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Räddningstjänsten (Emergency Services)

The Weird Week in Review

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Räddningstjänsten (Emergency Services)

Fruit Preserves Spill Causes Traffic Jam

A van carrying a supply of fruit preserves and juice spilled its load on the E45 highway near Sunne in western Sweden on Tuesday. The van doors came open in the back, and a pallet of product slid out on the road. It turned into a sticky situation as fruit, juice, and broken glass littered the highway. Traffic jammed up, and emergency crews had to divert vehicles as they cleaned up the mess. The mess covered 70 to 100 meters of roadway. There are more puns about the spill here, and pictures here

Cat Stuck in Wall for 26 Days

Guy Mantha and his wife Linda Jardine-Mantha of Toronto had their air-conditioning unit changed out in June. It was about that time that their cat Stuffi went missing. Stuffi usually hides from strangers, so they assumed she was hiding from the A/C guys and would come back eventually. But she didn’t, and Jardine-Mantha posted notices about her missing cat. After a few days, she started hearing noises coming from inside the house, but could not find the source. Even a search with an infrared camera detected nothing.

Last Friday, Jardine-Mantha could hear sounds inside the house again.

"She called me at work and she said I think I heard it inside the wall ... oh my god, I said," Mantha said.

They called the friend with the infrared camera and began another search.

They broke a hole in the wall in the closet, and they put a light in there. Her husband's friend looked in and saw the cat.

"So they ripped out the wall and sure enough she was in there, all scrunched up, where she'd been for three and a half weeks, and so we rushed her to the hospital," she said.

The veterinarian found Stuffi to be weak, but had none of the expected liver damage after being confined for 26 days. She is recovering well.

George Harrison Memorial Tree Destroyed by Beetles

In 2004, a pine tree was planted in Los Angeles’ Griffith Park to memorialize Beatle George Harrison, who died in 2001. This week, it was announced that the tree itself has died, due to an insect infestation. Yes, the tree was killed by beetles. Those who knew Harrison said he would have appreciated the irony of the situation. Another tree will be planted in its place, but has not yet been scheduled.

Teenager Gets 232 Teeth Pulled

Seventeen-year-old Ashiq Gavai of Buldhana, India, suffered a growth and pain in his jaw, but local doctors could not diagnose the problem. Fearing cancer, his father took him to J J Hospital in Mumbai, where doctors diagnosed Gavai with composite odontoma, a tumor in the part of the jaw that produces teeth.

Ashiq was diagnosed with a condition called composite odontoma or a benign tumour of the tooth, which can cause difficulties in eating, swallowing, and lead to a grotesque swelling of the face, though it is not life-threatening.

"The condition has been known to affect the upper jaw and a maximum of 25 teeth have been extracted from the tumour. But in Ashiq's case, the tumour was found deep in the lower jaw and we removed more than 232 teeth," Dr Sunanda Dhiware, head of the J J Dental Department, said.

A team of two main surgeons and two assisting surgeons performed an intra-oral procedure as they tried to remove every bit of the tumour. "While a few teeth were loose, others were in clumps which made it difficult to count. The tumour was an abnormal growth of the second molar which did not come out. It was also pressing on the wisdom tooth which we had to remove," Dhiware said.

Gavai was left with only 28 normal teeth, but will require followup surgery to repair the hole in his jaw. The hospital is going to forward the case to the Guinness Book of World Records for the most teeth extracted from one person. See more pictures here

Russia Loses Contact with satellite Full of Geckos

The Russian Foton-M4 satellite was launched on July 19th, with one male and four female geckos aboard for an experiment in sex and weightlessness. Other passengers include insects and plants. The mission had been delayed for three weeks over electrical system problems. Now mission control has lost contact with the satellite, and have no way to monitor the geckos, feed them, or bring them down. If contact cannot be re-established, the satellite could orbit for months before falling on its own.

Flying Car Smashes into Brick House

A home in Hop Pole, Lincolnshire, UK, has an enormous hole in the first floor due to a car smashing into it. That’s what Americans would call the second floor. The car landed on its side in the yard, and the 25-year-old driver suffered only a dislocated shoulder and some broken ribs. The car also demolished a fence. There was no one at home when the incident occurred Thursday. Police say it is not really clear yet whether the second-floor hole was caused by the car itself, or if the bricks had collapsed due to damage underneath them. Engineers were called out to assess the structural damage.

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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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Nick Briggs/Comic Relief
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What Happened to Jamie and Aurelia From Love Actually?
May 26, 2017
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Nick Briggs/Comic Relief

Fans of the romantic-comedy Love Actually recently got a bonus reunion in the form of Red Nose Day Actually, a short charity special that gave audiences a peek at where their favorite characters ended up almost 15 years later.

One of the most improbable pairings from the original film was between Jamie (Colin Firth) and Aurelia (Lúcia Moniz), who fell in love despite almost no shared vocabulary. Jamie is English, and Aurelia is Portuguese, and they know just enough of each other’s native tongues for Jamie to propose and Aurelia to accept.

A decade and a half on, they have both improved their knowledge of each other’s languages—if not perfectly, in Jamie’s case. But apparently, their love is much stronger than his grasp on Portuguese grammar, because they’ve got three bilingual kids and another on the way. (And still enjoy having important romantic moments in the car.)

In 2015, Love Actually script editor Emma Freud revealed via Twitter what happened between Karen and Harry (Emma Thompson and Alan Rickman, who passed away last year). Most of the other couples get happy endings in the short—even if Hugh Grant's character hasn't gotten any better at dancing.

[h/t TV Guide]

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