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15 Charming Quotes from Sir Patrick Stewart

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Whether you know him from Star Trek, X-Men, or his many theater performances, it’s hard not to love Sir Patrick Stewart. The oft-honored septuagenarian has proven to be an incredible presence on stage or screen. Let’s take a look at some of the beloved Brit’s most quotable insights.

1. On Shakespeare

“Having spent so much of my life with Shakespeare’s world, passions and ideas in my head and in my mouth, he feels like a friend—someone who just went out of the room to get another bottle of wine.”

From an interview with The Telegraph.

2. On becoming active on Twitter

"It has really taken us [Stewart and his wife, Sunny Ozell] by surprise to what extent people have enjoyed it. I get a great deal of satisfaction from using it for societal issues and concerns that I am involved with, but there’s also been this element of playfulness, which has opened up a new avenue of communication, which I am enjoying very much indeed."

From an interview with Time Out New York.

3. On politics

"I’ve always believed that it is not possible to be in the world and not be political."

From an interview with New York Magazine's Vulture blog.

4. On what he finds attractive

“Talent has always been the sexiest thing to me. I have missed out on innumerable, shall I call them, ‘romantic opportunities’ because the other person involved wasn’t very good at what they did.”

From an interview with New York Magazine's Vulture blog.

5. On the Star Trek franchise

"The thing about Star Trek is that you're never dead, really. There's always a way of bringing somebody back to life. It would be fun. But I think we've all hung up our space suits for the last time."

From an interview with The Independent.

6. On the future potential of technologically advanced humans

"I think that for the moment, at least, we are as good as it gets. And the good, the potential good in us is still to be explored...so that we can become better human beings to ourselves as well as to others. And I sometimes feel we’re only at the threshold of those discoveries."

From an interview with Smithsonian.

7. On achieving fame

“I’d been given a voice that I didn’t know was available to me, and it was to speak seriously and with a proper level of involvement on issues of inequality and unfairness.”

From an interview with New York Magazine's Vulture blog.

8. On his work against domestic violence

‘The people who could do most to improve the situation of so many women and children are in fact, men. It’s in our hands to stop violence against women.”

From a Q&A session at Comicpalooza, via NPR. Read about Patrick Stewart's personal experience with domestic violence in an article he wrote for The Guardian.

9. Advice for young actors

“If someone says ‘Give me one word of advice,’ I say ‘be fearless.’ And knowing without any shadow of a doubt that what they have to give—who they are—is totally unique and not shared by anybody else. And to believe in that uniqueness. It took me decades before I developed courage as an actor.”

From an inteview with TheaterMania.com

10. On first developing a friendship with Sir Ian McKellen

“I think it was when I began to find out that this actor that I had admired from afar for so long had so many things in common with me—background, interests, passion about Shakespeare, passion about being on stage in front of live audiences.”

From TimesTalks via YouTube.com

11. On playing Captain Jean-Luc Picard

“No, I don’t miss playing him. I loved that character. I admired him—that was one of the nice things about being him."

From TimesTalks via YouTube.com.

12. And on his appreciation for the role

“Being cast as Jean-Luc Picard was the most significant thing that ever happened to me because there wasn’t an area of my life that it didn’t touch, mostly for the better."

From an interview with The Telegraph.

13. On the moral message in his work

“Is it enough, [Waiting for Godot] asks, to have written King Lear and Hamlet, Twelfth Night and the sonnets? The answer is unequivocally clear: how you live is as important as what you do. That’s how it has seemed to me all my life.”

From an interview with The Telegraph.

14. On his favorite childhood food memory

"Well, I was born in 1940. My father was serving in the army, but when the war was over we went away for a day to the seaside. My father popped into a store, and when he came out, he told me to close my eyes. He put something in my hand that felt so weird, I snatched my hand away. I looked down, and on the sidewalk was this yellowy-pinky furry-looking fruit. It was a peach! It was the most exotic taste I’d ever experienced."

From an interview with Bon Appetit.

15. On anticipating his legacy

"A couple of years ago, I was asked, ‘How would you like to be remembered?' And my answer was ‘That I was very funny.’"

From an interview with Esquire.

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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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