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11 Old Golf Rules That No Longer Exist

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Golf may be a game deeply rooted to the past, but many of its rules have either changed or been eliminated altogether over the centuries. With help from golf rules archive ruleshistory.com and the USGA's collection, here are eleven decrees golfers had to play by, lest they suffer a penalty.

1. The "Tee The Ball Next to the Hole" Rule

Rule:"You must tee your ball within a club's length of the hole"

This is the first entry from the earliest known rules of the game, written by the Gentlemen Golfers of Leith in 1744. Back in the olden days of links play, there were no tee boxes. After holing, players would lay their club down and set off for the next hole right there. As the rules were developed, players would tee off farther and farther away until courses began the practice of installing tee boxes to mark the beginning of each hole.

2. The "Toss the Ball Over Your Shoulder Like Salt" Rule

Rule: "A ball shall be dropped in the following manner: The player himself shall drop it. He shall face the hole, stand erect, and drop the ball behind him over his shoulder."

Starting in 1908, this was what golfers had to do after incidents that required a dropped ball, like hitting out of bounds or into the water. In 1984, the USGA changed the rule, and golfers now have to stand erect and hold the ball out at arm's length before dropping it.

3. The "That's My Ball Now, Buddy" Rule

Rule: "When a Ball lies in sand, mud, or amongst rubbish, no obstruction shall be removed; but in cases where the Ball is so placed, that the Player finds he cannot play it, it shall be in the power of his adversary to play it."

This, from the Burntisland rules of 1828, allows players to hijack an opponent's ball should it land in a hazard.

4. The "I'm Gonna Plonk Your Caddie Right On The Noggin Because I'm the Winner" Rule

Rule: "If...the player's ball strike his adversary, or his cady, the adversary loses the hole; if it strike his own cady, the player loses the hole."

The St. Andrews rules from 1812 included this gem that could turn golf into a contact sport.

5. The "My Ball Landed in Poop" Rule

Rule: "If your Ball lies amongst Human Ordure, Cow Dung or any such nuisance on the fair green, you may, upon losing one, lift it, throw it over your head, behind the nuisance and play it with any club you please"

According to the 1776 rules of the Bruntsfield Links, you could pick your ball out of a fresh pile of dookie and play it with a one-stroke penalty. (You should also probably clean that bad boy off.)

6. The "If You Let Me Borrow Your Club, I'm Keeping It" Rule

Rule: "The addition or replacement of a club or clubs may be made by borrowing from anyone; only the borrower may use such club or clubs for the remainder of the round."

This rule from 1988 was changed back to the original wording in 1992, which makes no mention of the borrower having to use the clubs for the remainder of the round.

7. The "Don't Give Your Caddie Old Balls" Rule

Rule: "No Golfer shall under any pretence whatever give any old Balls to the Cadies. If they do, they shall for every such ball given away forfeit sixpence to the treasurer."

This one is from The Society of Golfers in and about Edinburgh at Bruntsfield Links' rules drafted in 1773. These guys really didn't like helping out their caddies—another rule stated that "no member of this Society pay the Cadies more than one penny per round." Jerks.

8. The "Can't Tell If That's Your Ball Covered in All That Crap? Too Bad" Rule

Rule: "If the ball be covered by sand, fallen leaves or the like...the ball may not be lifted for identification."

The 1956 rules allowed you to remove impediments from the ball to check if it was yours, but the player was not allowed to pick it up to make sure. In 2008, the rules were changed to allow players to lift the ball for identification purposes so long as they made it clear to their opponent beforehand.

9. The "That Dog Just Ate My Ball" Rule

Rule: "If a Dog happen to carry off or damage a Ball in the course of playing, the party to whom it belongs shall be entitled to use another, and lay it as near to the Spot where taken from as can be guessed."

Apparently Aberdeen had a stray dog problem because, in 1783, the Society of Golfers there deemed it necessary to include a rule about mutts running off with balls in play. Who's a good hazard? Yes you are! Yes you are!

10. The "Bums Are Only Allowed to Play With Other Bums" Rule

Rule: "A competitor, unless specially authorised by the Green Committee, shall not play with a professional, and he may not willingly receive advice from anyone but his caddie, in any way whatever, under penalty of disqualification."

In 1904, if you wanted to play St. Andrews with a pro, you were out of luck. The rules prohibited amateurs and professionals playing together. Had that never been abolished, pro-am tournaments wouldn't be possible and we'd be robbed of great moments like these.

11. The "Your Ball Is Standing In the Way of What I Want and I'm Not Afraid to Go Through It if I Have to" Rule

Rule: "At holing, you are to play your ball honestly for the hole, and not to play upon your adversary’s ball not lying in your way to the hole."

Early rules stated that you could temporarily remove your ball only if it touched an opponent's directly. In 1775, the rules were changed to allow removal if the ball was within six inches of an opponent's. But if your ball stood between the hole and theirs, they were forced to either go around it or through it as they earnestly tried to sink their putt. This was called a "stymie," and the rules regarding it evolved until 1984, when players were allowed to temporarily remove balls anywhere in play if they decided they interfered with another player's or their own.

This post originally appeared last year.

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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:

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Opening Ceremony

To this:

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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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