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The 15 Weirdest Wikipedia Pages Edited From Congress

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REUTERS/KEVIN LAMARQUE/LANDOV

Since the beginning of July, Twitter account @congressedits has been cataloging and publicizing edits made to Wikipedia articles from IP addresses linked to the United States House of Representatives and related offices. If a congressperson, staffer, intern, or anyone using a computer affiliated with Congress makes a change to Wikipedia, @congressedits tweets it out.

While many edits made are simple grammatical or factual ones (birth dates, district numbers, etc.), other changes have been downright bizarre. In response to @congressedits, Wikipedia has issued a 10-day ban on anonymous edits made from House IP addresses. Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales said, "There is a belief...that it only provoked someone—some prankster there in the office—to have an audience now for the pranks, and actually encouraged them rather than discouraged them."

The ban means @congressedits has been quiet since last week, but these examples are a taste of what was going on from the esteemed halls of our government.

1. Horse Head Mask

The Edit: Added "President Barack Obama shook hands with a man wearing a horse head mask in Denver."

[Revision Info]

This is true, and a more fleshed-out version of this fact appears on the current Wikipedia page. Good edit, anonymous staffer (or congressperson).

2. It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia

The Edit: "Bon Jovi" and "Ludwig Van Beethoven" added to the list of musical artists featured in the series.

[Revision Info]

Both names still appear on the page, marking some of the most important and lasting work to have ever come out of the U.S. House of Representatives.

3 and 4. Choco Taco

*

The Edits: "In addition, Choco Tacos have been a staple of vending machines in the Rayburn House Office Building of the U.S. House of Representatives honoring former Speaker Samuel Rayburn's devotion to his favorite snack" added, as well as the category "American brands."

[Revision Info]

While the "American brands" category remains, the tidbit about Choco Tacos being former Speaker Samuel Rayburn's favorite snack was removed. While unsubstantiated, it's certainly not a stretch—they are a delicious ice cream snack.

5. Journalism

The Edit: "In 2014, the Wikipedia page on Journalism was used as click-bait to remind reporters that a more important story is the refusal of House Republicans to raise the minimum wage, pass immigration reform, extend unemployment insurance, and improve our roads and bridges" was added.

[Revision Info]

That this change appeared under the section describing how the Internet has affected journalism and that it is being used as an example in various news stories and lists about the Congressional Wikipedia edits means we've formed a Russian nesting doll of self-referentiality with nothing more than questionable source material. And you still had to read about the various refusals of House Republicans, meaning the whole thing worked. The scaffolding holds.

6. Ben Smith

The Edit: "Smirnoff Ice enthusiast" added to the Buzzfeed editor-in-chief's page.

[Revision Info]

Sounds about right.

7. Gender Identity Disorder

The Edit: "This whole article is transphobic. Trans people's identity isn't a disease. Just because I have a penis doesn't make me less of a woman" added at the end of the post.

[Revision Info]

This looks to have been in response to another argument that has since been stricken from the page, which, at varying stages of edits, looks like an Internet comments section.

8. The Atlantic

The Edit: "The Atlantic's Megan Garber broke the story of Wikipedia's Choco-Taco entry being edited anonymously from a U.S. House of Representatives IP address" added.

[Revision Info]

An edit coming from an anonymous congressional IP address about an edit that was made from an anonymous congressional IP address. We have officially crawled up our own posteriors.

9. Moon Landing Conspiracy Theories

The Edit: Added that Moon landing conspiracy theories are "promoted by the Cuban government."

[Revision Info]

This bit of info actually remains, although it is more thoroughly sourced: "James Oberg of ABC News said that the conspiracy theory is taught in Cuban schools and wherever Cuban teachers are sent."

10. Reptilians

The Edit: Added "These allegations are completely unsubstantiated and have no basis in reality" to the page about reptilian shape-shifters ruling the world.

[Revision Info]

Must've been tough typing that with those clawed, scaly hands.

11. Assassination of John F. Kennedy

The Edit: Added that Lee Harvey Oswald acted "on behalf of the regime of Fidel Castro, and that Jack Ruby also acted behalf of the regime of Fidel Castro."

[Revision Info]

Still waiting to confirm Castro's involvement with the Choco Taco.

12. Wendy's

The Edit: Added "french fries" to products.

[Revision Notes]

Good catch.

13. Internship

The Edit: Added the adjective "great" to describe internships.

[Revision Notes]

Anonymously editorializing Wikipedia pages is the future of brown-nosing.

14. Mediaite

The Edit: Mentions that the website is a "sexist transphobic" blog "that automatically assumes that someone is male without any evidence."

This is a reference to a story about a previous anonymous congressional edit that was written with gendered pronouns.

[Revision Info]

And the thrilling game of cat-and-mouse being played in cyberspace continues.

15. Phish

The Edit: Added "modes" as something Phish blends besides genres.

[Revision Info]

Good thing these are anonymous, because that is very embarrassing.

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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
technology
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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
entertainment
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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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