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Mason Parker

11 Absolutely Eye-catching Chandeliers

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Mason Parker

My 108-year-old house has the original ceiling lights, although they were wired for electricity sometime in the 1930s (they were originally gas lamps). They need to be replaced, but I'm having a hard time finding anything charming enough to take their place -at least that's appropriate and in my price range. If I weren't so budget-conscious and picky, I'd have a world of creative lighting options. Let's take a look at what's out there in chandeliers.

1. Globes

Lighting sculptor Benoit Vieubled calls this work Monde à l’endroit, Monde à l’envers. That loosely translates to "World Right Side Up, World Upside Down." The chandelier is made of 15 world globes of various colors. It certainly is pretty, and these illuminated globes make one realize what can be done with beautiful objects that take up too much room sitting on a shelf or table: Hang them from the ceiling!

2. Drums

This light fixture made of drums was built by Matt Ludwig for the restaurant JJ's Red Hots. The name of the former restaurant at the location was The Drum, so the chandelier was conceived to honor the building's heritage. You can see pictures of the building process at the restaurant's blog

3. Bicycle Chains

Artist Carolina Fontoura Alzaga loves to take castoff materials and make something beautiful. Her Connect series is a line of chandeliers made from old bicycle chains, which resemble chain mail and diffuse the light in a variety of ways. No two chandeliers are exactly alike! You can see some that are available for sale at Etsy. Watch a video of Facaro at work making them. 

4. Champagne Corks

The Celebration Chandelier by Alkesh Parmar is made of corks reclaimed from champagne bars. The corks were hollowed out and fitted with LEDs to make a custom fixture for use in bars, restaurants, or even homes. The look is both antique and modern.

5. Beer Bottles

Now here's a chandelier that tells the world something about you -your favorite beer(s)! No, they aren't commissioned. The company Barlite sells rack lights of different sizes and configurations into which you insert your own empty bottles. You can say each chandelier is custom-made, and they can be changed as your tastes and inventory changes. Just be sure that the bottles are completely dry before you hang them upside down!

6. Teacups

This is a lovely way to make use of fine china teacups that don't match the rest of your set, while keeping them out of harm's way. This chandelier would be perfect in a large casual dining room or a restaurant. We don't know who built it, but it was spotted in the clothing store Nice Things in Valencia, Spain, by blogger Chris of La Petite Nymphéa

7. Books

Lucy Norman created the chandelier called Light Reading from discarded books! The large circles are made from folding each page of a book. This is actually a lampshade that can be used to cover existing light fixtures -perfect for a library or reading room.

8. Glass Art

While many themed chandeliers are made from found objects or recycled materials, there are many lighting artists who create original designs from conventional materials. Glass artist Robert Kaindl fashions his chandeliers in glass for large rooms and public places. In all colors.

9. Stained Glass Octopus

This awesome stained glass octopus chandelier was made by Mason Parker of Mason’s Creations. Each of the tentacles is detachable, and the entire octopus is four feet across. You can adjust the lighting by illuminating just the center, just the tentacles, or all of it together. The octopus is a one-of-a-kind handmade work of art, but it's been sold. Parker says he will make another, but considering the craft involved, that may take some time! See more pictures at Mason's Creations.

10. Nintendo Zappers

Our own Erin McCarthy told us about a one-of-a-kind chandelier made from Nintendo zappers, the accessory used in the game Duck Hunt. Who would have this many gaming guns? JJGames, which is where the light fixture hangs.

11. Gummi Bear Candelier

This chandelier called the Candelier is made from approximately 15,000 Gummi bears! No, they won't go stale or melt, because they are tough yet realistic acrylic Gummi bears, strung together by hand. The sweet treat is available from Jellio. Watch the process of making one in this video. It's also available in a smaller size called the Mini Candelier, with 3,000 bears.

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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
technology
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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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iStock
Animals
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Scientists Think They Know How Whales Got So Big
May 24, 2017
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iStock

It can be difficult to understand how enormous the blue whale—the largest animal to ever exist—really is. The mammal can measure up to 105 feet long, have a tongue that can weigh as much as an elephant, and have a massive, golf cart–sized heart powering a 200-ton frame. But while the blue whale might currently be the Andre the Giant of the sea, it wasn’t always so imposing.

For the majority of the 30 million years that baleen whales (the blue whale is one) have occupied the Earth, the mammals usually topped off at roughly 30 feet in length. It wasn’t until about 3 million years ago that the clade of whales experienced an evolutionary growth spurt, tripling in size. And scientists haven’t had any concrete idea why, Wired reports.

A study published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B might help change that. Researchers examined fossil records and studied phylogenetic models (evolutionary relationships) among baleen whales, and found some evidence that climate change may have been the catalyst for turning the large animals into behemoths.

As the ice ages wore on and oceans were receiving nutrient-rich runoff, the whales encountered an increasing number of krill—the small, shrimp-like creatures that provided a food source—resulting from upwelling waters. The more they ate, the more they grew, and their bodies adapted over time. Their mouths grew larger and their fat stores increased, helping them to fuel longer migrations to additional food-enriched areas. Today blue whales eat up to four tons of krill every day.

If climate change set the ancestors of the blue whale on the path to its enormous size today, the study invites the question of what it might do to them in the future. Changes in ocean currents or temperature could alter the amount of available nutrients to whales, cutting off their food supply. With demand for whale oil in the 1900s having already dented their numbers, scientists are hoping that further shifts in their oceanic ecosystem won’t relegate them to history.

[h/t Wired]

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