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Margaret Lyons and Jen Cotton

12 Funny and Delicious Venn Diagrams

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Margaret Lyons and Jen Cotton

I haven’t done a roundup of Venn diagrams in several years. That’s a graph that shows sets and all possible overlaps of those sets. It works two-dimensionally when there are three or fewer sets. When you have more sets, or sets in which they don’t all overlap with each other, then you have an Euler diagram, which is a whole new set of fun. Not only are these diagrams a good visualization for a concept, they are also an opportunity for graphic humor.

1. Venn Diagram of Emotions

A common way to make Venn humor is to label three sets as concepts, and their overlaps as specific situations. The Venn Diagram of Emotions from Doghouse Diaries uses situations we are all familiar with.

2. Two Kinds

A variation on the humor Venn diagram concerns sets that cannot possibly overlap. Phil Plait illustrated this with an old math joke adjusted to the graphics world. He calls it Venn-Venn, which is a true venn-venn situation.

3. Euphemisms

However, it’s not always necessary to label all the overlaps, when you only need one punch line. Jessica Hagy always has all kinds of graphics humor at her webcomic Indexed; the one called Euphemisms tells you just what you need to know.

4. States of Matter

It is not necessary that the two or three sets of a Venn diagram actually have anything to do with each other, as long as you can come up with some justification for an overlap. Chemical symbols and state abbreviations? Why not? Redditor Smashinator came up with this idea while showering behind a shower curtain printed with the Periodic Table of the Elements.

5. TV Viewing

Here’s an Euler diagram in which all the sets cannot overlap, as some of them are opposites, yet they can overlap in a daisy-chain fashion, and the result makes perfect sense to anyone who has watched the devolution of American TV. This diagram sparked a bit of controversy when it was submitted to reddit, as there are plenty of both smart and dumb people who either watch all these shows or none of them. Or the ones they aren't supposed to watch. 

6. Reality TV Venn

Set diagrams about TV can get much more complicated. If you ever flip through the cable TV channels, you've probably noticed how many reality series cluster around an existing idea. Yes, there's a lot of shows set in Louisiana. And quite a few set in Alaska, too. I once quipped that a network sees no use in wasting a field office on just one show, or two, or three. But what you see here is just a small portion of the Reality TV Venn Diagram by Margaret Lyons and Jen Cotton at Vulture. To see the full-size version, you’ll have to go elsewhere. And yes, I am aware that this is actually an Euler diagram, which shows existing sets and relationships, and not a true Venn diagram that would show all possible relationships. In the couple of years since this diagram was made, the shows have changed somewhat, but you can still fill those circles with appropriate series.

7. The Hobbit

Any pop culture phenomenon lends itself to extreme critique that can be diagrammed. Lesley Tsina created a simple Venn diagram that explained why so many more people watched The Hobbit movies than read the book.

8. Diagram Venn of Yoda It Is

Artist Stephen Wildish has built his reputation on clever and pun-filled graphs, visualizations, and minimalist representations of pop culture. In his Diagram Venn of Yoda, we see how previous tropes came together to create the beloved Star Wars character Yoda.

9. The Von Van Venn

Stephen Wildish created this Venn diagram as part of his Friday project. The Von Van Venn diagram uses large and seemingly unrelated sets to indicate the puns in the overlaps. It could be made more complicated with the addition of Vin Diesel, the subject of an earlier diagram

10. Doctor Who

Comic artist Aaron Williams created this Venn diagram proving that Doctor Who is in the middle of the science fiction universe. It was once sold as a t-shirt, but no longer available. More’s the pity.

11. The Venn Piagram

And now we are leaving the world of virtual two-dimensional diagrams and looking at how they act in the real world. It turns out that Venn diagrams are delicious! Redditor HungryHungryHippy conceived the idea of the Venn Piagram for Pi Day (March 14), and posted the picture shortly afterward. The intersection of strawberry and blueberry could be called “berry” or it could be called “the piece I want.” She had to make her own pie tin, lined with parchment, to hold it. 

12. Heaven and Hell Cake

A Heaven and Hell cake is when a baker uses both angel food cake and devil’s food cake. In this instance, Vivi Rrr combined the two into a Venn diagram, so the overlapping part is called “purgatory.” It is also called “tasty and decadent.” She posted the process of making it at Back to the Lab Again with plenty of pictures.

See more of this kind of nonsense in our previous posts: Fun with Venn and Euler Diagrams, 9 Silly Venn Diagrams, and Not-quite-Venn Diagrams.

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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
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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Why Your iPhone Doesn't Always Show You the 'Decline Call' Button
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When you get an incoming call to your iPhone, the options that light up your screen aren't always the same. Sometimes you have the option to decline a call, and sometimes you only see a slider that allows you to answer, without an option to send the caller straight to voicemail. Why the difference?

A while back, Business Insider tracked down the answer to this conundrum of modern communication, and the answer turns out to be fairly simple.

If you get a call while your phone is locked, you’ll see the "slide to answer" button. In order to decline the call, you have to double-tap the power button on the top of the phone.

If your phone is unlocked, however, the screen that appears during an incoming call is different. You’ll see the two buttons, "accept" or "decline."

Either way, you get the options to set a reminder to call that person back or to immediately send them a text message. ("Dad, stop calling me at work, it’s 9 a.m.!")

[h/t Business Insider]