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Kim Dillenbeck/Facebook

The Weird Week in Review

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Kim Dillenbeck/Facebook

Unusual Dog Defies Odds of Survival

When I first saw this image being passed around, I thought it was Photoshopped, or at least a digital glitch. No, this is Pig, a dog who was born with profound deformities. Pig and her litter mates were found in the woods near Atlanta. Kim Dillenbeck of Helena, Georgia, adopted the puppy named Pig. She is experienced in animal rescue and fostering, and figured she could handle it if the puppy died. Veterinarians did not expect Pig to survive.

At 8 months old, Pig weighs about 15 pounds; her sisters are closer to 35-40 pounds.

"She's not fully grown," Dillenbeck said. "She's still gaining weight. At this point, she has the potential to gain another 20 pounds, and that would probably kill her."

But Pig's veterinarians, Drs. David Fuller and Rachael Hudson at Hope Animal Clinic, say Dillenbeck is doing everything right for Pig.

"Pig doesn't know there's anything wrong with her," Dillenbeck said. And true, that's the way Pig acts. But she has plenty of issues. Dillenbeck said Pig is missing part of her spine; she's missing several ribs. And she has vertebrae that are fused and twisted. Near her neck, her spinal cord splits into two separate cords. Her hips and joints are rotated in the wrong positions.

Yet, Pig runs and is good at standing up on her hind legs, and she is in no obvious pain.

Dillenbeck must carefully supervise Pig’s eating and takes precautions with her health. What does the future hold for this dog? No one knows, as she was not expected to live as long as she already has. See more pictures of Pig, including X-rays.

63-year-old Vandal Tags Police Station

Police in Kingscliff, New South Wales, Australia, caught a man who spray-painted slogans on the outside of the police station about 2:20 AM Wednesday. The perpetrator had first sprayed the CCTV camera, then tagged the building with "Kingy Boyz Rule" and “Dumb Cops.” The police station was in operation at the time, and officers came outside when they heard noises. The man scuffled with police and was chased several hundred meters before his arrest. The vandal has not been identified by name, but he is 63 years old. He had driven to the police station on a child’s scooter, which was seized. Police say the man’s actions were “quite irrational.”

Low-speed Police Chase Lasts for Hours

The Adams County Sheriff’s Department in Indiana spent two hours Monday chasing a suspect on a tractor. Officers responded to a vandalism report, and when they arrived, saw a man leaving the scene on a tractor. He refused to pull over for police, leading them on an 18-mph chase that crossed into Ohio. The tractor continued, running over stop sticks and blowing tires, until mechanical problems forced him to stop. The man refused to get off the tractor and was tazed. Twenty-year-old Dustin D. Clouse of Decatur, Indiana, was taken to the hospital and then to jail.

Green Puppies Born in Spain

Dog breeder Aido Vallelado Molina was shocked to see that a hunting dog had given birth to a litter that included two green puppies! The two were the smallest and weakest of the litter. The female puppy died shortly after, but the male is hanging on.

Molina, who breeds hunting dogs with her father Manuel Vallelado, 52, in the Spanish town of Laguna de Duero, said her father had called the puppies the Hulk pups, and joked that she should not get them angry.

The male puppy is now gradually beginning to lose his colouring.

Vet Daniel Valverde is now looking into the cause of death of the female puppy and the dogs' colour.

He said: 'There are no other recorded cases of this happening in Spanish scientific literature. I am carrying out virological and bacteriological tests to try and find an answer.'

A similar case in England a couple of years ago was attributed to an exposure to the substance biliverdin in the womb.

Paris Bridge Partially Collapses Under The Weight of Love

The Pont des Arts footbridge in Paris is a popular spot for a lover’s stroll. It has also become a site for “love locks,” a custom in which a couple attaches a lock to the metal grillwork of the bridge, and then throw the keys into the river to symbolize a love that lasts. The custom arose after a couple in a popular 2006 Italian novel did it. However, a bridge can only take so much. The thousands of locks added so much weight to the bridge that its fencing collapsed on Sunday. No one was hurt in the collapse.

Ambulance with Patient Stopped to Pick Up Hitchhikers

Glenn Buscombe of Polperro, Cornwall, UK, was being rushed to a hospital in Plymouth, Devon, when the ambulance stopped and picked up a couple on the side of the highway. A woman got in the back with Buscombe while the man rode in the front. The driver dropped them off at a garage in the next town before continuing on to the hospital. Buscombe was suffering from deep-vein thrombosis and was in danger of losing his leg. However, he was transferred to a specialty hospital where his leg was saved by a series of injections. He later had surgery to clear an artery. Buscombe has filed a complaint with the ambulance service about the delay caused by giving the couple a lift.

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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
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]