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Calvin Bradshaw (calvinbradshaw.com)

Moonbows!

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Calvin Bradshaw (calvinbradshaw.com)

A moonbow, or lunar rainbow, is just like a normal rainbow, but at night. They are also much less common and almost impossible to see. Moonlight is just reflected sunlight, so it makes sense that these rainbows would be a lot dimmer. These spectacles are so dim that most people cannot see them with the naked eye. The best way to see these sly rainbows is with a camera and long exposure.

If you're looking to snap your own picture of a moonbow, the best place to look is by waterfalls. Lunar rainbows that form from falling water are known as spray moonbows. The most popular spots for spray moonbow sightings are Victoria Falls, Yosemite National Park, and Cumberland Falls. Texas State University even offers predictions for moonbow appearances in Yosemite Park. 

1. Skógafoss waterfall

Stephane Vetter (Nuits sacrees) via NASA

The Skógafoss waterfall is one of the largest in Iceland. Not only is there a beautiful moonbow, there are also green streaks of aurora. 

2. Lower Yosemite Falls

Catherine Aeppel captured this shot at Lower Yosemite Falls. You can see the night sky overhead and even the Big Dipper makes an appearance.

3. Wallaman Falls

Phil Plait

Thierry Legault took this beautiful photograph at Wallaman Falls in Australia. It is the tallest single-drop waterfall in the country.

4. Yosemite Falls

Here's a another shot at Yosemite Park courtesy of National Geographic.

5. Jerome

Alan Stark

A moonbow stretches over the Arizona mining town of Jerome.

6. Cumberland Falls

Brandy Cathers found this one at Cumberland Falls in Kentucky, also known as the Little Niagara. Due to the often clear weather, moonbows are fairly common.

7. Victoria Falls

Calvin Bradshaw (calvinbradshaw.com) via Wikimedia Commons

Victoria Falls has also been called "The smoke that thunders." The waterfall has several vantage points that allow tourists to take great panoramic pictures. As you can see, the moonbow only exists where the spray is. It needs the water droplets to scatter the light to create the colorful display. 

8. Lower Yosemite Fall

Brocken Inaglory

Here is an interesting shot at the lower Yosemite Fall.  

9. & 10. Yosemite Falls

Peter Park nabbed this picture at Yosemite Falls. The technicolor water looks straight out of a fairy tale. 

Here's another angle of the same waterfall. It may look like daytime, but the visible stars show it's the middle of the night. 

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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:

501069-OpeningCeremony2.jpg

Opening Ceremony

To this:

501069-OpeningCeremony3.jpg

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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