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10 Things China Has Banned

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They do not like Green Eggs and Ham.

1. Green Eggs and Ham

In 1965, the government of The People's Republic of China decided they like Green Eggs and Ham about as much as mystery-creature Sam does at the start of the book—which is to say, not at all. It was banned until Theodor Seuss Geisl died in 1991 on account of the "portrayal of early Marxism."

2. Alice in Wonderland

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Lewis Carroll's famous tale of imaginative nonsense came under criticism in America for its assumed portrayal of drug use and possible subtle satire of politics and religion. But even before that, the book had been banned in the Hunan Province in China on the grounds that “animals should not use human language, and that it was disastrous to put animals and human beings on the same level.”

3. The Big Bang Theory

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Over the last generation, American TV shows have found a receptive audience in China. But just recently, the government abruptly banned The Good Wife, NCIS, The Practice, and the popular hit on both sides of the Pacific, The Big Bang Theory. When Chinese fans demanded an explanation, the censorship agency offered only that they were either out of copyright or contained “content that violates China’s constitution, endangers the country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, provokes troubles in society, promotes illegal religion and triggers ethnic hatred.”

4. Gambling

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Except for two state-run lotteries, gambling is illegal in all of mainland China. This has led to a Las Vegas-like casino scene in Macao but the mainland laws are so stringent, even advertising for the nearby legal gambling is forbidden in China.

5. Gaming Consoles

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This ban was recently lifted, but only after 14 years without Xbox or Wii or PlayStation in the People's Republic. The government cited the violent content of many games for the ban and certain titles will still be illegal.

6. Online Dating for Army Personnel

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In 2010, the Communist Party’s Central Military Affairs Commission issued a series of internet restrictions for members of the armed services. “Seeking marriage partners, jobs or making friends through the public media is not permitted. Going online in local Internet cafes is not permitted,” the regulation states. “Opening websites, home pages, blogs and message forums on the Internet is not permitted.” The ban was imposed to prevent personnel from leaking military secrets during their online chats.

7. Remembering the Tianamen Square Massacre

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Not only is the incident banned from mention in textbooks and Chinese-controlled websites, over 100 terms are blocked from internet search results around the June 4th anniversary. This year, all of Google search was inactive leading up to the 25th anniversary.

8. Jasmine Flowers

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Afraid that the so-called "Jasmine Revolution" in Tunisia would inspire similar insurgence in China, the Chinese Communist Party cracked down on the dainty white flower in 2011. The word was blocked in text messages, video of the president singing a song about jasmine was wiped from the internet, and a vague ban was placed on selling the flower at markets.

9. Brad Pitt, Richard Gere, and Many Other Celebrities

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The Chinese government has proved to have an extremely low tolerance when it comes to supporters of the Tibetan Independence Movement. Actors Harrison Ford and Richard Gere, a devout Buddhist, have been banned from entering the country after publicly expressing their support for Tibet. Martin Scorsese was banned in response to his 1997 film Kundun, which chronicles the life and exile of Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama. And Brad Pitt is forbidden from entering the country simply for starring in Seven Years in Tibet.

10. Avatar (in 2D)

20th Century Fox

After enjoying two weeks in 2010 as a hit in China, Avatar 2D was banned. Authorities claimed the move was an economic one, favoring the 3D version, but critics of the decision pointed out that with only 550 such screens nationwide the ban essentially kept the film out of the public sphere. Additionally, China's Central Publicity Department issued an order to the media "prohibiting it from hyping up Avatar." Taken together, the effective ban was seen as an attempt to give domestic films an edge at the box office and censor the content, which could be seen as an allegory for China's policy of forced evictions.

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Man Buys Two Metric Tons of LEGO Bricks; Sorts Them Via Machine Learning
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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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