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She Threw Herself Under a Horse For Women’s Suffrage … Or Did She?

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As British voters took to the polls earlier this month to vote in an election that was called the most unpredictable in decades, tweets like this began showing up, urging women to get out and vote: 

They’re common around elections, and the story usually goes like this: militant suffragist Emily Davison, hoping to draw attention to the cause, committed suicide at a 1913 horse race by throwing herself under the hooves of a horse. Or did she? It turns out the truth about Davison, and her motives, are more complicated.  

Davison was one of England’s more devoted suffragists, quitting her job as a teacher to agitate for women’s rights full-time. She joined the Women’s Social and Political Union, a group founded by the inimitable and fearless Emmeline Pankhurst and comprised of women “impatient with the middle class, respectable, gradualist tactics” of their counterparts in the British suffrage movement. Davison quickly became a fearless campaigner, embracing increasingly more militant tactics that included arson (setting fire to mailboxes), rock-throwing, assault, and even hiding in a cupboard in the House of Commons so she could list it as her residence on the census.

Her extreme civil disobedience was rewarded with multiple stays in prison, during which she was force-fed and hosed down with cold water. Her behavior gained her little favor with her compatriots in the movement, many of whom tried to distance themselves from her tactics. In 1912, while serving time for arson, she even attempted suicide. “The idea in my mind was ‘one big tragedy’ may save many others,” she is reported to have said before jumping 30 feet from a prison window. Though biographers believe the move was in response to the threat of being force fed, Davison’s contemporaries saw an activist prepared to commit suicide for the cause.  

This did, in fact, seem to be Davison's motive on June 4, 1913, when she attended the Epsom Derby. During the race, she jumped onto the track and ran toward Anmer, a horse owned by King George V. Horrified spectators looked on as she was dragged beneath the horse’s hooves. Though initial reports claimed that she had survived, she died of her wounds four days later. 

The incident sent shock waves throughout the movement and all of England. “All this moral force and daring was not merely poured out to waste,” wrote one commentator. “It was spent on the immediate baseness of endangering the life of a stranger.” In a rebuttal, suffragist Evelyn Sharp wrote that “it is an insult, after the shameful record of the last half-century … to expect women to go on ‘seeking honourably and sanely the enfranchisement which is their right,’ when by honour and sanity you only mean submission and patience.”  

But though Davison quickly became a symbol of the lengths to which suffragists would go to gain the right to vote, modern-day scholars believe her death was not suicide but a tragic accident. In 2013, a team of investigators from Britain's Channel 4 analyzed newsreel footage of the incident. They found that rather than trying to pull down the horse, Davison was “in fact reaching up to attach a scarf to its bridle.” Instead of using her own life to demonstrate the importance of her cause, historians now think that Davison hoped to use the race’s high profile to draw attention to a women’s suffrage banner. Whatever Davison’s intentions, her actions clearly resonate more than a century later. Perhaps her life is best summed up by the WSPU slogan that marks her grave: “Deeds, not words.”  

Additional References: Literature of the Women’s Suffrage Campaign in EnglandThe Life and Death of Emily Wilding Davison: A Biographical Detective Story.

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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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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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