenever you want.

6. Mount Fuji Touge Roads, Japan

The mountain passes are insanely windy, but also insanely beautiful. Some of the pavement leading to and from Fuji’s caldera is lined with budding pink cherry trees.

7. Karakoram Highway, China and Pakistan

The highest paved international road, Karakoram weaves through Khunjerab Pass—sometimes topping 15,000 feet. It’s home to the highest concentration of tall peaks in the world. Bring a camera!

8. Trollstigen (“Troll Ladder”), Norway

The bends are tight and the gradient is steep—nine percent—but the view at the end is so rewarding. The Stigfossen waterfall puts how far you’ve climbed into perspective.

9. US-129

Dubbed the “Tail of the Dragon,” a stretch of road near the Tennessee/North Carolina border features more than 300 curves in just 11 miles. It’s driving heaven.

10. Col de Turini, France

If not from the driver’s seat, you’ve probably seen this road from your couch. It’s been televised the world over. Its hairpins were made famous by the Monte Carlo Rally and, for a time, a stage of the Tour de France.

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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
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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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Why Your iPhone Doesn't Always Show You the 'Decline Call' Button
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When you get an incoming call to your iPhone, the options that light up your screen aren't always the same. Sometimes you have the option to decline a call, and sometimes you only see a slider that allows you to answer, without an option to send the caller straight to voicemail. Why the difference?

A while back, Business Insider tracked down the answer to this conundrum of modern communication, and the answer turns out to be fairly simple.

If you get a call while your phone is locked, you’ll see the "slide to answer" button. In order to decline the call, you have to double-tap the power button on the top of the phone.

If your phone is unlocked, however, the screen that appears during an incoming call is different. You’ll see the two buttons, "accept" or "decline."

Either way, you get the options to set a reminder to call that person back or to immediately send them a text message. ("Dad, stop calling me at work, it’s 9 a.m.!")

[h/t Business Insider]

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