Original image

25 Things You Might Not Know About Chicago

Original image

The next time you’re in the Windy City, impress locals with this know-how.

1. The name Chicago comes from the Algonquin word “Chicagou” or “Shikaakwa,” which translates to “onion field” or “wild garlic.”

2. Planning a road trip? Route 66 starts in Chicago.

3. The Field Museum owns the world’s most complete Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton. Its name is Sue.

4. The Chicago River flows backwards.

5. In the late 19th century, the river was reversed to empty into the Mississippi River instead of Lake Michigan.

6. Chicagoans can’t resist messing around with their river. On St. Patrick’s Day, the Plumbers Union dyes it a bright shade of Irish green and every summer the Special Olympics holds a fundraiser where tens of thousands of rubber ducks race down the waterway.

7. In 1917, writers Ben Hecht and Maxwell Bodenheim hosted the shortest known debate in history. The topic? “Resolved: That People Who Attend Literary Debates are Imbeciles.”

8. Seeing a room full of people, Hecht argued, “The affirmative rests.” Bodenheim took to the podium and nodded. “You win,” he said.

9. Wrigley Field was originally named Weeghman Park. Doesn’t have quite the same ring to it.

10. In 1927, Chicago bootlegger Al Capone made nearly $60 million selling illegal hooch.

11. Even before Capone’s activities, the city had a reputation for crime. In 1918, over 100 waiters were arrested for poisoning stingy tippers.

12. In the 1850s, the entire city was hydraulically raised several feet to fix a drainage problem.

13. Speaking of the underground, Enrico Fermi conducted the first sustained atomic fission reaction under the University of Chicago’s football field.

14. In 1930, the Twinkie was invented in Chicago.

15. Rebuilding after the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 was swift and legendary—rubble and ash were pushed into the lake to make new neighborhoods.

16. Chicago banned pay toilets in 1973.

17. The World’s Fair (or Columbian Exposition) in 1893 saw its share of impressive feats and small oddities: A U.S. map made of pickles, a suspension bridge made of soap, and the first Ferris Wheel were just a few.

18. It’s also where Pabst won its famous blue ribbon.

19. When Bavarian Anton Feuchtwanger couldn’t convince fairgoers to eat his sausages, he served them in a bun. The hot dog was born.

20. A massive city of 200 buildings was created from the ground up for the World's Fair. It was meant to be temporary, however, and only two of the original structures remain.

21. You don’t take the subway in Chicago, you take the ‘L’—this is the name for the city’s rapid-transit rail system and is an abbreviated form of “el,” for “elevated.”

22. Tall-building construction was invented in Chicago and the city is known as the “Home of the Skyscraper.” It currently has four of the country’s ten tallest buildings.

23. Be careful parking in the Windy City. Leaving her car at O'Hare International Airport for a few years, Jennifer Fitzgerald received 678 tickets and was whacked with a $105,000 fine.

24. In 1902, an elephant named Alice at the Lincoln Park Zoo fell ill. The zookeepers gave her whiskey as a pick-me up. Unfortunately, it turned her into an alcoholic.

25. Chicago has 26 miles of public beaches that offer a refreshing respite from the summer heat.

All images courtesy of Thinkstock

Original image
iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
Man Buys Two Metric Tons of LEGO Bricks; Sorts Them Via Machine Learning
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
Here's How to Change Your Name on Facebook
Original image

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]