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25 Fun Facts About the Hollywood Walk of Fame

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The Hollywood Walk of Fame may have begun its life as a Chamber of Commerce marketing tactic, but today it’s one of Los Angeles’ busiest tourist attractions, drawing an estimated 10 million visitors each year. February 8 marked the 55th anniversary of its groundbreaking; here are 25 things you might not know about the world’s most famous star-filled sidewalk. 

1. THE IDEA FIRST CAME ABOUT IN 1953.

The original idea for the Walk of Fame came from the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce’s volunteer president E. M. Stuart in 1953, a full seven years before construction began. According to a press release issued that year, he proposed the idea as a marketing tactic to “maintain the glory of a community whose name means glamour and excitement in the four corners of the world.” It wasn’t until January 1956 that an official proposal was submitted to the Los Angeles City Council.

2. THE ORIGINAL CONCEPT INCLUDED CARICATURES.

It took a while to settle on a concept and color scheme. Among the renderings put forth were a star that included a caricature of the honoree, planted along brown and blue sidewalks. Both ideas were eventually nixed—the caricatures because of the difficulty involved and the colors because they clashed with a building that real estate developer C.E. Toberman, a.k.a. Mr. Hollywood, was erecting on Hollywood Boulevard.

3. ONLY FOUR TYPES OF INDUCTEES WERE ORIGINALLY CONSIDERED.

Though today there are five categories of inductees, in the Walk of Fame’s earliest days there were just four: Motion Pictures, Television, Recording or Music, and Radio. It wasn’t until 1984 that a category for Theatre/Live Performance was added.

4. THE PUBLIC GOT A SNEAK PEEK OF THE WALK IN 1958.

In order to drum up excitement for the endeavor, eight stars—for Olive Borden, Ronald Colman, Louise Fazenda, Preston Foster, Burt Lancaster, Edward Sedgwick, Ernest Torrence, and Joanne Woodward—were unveiled (temporarily) to the public on August 15, 1958.

5. TWO LAWSUITS DELAYED THE WALK’S CONSTRUCTION.

Though construction on the official Walk was set to begin shortly after the sneak peek of those first eight stars, two lawsuits prevented that from happening. The first came courtesy of a group of nearby property owners who did not take kindly to the $1.25 million tax assessment that came with the Walk’s construction. The judge ruled against them. The second came from Charlie Chaplin, Jr., who demanded $400,000 in damages because his father was not chosen as an honoree. The case was dismissed in 1960, though the elder Chaplin did finally get a star in 1972 (the same year he won an honorary Oscar). 

6. STANLEY KRAMER’S STAR CAME FIRST.

After all of the delays, construction on the Walk of Fame officially began on February 8, 1960. Filmmaker Stanley Kramer—director of The Defiant Ones, Inherit the Wind, Judgment at Nuremberg, and It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad World—was the first honoree to have his star laid. It was installed on March 28, 1960. 

7. MOVIE STARS MAKE UP THE BULK OF THE WALK.

Of the 2,500-plus stars that currently make up the Walk of Fame, 47 percent of them are in the Motion Pictures category, followed by Television (24 percent), Recording (17 percent), Radio (10 percent), and Live Performance (two percent).

8. MUHAMMAD ALI IS CONSIDERED A “LIVE PERFORMER.”

In 2002, Muhammad Ali was given a star when it was determined that boxing was indeed a form of live performance. Ali’s star is the only one on the Walk of Fame that you cannot step on; at the athlete’s request, it was installed in the wall of the Dolby Theatre (then the Kodak Theatre) because, according to The Guardian, the legendary athlete didn't want his name walked on by “people who have no respect for me.”

9. ANYONE CAN NOMINATE A CELEBRITY FOR A STAR—BUT THE STAR MUST AGREE.

It takes more than just talent to be nominated for a star on the Walk of Fame. And the nomination process is no joke. Though anyone, including a fan, can nominate his or her favorite celebrity for inclusion on the Walk of Fame, there’s an entire application process that must include a letter of agreement from the nominee or his or her manager.

10. THERE’S ALSO THE MATTER OF A $30,000 FEE.

Stars on the Walk of Fame don’t grow on trees. Nor do they come free. Every nomination application must also list a sponsor for said nominee, who agrees to cover the $30,000 [PDF] it costs to create, install, and maintain the star, which is made of terrazzo and brass. 

11. POSTHUMOUS NOMINATIONS ARE ALLOWED—BUT THERE'S A CATCH.

Of the approximately 24 stars dedicated each year, one is given posthumously—but only if the star in question has been deceased for a minimum of five years.

12. ATTENDING THE STAR’S UNVEILING IS A REQUIREMENT.

Since 1968, the honoree’s attendance at his or her star’s unveiling is required. The only person to have challenged this rule is Barbra Streisand, who was awarded a star in 1976. (Rumor has it that she wasn’t comfortable with the crowds?) With no Babs in sight, one reporter took it upon himself to instead interview her wax figure at the nearby Hollywood Wax Museum. In 1998, Streisand did show up to support her husband, James Brolin, when he received his own star. 

13. IN 1994, 450 STARS WERE REMOVED DURING SUBWAY CONSTRUCTION.

In 1994, the stars of approximately 450 celebrities—Elvis Presley, Marilyn Monroe, Walt Disney, Bob Hope, Groucho Marx, Gene Kelly, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and that pesky Charles Chaplin among them—were packed up and put away into storage for approximately three years to allow for the construction of two new subway stations on Hollywood Boulevard. 

14. MULTIPLE STARS ARE ALLOWED.

Celebrities are not limited to just one star: Bob Hope, Roy Rogers, Mickey Rooney, and Tony Martin each have stars in four categories. More than 30 people have stars in three categories, including Bing Crosby, Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra, and Jack Benny.

15. GENE AUTRY HAS FIVE STARS.

The legendary entertainer is the only celebrity to have a star in all five Walk of Fame categories.

16. THERE ARE TWO HARRISON FORDS AND TWO MICHAEL JACKSONS.

And no, they’re not the same people: Silent film actor Harrison Ford earned a star in 1960 while Harrison “Han Solo” Ford got his in 2003. Radio personality Michael Jackson and the King of Pop both earned a star in 1984.

17. FICTIONAL STARS COUNT.

There are 15 fictional celebrities with Walk of Fame stars; Mickey Mouse was the first to be inducted in 1978. Bugs Bunny, Snow White, Woody Woodpecker, Big Bird, The Simpsons, Rugrats, Kermit the Frog, Donald Duck, Godzilla, Winnie the Pooh, The Munchkins, Shrek, Tinker Bell, and The Muppets followed (meaning that Kermit and Big Bird actually have two stars apiece).

18. FOUR STARS HAVE BEEN STOLEN.

In 2005, Gregory Peck became the fourth celebrity to have his star stolen from the Walk of Fame. Though it was replaced immediately, the original star has never been recovered. Five years prior to the Peck theft, Jimmy Stewart and Kirk Douglas’ stars disappeared; they were recovered from the home of a construction worker who had been tasked with securing them. One of Gene Autry’s stars was also stolen (but he had stars to spare).

19. THERE’S A TIME CAPSULE UNDER THE WALK OF FAME.

As part of the Walk of Fame’s 50th anniversary celebration in 2010, the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce buried a time capsule in the same place the Walk originated, at the corner of Hollywood and Highland. Price is Right icon Bob Barker was on hand to help bury the capsule, which contains various items that commemorate the landmark, plus a note from Barker himself that reads: “Have your pets spayed and neutered.” Here’s hoping the people of 2060—the year the time capsule is set to be opened—get the reference.

20. THE DERN-LADDS ALL RECEIVED A STAR AT THE SAME TIME.

Also as part of the 50th anniversary celebration, three members of a single Hollywood family received stars at the same time when Bruce Dern, Diane Ladd, and Laura Dern were feted—a first for the Walk of Fame.

21. BUT THE BARRYMORES HAVE THE NUMBERS.

As far as acting dynasties go, the Barrymores will be tough to beat. There are six stars among the family, including one each for John, Ethel, John Drew, and Drew and two for Lionel. 

22. TYPOS HAPPEN.

In 2010, Julia Louis-Dreyfus showed up to smile over a star dedicated to “Julia Luis Dreyfus.” The Veep star, unsurprisingly, was rather amused by the mixup, telling reporters, “The misspelling was so perfectly apt, a great metaphor for show business. Right when you think you've made it, you get knocked down. It's an ideal metaphor for how this business works.” The star was quickly replaced and the typo version was sent to Louis-Dreyfus as a souvenir. Dick Van Dyke had a similar experience in 1992 when his last name was spelled as “Vandyke” (that error, too, was quickly rectified). 

23. SOME TYPOS WERE PROPHETIC.

Confusion arose when actor Don Haggerty was awarded a star in 1960 that was engraved as Dan Haggerty. Though it was eventually replaced with a corrected version, in 1994 Grizzly Adams actor Dan Haggerty received his own star.

24. HONOREES HAVE FIVE YEARS TO SCHEDULE THEIR CEREMONIES.

As such, some people use their dedication ceremonies as a way to promote an upcoming project. “Stars like to make it a big deal,” Hollywood Chamber of Commerce president Leron Gubler told The Huffington Post. “That's the way they are. They get a little more bang for their buck out of it when they time it right.”

25. WILL FERRELL, PETER JACKSON, PAUL RUDD, AND SNOOPY ARE GETTING STARS THIS YEAR.

In 2014, the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce announced 30 new Walk of Fame recipients who would be smiling over their stars in 2015. Raymond Chandler, Will Ferrell, Jennifer Garner, Peter Jackson, Daniel Radcliffe, Paul Rudd, Snoopy, Melissa McCarthy, Christoph Waltz, James L. Brooks, Bobby Flay, Seth MacFarlane, Julianna Margulies, Chris O’Donnell, Jim Parsons, Amy Poehler, Kelly Ripa, Sofia Vergara, Kool & The Gang, Pitbull, Pharrell Williams, Kristin Chenoweth, and Ennio Morricone are among this year’s honorees.

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technology
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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Health
200 Health Experts Call for Ban on Two Antibacterial Chemicals
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In September 2016, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a ban on antibacterial soap and body wash. But a large collective of scientists and medical professionals says the agency should have done more to stop the spread of harmful chemicals into our bodies and environment, most notably the antimicrobials triclosan and triclocarban. They published their recommendations in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.

The 2016 report from the FDA concluded that 19 of the most commonly used antimicrobial ingredients are no more effective than ordinary soap and water, and forbade their use in soap and body wash.

"Customers may think added antimicrobials are a way to reduce infections, but in most products there is no evidence that they do," Ted Schettler, science director of the Science and Environmental Health Network, said in a statement.

Studies have shown that these chemicals may actually do more harm than good. They don't keep us from getting sick, but they can contribute to the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, also known as superbugs. Triclosan and triclocarban can also damage our hormones and immune systems.

And while they may no longer be appearing on our bathroom sinks or shower shelves, they're still all around us. They've leached into the environment from years of use. They're also still being added to a staggering array of consumer products, as companies create "antibacterial" clothing, toys, yoga mats, paint, food storage containers, electronics, doorknobs, and countertops.

The authors of the new consensus statement say it's time for that to stop.

"We must develop better alternatives and prevent unneeded exposures to antimicrobial chemicals," Rolf Haden of the University of Arizona said in the statement. Haden researches where mass-produced chemicals wind up in the environment.

The statement notes that many manufacturers have simply replaced the banned chemicals with others. "I was happy that the FDA finally acted to remove these chemicals from soaps," said Arlene Blum, executive director of the Green Science Policy Institute. "But I was dismayed to discover at my local drugstore that most products now contain substitutes that may be worse."

Blum, Haden, Schettler, and their colleagues "urge scientists, governments, chemical and product manufacturers, purchasing organizations, retailers, and consumers" to avoid antimicrobial chemicals outside of medical settings. "Where antimicrobials are necessary," they write, we should "use safer alternatives that are not persistent and pose no risk to humans or ecosystems."

They recommend that manufacturers label any products containing antimicrobial chemicals so that consumers can avoid them, and they call for further research into the impacts of these compounds on us and our planet.

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