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new york public library

Awesome Vintage Posters from 15 Magicians 

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new york public library

Magic has been enchanting and astounding people for a long time: Bending the constricts of reality with seemingly supernatural means dates back to before 50,000 BCE. By the late 19th century, magicians were performing for large audiences in theaters, and illusionists competed with one another for the spotlight by coming up with more and more elaborate acts. Posters were a popular way to advertise and set performers apart from their peers; even the most famous magicians needed flyers to draw crowds. The ads used bright colors and sinister imagery to capture the imagination of potential audience members. 

1. Harry Houdini

The Hungarian-born escape artist was known for squirming out of restraints. After repeatedly slipping out of handcuffs and prisons, the performer earned the moniker Harry "Handcuff" Houdini. As his fame spread, Houdini's acts became more and more elaborate: He allowed himself to be suspended in the air, submerged underwater, and even buried alive. He was featured in a number of movies that showcased his agility, strength, and dexterity.

Despite many rumors that his daring escapes were staged, Houdini was hellbent on exposing frauds. When he failed to contact his mother after her death, the performer realized that mediums and psychics preyed on the emotionally vulnerable. He would attend séances incognito, tearing off his disguise when he collected enough evidence to prove that the mediums were faking their spiritual connections. (You can read about his takedown of famous medium Mina Crandon here.) Then, he recreated the supposed mediums' Illusions and tricks for his audiences. 

2. Harry Kellar

A common theme on many magician's posters are imps, devils, and demons whispering the secrets of dark magic. Harry Kellar started that trend with his ominous portrait. One imp whispers magic tricks so mystifying, it makes his friend gasp. 

Some of these under-worldly tricks included levitating people and vanishing birdcages. Thanks to strong performances, Kellar became a household name. He was good friends with Houdini in his later years and served as the inspiration for the escape artist's stage name. 

3. Howard Thurston 

After Kellar retired, he symbolically draped his cape on the shoulders of Howard Thurston, naming him his successor. You can see the young magician was a big fan of the tiny red demon idea and used it several times. 

Thurston put on enormous shows that required eight entire train cars just to carry his props. His shows were lavish and spectacular, and often required large props, like a Whippet automobile that he would fill with women before making it vanish. 

4. Alexander Herrmann

Alexander Herrmann the Great was a friendly rival of Kellar and an inspirational figure to Thurston. The French magician was taught sleight-of-hand by his older brother after being whisked away without his parent's permission. After parting ways to work on his own career, Herrmann toured the world with his wife, Adelaide. 

5. Edwin Brush

Brush started as a sales manager for a clothing company, using magic tricks to help bring in business. He eventually realized that he could make a living that way and became a full time magician. As seen in the illustration, his mustache was groomed to turn up, making him appear more magical. 

5. Christian Andrew George Newmann

Newmann the Great was a mentalist who was known for hypnotics and psychic readings. One of his better known tricks involved driving a car while blindfolded (eek!). Above, you can see him navigating the world sans vision. 

6. Zan Zig

Here is a poster for Zan Zig, the least famous magician on this list. The illustration shows a variety of different acts, from levitation to conjuring spirits. 

7. Frederick Bancroft

Bancroft decided to become a magician after befriending Alexander Herrmann. Despite being from Minnesota, he used exotic imagery inspired by his trip through Europe and the East Indies. The ill-fated performer never really got his career off the ground and passed away as a result of typhoid fever at age 31. 

8. Theodore Hardeen

Hardeen was the younger brother of Houdini and used this affiliation to spring-board his career. Like his brother, the performer was an escape artist and was featured in movies.

9. Karl Germain

Originally spelled "Germaine," the Wizard dropped the E in the later years of performing. He developed a love for magic at a very early age and toured professionally by the time he was 20.

10. Eugene Laurant 

This magician, called "The Man of Many Mysteries," was known for elaborate illusions and chapeaugraphy (hat tricks). 

11. Claude Alexander Conlin

Alexander was a mentalist known for classic crystal ball readings. He was widely successful for mind readings and similar telepathic acts. The magician spent a large sum of money on printing high quality posters that often used bright red colors to attract attention.

12. Miss Baldwin

Miss Baldwin was actually two different people—Clara and Kitty Baldwin. They were the two wives of Samri Baldwin, who used them as assistants (at different times). He would blindfold the women and they would demonstrate their psychic abilities. Kitty, Baldwin's second wife, eventually left to pursue her own career, although she never found the same success she did with her former husband. 

13. Frederick Eugene Powell

Powell was the dean of The Society of American Magicians from 1922 to 1938. He toured with Imro Fox and Servais Le Roy under the name "The Triple Alliance." 

14. Servais Le Roy 

Le Roy was part of the Triple Alliance, but he was better known for the act he performed with his wife, Talma. The couple is featured together in the poster. 

15. Herbert Albini

If you learned anything from these posters, it's that the devil owns a lot of magicians' souls. 

The accomplished illusionist chose his surname after the musician, Frederick Baxter Ewing, who went by Lieutenant Albini. Ewing was apparently not too pleased, because he threatened to sue over the name and publicly disassociated himself from the magician.

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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
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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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iStock
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Here's How to Change Your Name on Facebook
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iStock

Whether you want to change your legal name, adopt a new nickname, or simply reinvent your online persona, it's helpful to know the process of resetting your name on Facebook. The social media site isn't a fan of fake accounts, and as a result changing your name is a little more complicated than updating your profile picture or relationship status. Luckily, Daily Dot laid out the steps.

Start by going to the blue bar at the top of the page in desktop view and clicking the down arrow to the far right. From here, go to Settings. This should take you to the General Account Settings page. Find your name as it appears on your profile and click the Edit link to the right of it. Now, you can input your preferred first and last name, and if you’d like, your middle name.

The steps are similar in Facebook mobile. To find Settings, tap the More option in the bottom right corner. Go to Account Settings, then General, then hit your name to change it.

Whatever you type should adhere to Facebook's guidelines, which prohibit symbols, numbers, unusual capitalization, and honorifics like Mr., Ms., and Dr. Before landing on a name, make sure you’re ready to commit to it: Facebook won’t let you update it again for 60 days. If you aren’t happy with these restrictions, adding a secondary name or a name pronunciation might better suit your needs. You can do this by going to the Details About You heading under the About page of your profile.

[h/t Daily Dot]

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