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8 Things That Will Get You Banned From Six Flags

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Planning a visit to Six Flags? Make sure you check this list before you go. Wearing the wrong clothes, having the wrong tattoos, or being the wrong person (sorry, Marilyn Manson) could mean that a brush with a security guard is the closest thing you’ll get to an adrenaline rush.

1. Don’t ask if you can take other people’s children on rides.

A man known as "Flume Dog" was banned from all Six Flags properties eight years ago after he asked at least three mothers at Six Flags Fiesta Texas if he could take their kids on a two-person ride. He also once chained himself to a tree at Six Flags Over Georgia, and was once found in the Chicago park before it opened, having spent the night there. Flume Dog sued to get his ban overturned, but lost the case.

2. Don’t have “offensive” tattoos.

In 2010, a mother of three was told she couldn’t enter Six Flags Over Texas because of the six-shooter tattoos on her chest. Allegedly calling the ink “as offensive as a swastika,” the employee offered to sell Samantha Osborn a t-shirt to cover them up. Osborn declined and was able to enter the park through a different line.

3. Don’t wear “offensive” t-shirts.

A photographer from Pennsylvania was stopped from entering Six Flags due to his t-shirt, which said “I shoot RAW”—a reference to an image format. He was allowed to purchase a replacement shirt (“Very Important Princess”) and enter the park.

4. Don’t be Marilyn Manson.

Though the Ozzfest tour stopped by Six Flags Darien Lake in 2003 (it’s no longer a Six Flags, by the way), headliner Marilyn Manson had to sit out. Of the 30 Ozzfest tour dates that summer, Six Flags was the only one to refuse Manson. "Contractual agreement gives us the right to restrict artists from performing in our concert venue," the park said in a statement. "We decided to pass on the Marilyn Manson performance."

Presumably, Manson’s more mild-mannered alter ego, Brian Warner, is welcome at the parks.

5. Don’t be a member of the band All Time Low.

The pop-punk band All Time Low was banned from Six Flags venues after their fans rushed the stage at a concert at the Texas location in 2010. When a group of teenage girls began fighting over a shirt that one of the band members had removed and thrown into the crowd, police used pepper spray on them. After the band spoke out against the action on Twitter, they were stopped from performing at the next Six Flags stop on their tour.

6. In fact, don’t be a heavy metal band at all.

After a performance by the band Falling in Reverse in 2012, Six Flags Great Adventure decided to ban all “metal-themed” shows. The lead singer of the band threw his microphone stand into the audience, injuring two. “It’s not the kind of entertainment we went to be producing,” a spokesperson for the park said. The singer was later charged with simple assault and aggravated assault.

7. Don’t beat up the characters.

This should really go without saying, but leave the poor employees in those sweltering costumes alone. Not only does messing with them make you a jerk; it will also get you kicked out of the park. Two men were removed from the Chicago-area park in 2010 after attacking Porky Pig to the point where the woman inside of the costume suffered from headaches and soreness.

8. Don’t have an “extreme” hairstyle.

This one goes for employees. In 2006, the ACLU launched an investigation into the parks and their grooming restrictions, which ambiguously bans “any hairstyle that detracts or takes away from Six Flags theming.” After a rash of complaints from employees with dreadlocks, cornrows, and braids, the ACLU decided to look into it. The battle appears to be ongoing.

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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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Name the Author Based on the Character
May 23, 2017
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