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Firebox

11 Geeky Hats to Keep Your Noggin Warm This Winter

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Firebox

Ever hear that humans lose half their body heat through uncovered heads? Though that ubiquitous warning is total nonsense, a warm hat is still crucial for colder weather—because cold ears hurt. Protect your head with one of these unusual hat options.

1. MEGA MAN; $10

Make your wildest dreams come true and become Mega Man—or at least look like him. This officially licensed knitted beanie mimics the iconic helmet worn by the character. It's currently out of stock, but it's going to make a reappearance on the shelves in about two months.

Find it: ThinkGeek

2. UNICORN HOOD; $32

Keep yourself warm with the magic of a unicorn. This cozy hat/scarf/glove combo is perfect for staying covered up in cold weather. No actual unicorns were harmed during the making of this hood—it's cotton and polyester.

Find it: Firebox

3. HOGWARTS HOUSE BEANIES; $20

If you put on the sorting hat, where would you end up? Probably Hufflepuff, but luckily we Muggles/No-Majs can decide for ourselves when picking out Harry Potter-themed headwear. Grab a beanie adorned with the crest of Ravenclaw, Slytherin, Gryffindor, or Hufflepuff.

Find it: Amazon

4. BLACK CAT; $16

Don't settle for a normal ribbed knit beanie when you can have one with little cat ears and an embroidered face. It will look great with the rest of your cat lady ensemble.

Find it: ASOS

5. POKEMON; $14

Play video games in style with this black embroidered beanie. The pom-pom adorned headwear is covered in a pattern of smiling Pikachu faces.

Find it: Amazon

6. SPIDER-GWEN CONVERTIBLE HEADWEAR; $10

This tube-shaped bandana can do it all. Creative dressers can fold and knot this polyester scarf to turn it into a variety of accessories to wear on the head or neck. The headwear can be used to keep heads warm or protect identities when dabbling in some vigilante work.

Find it: ThinkGeek

7. WAMPA BEANIE; $20

Anything that lives on planet Hoth has to have a thick coat to stay warm in the arctic climate. This beanie incorporates the Star Wars creature's white fur and horns into its design. Thanks to the double lining and ear flaps, this hat is warmer than the inside of a tauntaun.

Find it: Amazon

8. DOCTOR WHO; $15

Let this TARDIS-inspired hat transport you to a world of warmth. The ear-flapped hat fits snuggly on most heads, so Whovians of all ages can enjoy.

Find it: Amazon

9. MINECRAFT; $12 - $25

Any builder in Minecraft is familiar with the dreaded Creeper. Now you can celebrate the annoying green monsters with a threatening looking beanie. Complete the look with a Creeper scarf and you're ready to start slinking around in the night.

Find it: Amazon

10. RICK AND MORTY REVERSIBLE BEANIE; $15

Some days you're Rick and some days you're more of a Morty. If you can't decide which of the titular characters best suits you, get a beanie that can do both.

Find it: Amazon

11. FIREFLY; $24

In an episode of the short-lived sci-fi show Firefly, tough guy Jayne Cobb gets a hand-knit beanie in the mail from his mother, which he happily wears. Now you too can look like Cobb with a matching beanie that was also hand-knit.

Find it: Etsy

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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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Name the Author Based on the Character
May 23, 2017
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