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14 Hilarious Automatic Text and Tweet Generators

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istock/thinkstock

We now have the processing power, and mountains of language data, to automate all kinds of useful language tasks, from translation to reading messy handwriting. These automatic text generators may not be, strictly speaking, useful, but usefulness was never what we really loved about language anyway.

1. FavThingsBot(@FavThingsBot)

Information about rhymes and stress patterns are used by Mark Sample (@samplereality) to make the mesmerizing @FavThingsBot, which constantly finds new verses and choruses for the classic Sound of Music song “My Favorite Things.” These go way beyond raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens.

2. Google Poetics (@GooglePoetics)

This collection of found poems that emerge from the autocompletion of search terms on Google offers a funny, and sometimes sad view of humanity and the things we seek. Curated by Sampsa Nuotio (@SampsaNuotio).

3. Pentametron (@pentametron)

This bot, created by Ranjit Bhatnagar (@ranjit), mines tweets for stress patterns and rhymes in order to make couplets in iambic pentameter. The results, drawn from the bottomless bucket of Twitter activity, are consistently amazing. Read them in pairs.

4. Anagramatron (@anagramatron)

This clever bot by Colin Rothfels (@cmyr) finds pairs of tweets that are anagrams of each other (they contain the same letters arranged in different orders). Guys, you have no idea how many sentences are anagrams of each other.

5. Haiku9000(@HAIKU9000)

Another bot by Rothfels builds haikus out of three unrelated tweets.

6. Pangramtweets (@pangramtweets)

A pangram is a sentence, such as, “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog,” that contains all the letters of the alphabet. Jesse Sheidlower’s (@jessesheidlower) bot finds natural pangrams in the Twitter wild.

7. Times Haiku (http://haiku.nytimes.com/)

The New York Times has its own haiku generator, built by Jacob Harris (@harrisj), that finds haikus in the connected text of its articles. Topical and sublime.

8. RealHumanPraise (@RealHumanPraise)

In response to a report that Fox News had staffers set up fake accounts to praise the network in online comment sections, Rob Dubbin (@robdubbin), a writer at The Colbert Report, created this bot that automatically creates reviews of Fox programming by substituting names of Fox anchors and shows into movie reviews from RottenTomatoes.com. It’s generated over 180,000 tweets since last November, and still hasn’t stopped being funny.

9. I am the x of y (@x_of_y)

Alexander Furnas (@zfurnas) created this bot that randomly pairs famous names with present participles to create the perfect absurd boasts for your resume.

10. snowclone a minute (@snowcloneminute)

A snowclone is a type of hackneyed phrase in which some of the pieces can be swapped out, but the template remains the same. It was named “snowclone” in honor of one of the most well known such phrases, “If Eskimos have N words for snow, surely X have Y words for Z.” This bot created by Bradley Momberger (@air_hadoken) tweets out an original snowclone phrase every two minutes by randomly combining the templates at snowclones.org with the word database at wordnik.com. They really highlight the staleness of these template phrases. Here are a few recent gems.

11. Metaphor a minute (@metaphorminute)

Darius Kazemi’s (@tinysubversions) metaphor generator substitutes random words into a template to produce metaphors that hover just on the edge of somehow maybe making sense.

12. AmIRite? (@amiritebot)

Kazemi also created this bot that purposefully makes terrible “amirite” rhyme jokes about trending topics on Twitter.

13. Online dating ipsum

Lauren Hallden’s (@phillylauren) generator creates filler text out of online dating profiles “because most profiles are word soup anyway.” You can generate in “typical inane jabber” mode or “with a side of crazy sauce.” This guy I conjured up in typical inane jabber mode is pretty realistic:

Working at a coffee shop only looking for something casual coffee going to the gym. Ask me anything foodie shoot me a message passionate about joking around, working on my body and my mind training for the marathon foodie chilling at a bar with friends bacon. Quizzo Kurosawa Vampire Weekend strong and confident if you like my profile my friends tell me they don't get why I'm single.

Sadly, the same holds for side of crazy mode too:

Someone to provide for you proper grammar I love the smell of I despise. Ask your mother with morals MFA shotgunning beers I'm a nice guy, my beard performance art other shenanigans skydiving for real though. Snapchat I'm too lazy to keep typing I'm a nice guy if you like crossfit nubile.

14. The Idiomatic

This automatic proverb generator mashes up timeworn bits of wisdom and gives them new, intriguing life.

“The best things in life spoil the broth.”
“A rolling stone is your oyster.”
“When the cat’s away the mice come in small packages.”

And remember (as grandma always said):

“The road to hell is where the heart is.”

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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
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technology
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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Health
One Bite From This Tick Can Make You Allergic to Meat
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iStock

We like to believe that there’s no such thing as a bad organism, that every creature must have its place in the world. But ticks are really making that difficult. As if Lyme disease wasn't bad enough, scientists say some ticks carry a pathogen that causes a sudden and dangerous allergy to meat. Yes, meat.

The Lone Star tick (Amblyomma americanum) mostly looks like your average tick, with a tiny head and a big fat behind, except the adult female has a Texas-shaped spot on its back—thus the name.

Unlike other American ticks, the Lone Star feeds on humans at every stage of its life cycle. Even the larvae want our blood. You can’t get Lyme disease from the Lone Star tick, but you can get something even more mysterious: the inability to safely consume a bacon cheeseburger.

"The weird thing about [this reaction] is it can occur within three to 10 or 12 hours, so patients have no idea what prompted their allergic reactions," allergist Ronald Saff, of the Florida State University College of Medicine, told Business Insider.

What prompted them was STARI, or southern tick-associated rash illness. People with STARI may develop a circular rash like the one commonly seen in Lyme disease. They may feel achy, fatigued, and fevered. And their next meal could make them very, very sick.

Saff now sees at least one patient per week with STARI and a sensitivity to galactose-alpha-1, 3-galactose—more commonly known as alpha-gal—a sugar molecule found in mammal tissue like pork, beef, and lamb. Several hours after eating, patients’ immune systems overreact to alpha-gal, with symptoms ranging from an itchy rash to throat swelling.

Even worse, the more times a person is bitten, the more likely it becomes that they will develop this dangerous allergy.

The tick’s range currently covers the southern, eastern, and south-central U.S., but even that is changing. "We expect with warming temperatures, the tick is going to slowly make its way northward and westward and cause more problems than they're already causing," Saff said. We've already seen that occur with the deer ticks that cause Lyme disease, and 2017 is projected to be an especially bad year.

There’s so much we don’t understand about alpha-gal sensitivity. Scientists don’t know why it happens, how to treat it, or if it's permanent. All they can do is advise us to be vigilant and follow basic tick-avoidance practices.

[h/t Business Insider]

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