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26 Breathtaking Pictures of Abandoned and Forgotten Places

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Photographer Matt Emmett doesn't pay attention to signs that say "do not enter." While traveling around Europe, the urban explorer looks for the eerie beauty found in the derelict and forgotten. Emmett has photographed everything from abandoned hotels to power stations; before entering a new location, he always reads up about the history first. He offers a detailed description of each picture he takes on his Flickr

"I enjoy being in such magnificent places alone or in a small group," Emmett told mental_floss. "The atmosphere that hangs over a derelict power station or steel plant, for me, puts them on a level with the Angkor Wat's or Machu Pichu's of this world." 

You can see more of his work on his website, Twitter, or Facebook page

A rooftop view of an abandoned asylum in Northern Italy. A lot of the medical equipment and machines can still be found inside. 

A ruined chapel at a private residence in Italy.

The inside of a cooling tower in Belgium. 

A crane in an old factory. 

A radome in Belgium.

Inside the radome.

The overgrown window of a UK manor house. 

A decaying library in a manor house in England. 

Faded fresco paintings cling to the walls of the entrance hall at a large abandoned Villa complex.

This strange structure was created by an artist to house himself and his sheep. It's located on private land in the Cotswolds, England. 

Rusting radar dishes along the Norfolk and Lincolnshire coast in England. 

The banister of an abandoned Italian villa. It was converted into a psychiatric hospital in the 1800s. 

Light shining through the Oculus Tower in Italy. The factory was used to process sugarbeets in sugars and oils. 

Wooden cabinets that were used to hold patient information at a psychiatric hospital in Northern Italy.

An old television sits by the window in England. 

A ruined colonnade encased in foliage. This photo is one of the photographer's favorites. 

A home abandoned after a fire during World War II. 

A statue of Neptune in the UK. 

A Victorian reservoir located under the streets of London, England. "The echo in here had fantastic delay to it, my whoop coming back to me around four seconds after it left my mouth," Emmett said. 

A surgery room at an abandoned psychiatric hospital. "The hospital was famous in the 1930s for being one of the pioneering sites for the research and early practice of frontal lobe lobotomy," Emmett writes.

A long hallway of a military hospital used to take care of U.S. soldiers during the Gulf War. "Places like this remind me that [nature] always prevails and nothing we create can ever stand up to her and the passage of time," Emmett said. 

Another view of the Oculus Tower in Italy. 

A tunnel in underground London. 

Photographer and son in the Box Quarry in the UK. 

A jet engine test area at Pyestock NGTE, a Royal Aircraft Establishment facility in Fleek, UK, that has since been demolished.

Inside an empty castle in Italy. 

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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
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Man Buys Two Metric Tons of LEGO Bricks; Sorts Them Via Machine Learning
May 21, 2017
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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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Opening Ceremony
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These $425 Jeans Can Turn Into Jorts
May 19, 2017
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Opening Ceremony

Modular clothing used to consist of something simple, like a reversible jacket. Today, it’s a $425 pair of detachable jeans.

Apparel retailer Opening Ceremony recently debuted a pair of “2 in 1 Y/Project” trousers that look fairly peculiar. The legs are held to the crotch by a pair of loops, creating a disjointed C-3PO effect. Undo the loops and you can now remove the legs entirely, leaving a pair of jean shorts in their wake. The result goes from this:

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Opening Ceremony

To this:

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Opening Ceremony

The company also offers a slightly different cut with button tabs in black for $460. If these aren’t audacious enough for you, the Y/Project line includes jumpsuits with removable legs and garter-equipped jeans.

[h/t Mashable]

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