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10 Highest Grossing Movie Franchises of All Time

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Just a few days into its release in American cinemas, Spectre—James Bond’s latest big-screen outing—is already poised to take a $75 million chunk out of the weekend box office. While it’s still got more than $1 billion to go to catch up to 2012’s Skyfall, the most profitable Bond film thus far, that entry alone was enough to make the James Bond series one of Hollywood’s most successful franchises of all time. Though 007 has both longevity (he’s been starring in movies for more than a half-century) and prolificacy (Spectre marks his 24th film), neither proved enough to nab him the top spot in the 10 highest grossing movie franchises of all time, based on worldwide box office.

1. MARVEL CINEMATIC UNIVERSE

Worldwide Gross: $9,060,537,598

Though it seems a bit unfair, the whole of the Marvel Cinematic Universe—which includes The Avengers and Iron Man movies—is officially a single franchise in Hollywood's eyes. Which makes it a tough one to beat, with 12 (and counting) films in the past seven years, led (financially speaking) by The Avengers ($1,519,479,547), The Avengers: Age of Ultron ($1,404,705,868), Iron Man 3 ($1,215,392,272), and Guardians of the Galaxy ($771,172,112).

2. HARRY POTTER

Worldwide Gross: $7,726,174,542

The big-screen incarnation of J. K. Rowling’s boy wizard has proven to be just as profitable as the book version. Since 2001, eight movie adaptations have been released, beginning with Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. While nearly all of them have approached the $1 billion mark, the series’ most recent entry, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part II, brought in the biggest profit, with a worldwide take of $1,341,511,219. With two more movies on the way in the next three years, this box office behemoth shows no signs of slowing down.

3. JAMES BOND

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Worldwide Gross: $6,297,332,445

Though that worldwide gross above was correct at press time, don’t be surprised to see it grow over the next several weeks. In its first week of release, Spectre—the latest film in the long-running Bond franchise—has already managed to take in more than $108 million. But the franchise’s high position on this list is largely thanks to 2012’s Skyfall, which earned $1,110,526,981 around the world—which was just enough to give it a slight edge over the next entry on this list.

4. THE LORD OF THE RINGS

Worldwide Gross: $5,895,819,745

First, it’s important to note that Peter Jackson’s Middle Earth franchise includes not just The Lord of the Rings trilogy, but all three of The Hobbit movies as well. While the former series might be the more critically acclaimed of the two, when all is said and done, both series contributed to the franchise’s position here: Among the six films, 2003’s The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King ($1,141,408,667) and 2012’s The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey ($1,017,003,568) are the two biggest moneymakers.

5. STAR WARS

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Worldwide Gross: $4,486,158,822

Considering that just over $1.4 billion separates the Star Wars franchise from The Lord of the Rings, and that J. J. Abrams' hotly anticipated The Force Awakens is hitting theaters next month, it’s not impossible to imagine that George Lucas’ beloved space opera might well climb over Peter Jackson’s Middle Earth series in the near future, particularly considering the number of new Star Wars projects on the horizon.

6. SPIDER-MAN

Worldwide Gross: $3,963,173,282

Sam Rami’s 2002 Spider-Man kicked off a new era in comic book moviemaking with its audience-friendly mix of action, humor, and just a little camp. His final film for the series, Spider-Man 3, earned the most money of the bunch, with a box office intake of $890,875,303. Though the two reboots have not performed as well as the originals, they’ve both made more than $700 million worldwide, which isn’t too shabby.

7. THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS

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Worldwide Gross: $3,899,849,616

It’s possible that even the producers of the Fast and Furious series themselves are a little surprised by just how popular the franchise has become, with seven adrenaline-fueled films that seem to grow more popular with each entry. While the first film in the series, 2001’s The Fast and the Furious, made a respectable $206,512,310, this year’s Furious 7 made more than seven times that amount—a grand total of $1,516,246,709. So it should come as no surprise that Furious 8 is in the works for 2017.

8. TRANSFORMERS

Worldwide Gross: $3,778,297,170

Technically, the Transformers franchise dates all the way back to 1986, when The Transformers: The Movie—an animated feature that marked Orson Welles’ final role—was released in theaters. But considering that it contributed just $5,849,647 to the series’ total worldwide gross, it’s a bit of a non-factor. What is worth noting is that when discussing films, and Transformers in particular, “critically panned” and “financially successful” can go hand in hand. The most popular film in the franchise, 2011’s Transformers: Dark of the Moon, which made $1,123,790,543 worldwide, currently holds a 35 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

9. PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN

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Worldwide Gross: $3,710,254,215

First it was a Disney theme park ride, then it was a box office smash success and one of the few times that Johnny Depp agreed to make a truly “commercial” film. But over the course of eight years, from 2003 to 2011, the swashbuckling series has managed to plunder more than $3.7 billion in ticket sales.

10. BATMAN

Worldwide Gross: $3,702,844,521

Though the final tally above represents more than a quarter-century of Batman movies—going back to Tim Burton and Michael Keaton’s 1989 original and spanning the less memorable Val Kilmer and George Clooney years—the real earnings in this franchise have come from Christopher Nolan’s reboots. In fact, 2012’s The Dark Knight Rises earned $1,084,439,099 on its own, accounting for nearly one-third of the franchise's entire haul.

All figures courtesy of The Numbers.

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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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