CLOSE
Original image
cathay pacific

11 Super Expensive Airline Routes

Original image
cathay pacific

Sorry, there won't be any free upgrades to these first-class cabins: By heading to the airline websites, or calling the airlines directly, you can unveil a realm of commercial air travel only the multi-millionaires and above can afford. Now close your eyes and dream you're a billionaire (who is traveling from June 20 to 28).

11. China Southern Airlines: $11,000+ Beijing to Amsterdam (via OneWorld.com)

When you fly first class on this airline, you'll choose between Western or Chinese cuisines served on fine china and paired with fine wines for your in-flight meal. Kick back in a lush armchair that turns into a 77-inch bed, and call your mom to brag on the satellite phone. Now take a minute and count around you—yes, that’s right, there are only three other first-class people as high-rolling as you.

10. Qantas Airlines: $13,000+ L.A. to Melbourne (via Qantas.com.au)

Forget the economy-class flip-out footrest—this suite offers a fully flat extra-wide sheepskin mattress bed with down pillows and duvet. Of course, if you want to sit up during your flight, your bed turns into a chair that features an ottoman. Dining options include an eight-course tasting menu or made-to-order a la carte menu with a sommelier on hand for wine pairing options. When you’re done sleeping and dining, you can watch hours of TV shows and movies or play interactive games on your 17-inch touch screen monitor (on A380 planes only) with noise-cancelling headphones and on-demand controls.

9. Singapore Airlines: $15,000+  New York JFK to Singapore (via Singapore Airline Reservation Line)

Singapore installed a limited number of double-sized beds into the first-class suites on their A380 airplanes. (They also have the option of an armchair/pull-out bed if you desire.) You can pick from over 60 dishes served with only the finest Givenchy tableware and coupled with some of the finest wines and champagnes available. There's also a Book the Cook service that enables you to pre-order and have your gourmet main course specially prepared for you.

8. Swiss International Air Lines: $17,000+ NYC JFK to Singapore, connecting through Zurich (via Swiss Air's PR Department)

Feeling the competition, Swiss introduced its new first class in 2009 on the A330 airline with partitioned-off suites that include widescreen televisions and armchairs that transform into 80-inch full-length beds. The airline also doles out luxury amenities like La Prairie hand cream, moisturizing body lotion, and facial sprays, along with comfy pajamas and slippers from Zimmerli of Switzerland.

7. Virgin Atlantic: $21,000+ (with chauffeur) JFK to Singapore (via Virgin Atlantic PR)

When you fly first class on Virgin Atlantic, it's all about fun. That tray at your seat isn't for work; it's a flip-down “cocktail table.” Take photos of the plane and send them via texts to your friends from your complimentary mobile phone, grab a drink at the 8-foot bar and meet new friends, or head back to your seat and sprawl out on your full-length leather chair that turns into an 87-inch flat bed surrounded by Swarovski crystals and a 12-inch touchscreen monitor.

6. Etihad Airways: $23,000 from San Fran to Abu Dhabi (via Etihad.com)

While your own personal chef whips up a Mezoon Grille or Taste of Arabia dish, you can relax and watch your 23-inch widescreen TV or slip on your personal loungewear in the changing room and pull out the mini-desk to play cards on. The over 6-foot chair-bed got you achey? Just turn on the massage settings and curl up with a bottle from your personal mini-bar, because this is one ride you’re gonna want to take full advantage of. 

5. Japan Airlines:  $24,000+ LAX to Paris (via OneWorld.com)

The newest Japan Airlines first-class suites on Boeing 777 and A380 airplanes are covered in old-school wood paneling to help you feel right at home. Fliers also get a 23-inch TV screen, a choice between a Western or Asian-styled menu plan, and a Tempur 26-inch-wide armchair that pulls out to a six-foot-plus full-length bed. If you need a good leg rub, a portable air massager can be provided for you; if you forgot your laptop battery, don’t worry—they will gladly lend you one of theirs. The airline also provides pain relievers and nasal sprays to help you breathe a little easier.

4. Cathay Pacific: $25,000+ Hong Kong to JFK (via CathayPacific.com)

Unveiled just last June, these upgraded exclusive pods on the B777 offer the usual soft armchair that pulls into a bed, but also an amenity bag from Ermenegildo Zegna for the men and Trussardi for the ladies, along with Aesop skincare products, shoe bags and pjs from Shanghai Tang, Bose noise-cancelling headsets, and a new 4.3” LCD touchscreen controller to enjoy hours of endless entertainment.

3. Korean Air: $27,000+ NYC JFK to Beijing (via KoreanAir.com)

These 26.5-inch Korean Air Kosmo seamless seats turn into beds in their own private, wood-trimmed, walled-in suites, which boast the biggest LCD screens in the sky—23 inches—and Bose nose-isolation headsets.

2. Lufthansa: $27,000+ JFK to Hong Kong (via Lufthansa.com)

Not to be outdone, Germany’s national carrier won’t make you choose between a bed and an armchair—they give you both. With no real walls around the suites, Lufthansa’s not quite as private as the other first-class suites, but the A380 airplanes are outfitted with air humidifiers pumping loads of moisturizing oxygen onto their first-class passengers so you don’t land looking like a prune. A warm duvet, amenity kit, and fine-dining courses with selections like curried reindeer make the trip memorable.

1. Emirates: $30,000+ L.A. to Dubai (via Emirates.com/us)

Topping off the list, is, naturally, the United Arab Emirates’ lavish A380 airline suite. With private three-wall suites (plus closeable door) and two lounges on the plane, Emirates takes it one step further and offers their highest-paying customers two classic walnut and marble state-of-the-art shower systems complete with shower kits and fine linens. Also available: relaxing chair-massages and mini-bar parties.

Original image
iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
technology
arrow
Man Buys Two Metric Tons of LEGO Bricks; Sorts Them Via Machine Learning
May 21, 2017
Original image
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!

Original image
Nick Briggs/Comic Relief
entertainment
arrow
What Happened to Jamie and Aurelia From Love Actually?
May 26, 2017
Original image
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]

SECTIONS
BIG QUESTIONS
BIG QUESTIONS
WEATHER WATCH
BE THE CHANGE
JOB SECRETS
QUIZZES
WORLD WAR 1
SMART SHOPPING
STONES, BONES, & WRECKS
#TBT
THE PRESIDENTS
WORDS
RETROBITUARIES