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How Susan B. Anthony Fought the Law in 1872

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Hulton Archive // Getty Images

In November 1872, Susan B. Anthony headed to a barbershop in Rochester, New York to register to vote. She was accompanied by three of her sisters and a small group of other women. After the confused registrars conferred, they decided to allow the women to register. Four days later, Anthony and her entourage all cast their official votes.

But on November 18, the activist and her fellow female voters were picked up by U.S. marshals and jailed. (Upset by her arresting officer’s manner, Anthony later recalled challenging his polite request that she come down to the precinct later: “‘What for?’ I asked. ‘To arrest you,’ he said. ‘Is that the way you arrest men?’ ‘No.’ ‘Then I demand that I should be arrested properly.’” Totally unprepared to escort anybody, the officer was forced to pay their streetcar fare out of his own pocket.) Bail was set at $500 apiece—worth over $9000 today. Though the other women paid up, Anthony refused. She insisted she had done nothing unlawful; after all, the newly-passed Fourteenth Amendment stated that the United States could not deprive any person of life, liberty, property, or due process. Anthony wanted her case to go to the Supreme Court on a writ of habeas corpus, so she was frustrated when, after she refused to pay and had her case referred to a grand jury, her lawyer paid her now-increased bail, explaining that he “could not see a lady [he] respected put in jail.” Anthony was devastated—being released meant that she could never bring her case to the Supreme Court.

She would have to settle for sending shockwaves through the local courts instead. On January 24, 1873, the grand jury—all male, of course—charged Susan B. Anthony with “knowingly, wrongfully, and willingly” voting, despite being unable to lawfully vote. Anthony vowed to spend the months before her trial appealing to the people of Monroe County, where the trial would be held.

Her strategy: Give lectures in all 29 Monroe County towns on the topic, “Is It a Crime for a Citizen of the United States to Vote?” Her speech quoted countless judges, presidents, and legal scholars, urging listeners “wherever there is room for a doubt to give its benefit on the side of liberty and equal rights for women.” Her speeches were so popular that, worried they would influence potential jury members, the case was moved to the federal circuit court in a neighboring county. In response, Anthony spoke in nearly every town in Ontario County, too.

COURTING CONTROVERSY

Duly warned about the defendant’s ability to give a fiery, persuasive speech, the court prevented Anthony from testifying at her own trial. Even more controversial was the judge’s instruction that the jury find Anthony guilty. Justice Ward Hunt read the jury a written statement laying out Anthony’s violations of the law and concluding, “upon this evidence I suppose there is no question for the jury and that the jury should be directed to find a verdict of guilty.”

Ultimately, the jury wasn’t even asked for its opinion, and Anthony was found guilty of voting without the right to vote. (One juror would later say that, had they been allowed to weigh in, he and his peers would have rendered a not-guilty verdict.) Given the chance to speak after her conviction was handed down, Anthony delivered a barnburner of an oration—despite Judge Hunt’s constant interruptions. “Robbed of the fundamental privilege of citizenship, I am degraded from the status of a citizen to that of a subject,” she proclaimed. “Not only myself individually, but all of my sex, are, by your honor's verdict, doomed to political subjection under this, so-called, form of government.” Hunt’s reply: “The court cannot listen to a rehearsal of arguments the prisoner’s counsel has already consumed three hours in presenting.” After repeatedly silencing Anthony’s objections, he sentenced her to pay a fine of $100, as well as the costs of the prosecution.

Anthony swore “never to pay a dollar of [the] unjust penalty”—and never did. Though she received widespread acclaim for her stance—an 1873 newspaper called Anthony “The Woman Who Dared”—she never would see women vote legally. Fourteen years after her death, the Nineteenth Amendment she had helped forge became law, but during her lifetime, she encountered the truth of her own words again and again: “Woman must not depend upon the protection of man, but must be taught to protect herself.”

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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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Here's How to Change Your Name on Facebook
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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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