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5 Real-Life Events Predicted by Simpsons Jokes

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1. Blood-Splattering Billboard

In 2008, the advertising agency Saatchi & Saatchi constructed a blood-splattering billboard in promotion of the television debut of Kill Bill Volume 1. The blood rained down on one of the busiest intersections in Auckland, New Zealand.

Seventeen years before the Kill Bill billboard, The Simpsons featured a similarly gory ad. In the season four episode “Itchy & Scratchy: The Movie,” a promotional billboard for The Itchy and Scratchy Movie splatters blood on unsuspecting drivers.

2. Roy Gets Mauled

Simpsons Wikia

In 2003, Roy Horn of the duo Siegfried & Roy was attacked on stage by a 7-year-old white tiger named Montecore. Thankfully, Horn survived the attack and eventually regained the ability to walk and talk.  The duo even performed a final show with Montecore before retiring in 2010.

The Simpsons predicted the Horn attack 10 years before it occurred. In the season five episode, “$pringfield (Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Legalized Gambling)," Homer and Ned Flanders travel to Las Vegas where they meet Gunter and Ernst, a Siegfried and Roy parody. Near the end of the episode, one of the duo’s white tigers attacks the performers. On the commentary for the season five DVD, the production team dismissed this incident as evidence of their greenseeing abilities, saying that it was “bound to happen” sooner or later.

3. Grease Thieves

As oil prices have soared over the last decade, so has the ability to make a living stealing grease. Grease thieves target commercial kitchens and siphon away the valuable fryer grease. In 2000, the price for yellow grease was 7.6 cents/pound. By 2008, that figure had risen to 33 cents/pound. One raid on a Burger King netted a bandit 2500 gallons of grease worth over $6000.

In the season 10 premiere “Lard of the Dance,” which first aired in 1998, Homer and Bart initiate a get-rich-quick scheme where they attempt to steal grease from Springfield Elementary in order to sell it for a profit.

4. Don Mattingly Gets Benched Because of His Hair

In 1991, Yankee captain Don Mattingly was benched by manager Stump Merrill for refusing to cut his long hair. Yankee owner George Steinbrenner had demanded that Merrill bench all players with unkempt hair, so the Yankee manager was forced to sit his best player.

Months later, Mattingly appeared on the classic 1992 The Simpsons episode “Homer at the Bat” from season three. Mattingly is one of nine professional baseball players to appear in the episode as a member of the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant softball team. In the episode, Mattingly is benched by Mr. Burns for his unruly sideburns.

The episode was produced so close to the incident with Steinbrenner that most fans assumed The Simpsons was lampooning the event. But according to Deadspin, Mattingly recorded his lines for the episode a full month before his real-life benching. The story was actually inspired by showrunner Al Jean’s grandfather, who was obsessed with the facial hair of his employees.

5. Malfunctioning Voting Booths

In 2012, voters in the presidential election were furious when a man posted this video on YouTube:

The video shows a voter selecting Barack Obama, only to have the screen register for Mitt Romney. The populace were outraged and questions about vote integrity were raised by the media.

Four years earlier, during the Halloween special, “Treehouse of Horror XIX,” Homer found himself in an eerily similar situation. In the episode, Homer attempts to vote for Barack Obama, only to have the machine select John McCain instead.

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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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Here's How to Change Your Name on Facebook
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Whether you want to change your legal name, adopt a new nickname, or simply reinvent your online persona, it's helpful to know the process of resetting your name on Facebook. The social media site isn't a fan of fake accounts, and as a result changing your name is a little more complicated than updating your profile picture or relationship status. Luckily, Daily Dot laid out the steps.

Start by going to the blue bar at the top of the page in desktop view and clicking the down arrow to the far right. From here, go to Settings. This should take you to the General Account Settings page. Find your name as it appears on your profile and click the Edit link to the right of it. Now, you can input your preferred first and last name, and if you’d like, your middle name.

The steps are similar in Facebook mobile. To find Settings, tap the More option in the bottom right corner. Go to Account Settings, then General, then hit your name to change it.

Whatever you type should adhere to Facebook's guidelines, which prohibit symbols, numbers, unusual capitalization, and honorifics like Mr., Ms., and Dr. Before landing on a name, make sure you’re ready to commit to it: Facebook won’t let you update it again for 60 days. If you aren’t happy with these restrictions, adding a secondary name or a name pronunciation might better suit your needs. You can do this by going to the Details About You heading under the About page of your profile.

[h/t Daily Dot]

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