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Wikimedia Commons

15 Simply Lovely Asian Museums

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Wikimedia Commons

We’ve been taking you across the globe to show you some of the most beautiful museums in the world. Now it’s time for a quick trip to Asia to see what architectural marvels are just waiting for you to come explore them.

1. Hiroshima Castle, Japan

Photo courtesy of Jonas Merian

Japan was once home to thousands of beautiful castles, but many of them were destroyed after the Japanese feudal system was eradicated in the late 1800s—and while the wooden Hiroshima Castle survived this period of revolution, it didn’t survive the atomic bomb blast in 1945. The castle was rebuilt in 1958, though, and now serves as a museum focused on the history of Hiroshima before the bomb hit.

2. Zigong Salt History, China

Photo courtesy of Ken Marshall

The Zigong Salt History Museum is worth visiting even if you have no interest in learning about the history of salt mining. The museum was originally built in 1736 as a guildhall for salt tradesmen to meet and discuss business. The delicate stone and wood carvings used to decorate the hall were some of the finest available at the time and were intended to be a display of wealth by the merchants.

3. Bangkok National Museum, Thailand

Photos courtesy of Flickr user marianabigail

Before it was converted into a museum in 1874, this building was once the palace of the Vice King of Thailand. At first, the museum exhibited relics from King Rama IV’s reign, but since, the museum collection has drastically expanded and it now contains exhibits from Neolithic times all the way through modern Thai history.

4. National Folk Museum, South Korea

Photo courtesy of Kwong Yee Cheng

There’s no better place to learn about the history of culture in Korea than the National Folk Museum of Korea, and there’s certainly nowhere more beautiful to learn about it as well. While the museum was established in 1945, it did not move into its present location until 1993 as the structure was previously the home of the National Museum of Korea.

5. Sursock Museum, Lebanon

Photo courtesy of Bertil Videt

Originally the home of wealthy Beirut resident and art collector Nicholas Sursock, this massive mansion was converted to a museum after Sursock’s death. The structure is considered an excellent example of Lebanese architecture, which features Venetian and Ottoman influences. Since opening in 1961, the museum has held over 100 exhibitions featuring artwork from both local and international artists.

6. Albert Hall Museum, India

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia user chetan

Opened to the public in 1887, this lovely museum was named after King Edward VII (Albert Edward), who visited the city when the foundation stone was laid in 1876. The building was originally intended to be a town hall, but when Maharaja Madho Singh II succeeded Ram Singh, he decided it should be a museum. The architecture is done in an Indo-Saracenic Revival style, which combines elements of Indio-Islamic, Indian, Gothic and Neo-Classical styles into one unique and eye-catching package.

7. ArtScience Museum, Singapore

Photo courtesy of William Cho

What does the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas have in common with this museum in Singapore? They’re both owned and operated by the Las Vegas Sands company. The lotus-shaped building, opened in 2011, is part of the chain’s Marina Bay Sands resort. The museum features 21 gallery spaces, most of which are filled with a rotating selection of touring exhibits from around the globe.

8. Shanghai Science and Technology Museum, China

There are so many wonderful architectural details in the Shanghai Science and Technology Museum that it is actually hard to find a picture that can do it any justice, but this night image by Greg Peterson does a decent job at capturing some of the larger design aspects. The massive museum, opened in 2001, is one of the most popular in China and with good reason—it really is impressive. Designed by Creative Star Digital, the museum stretches over almost 700,000 square feet of space and has 14 interactive multimedia exhibits running at any given time.

9. Macao Science Center, Macau


Photo courtesy of Sherilyn Shaine Ocampo-Palisoc

This stunning science museum was only opened five years ago, but it is already considered a landmark of Macau thanks to the unique, asymmetrical and conical shape designed by Pei Partnership Architects. Inside the center, guests enter a large atrium before entering assorted galleries and exhibits off the main walkway, including a planetarium that also plays Omnimax films.

10. Virasat-e-Khalsa, India


Photo courtesy of Wikipedia user Sanyambahga

This museum, dedicated to the history of Sikhism, only opened about two years ago, but its unique, modern design earns it a place on this list. The complex consists of two buildings on each side of a ravine that are connected by a ceremonial bridge. The buildings, designed by Moshe Safdie and Associates, have stainless steel roves and are made from concrete with intentionally exposed columns and beams.

11. Design Museum Holon, Israel


Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

The first Israeli museum dedicated to design, the Design Museum Holon was the first work planned and designed by architect Ron Arad. It’s even more amazing that the building was created as someone’s first design when you consider that since its construction in 2010, Conde Nast Traveler already named it as one of the new world wonders.

12. Science City, India


Photo courtesy of Biswarup Ganguly

As much an amusement park as it is a science museum, Science City teaches everything from marine biology and space travel to numerals and illusions. The outdoor gardens feature a musical fountain, a gravity coaster, a monorail cycle, a butterfly nursery and a walk-through exhibit on evolution. The complex was first opened in 1997 and it only continues to grow larger as time passes.

13. Meiji-mura, Japan


Photo courtesy of Wikipedia user danirubioperez

Most museums are housed inside one building, but the Meiji-mura is different since it is an open-air museum dedicated to preserving historic buildings from across Japan. The park includes over 60 historical buildings scattered along 250 acres of rolling hillside along Lake Iruka.

Since the protected buildings date from 1867 to 1989, there is impressive diversity in the scope of the pieces that make up the museum’s collection, the most famous of which is the main entrance and lobby of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Imperial Hotel, which was moved in 1967 to make way for a new, larger version of the hotel.

14. Kaichi School, Japan


Photo courtesy of Wikipedia user Wiiii

One of the first schools in Japan, the Kaichi School was established in 1873; it moved into this building featuring a distinct combination of western and Japanese style elements in 1876. The building was named an Important Cultural Property in 1961 and is now protected and maintained as a museum dedicated to the Japanese education system.

15. National Museum of Singapore

In 1849, the National Museum of Singapore was established as a small section of a library in the Singapore Institution. By 1887, the initial collection in Singapore’s museum was moved into the Neo-Palladian and Renaissance style building it now occupies. The building has been expanded five times in the past century in order to make room for the expanding collections, which are largely focused on the history of Singapore.

Think we missed one? Let us know about it in the comments, and feel free to share a link or picture as well!

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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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Opening Ceremony
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These $425 Jeans Can Turn Into Jorts
May 19, 2017
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Opening Ceremony

Modular clothing used to consist of something simple, like a reversible jacket. Today, it’s a $425 pair of detachable jeans.

Apparel retailer Opening Ceremony recently debuted a pair of “2 in 1 Y/Project” trousers that look fairly peculiar. The legs are held to the crotch by a pair of loops, creating a disjointed C-3PO effect. Undo the loops and you can now remove the legs entirely, leaving a pair of jean shorts in their wake. The result goes from this:

501069-OpeningCeremony2.jpg

Opening Ceremony

To this:

501069-OpeningCeremony3.jpg

Opening Ceremony

The company also offers a slightly different cut with button tabs in black for $460. If these aren’t audacious enough for you, the Y/Project line includes jumpsuits with removable legs and garter-equipped jeans.

[h/t Mashable]

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