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15 Geeky Tote Bags For Lugging Around Your Books

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Ever have too many books to possibly hold under one arm? We know the struggle, and that's why we did some digging to find you some excellent tote bags to hold all your stuff—books or otherwise.

1. STAR WARS; $70

Whether you're with the Rebels or the Empire, this bag has the right patches to match your current alliance. And, should you ever change your allegiance, just flip the bag over to display the correct designs. The twill and faux leather tote has a document pocket on the Imperial side that closes with a magnetic snap. There's also an interior pocket with a zipped pouch for transporting important memory drives across the galaxy.

Find it: ThinkGeek


Where the Wild Things Are author Maurice Sendak once drew an illustration for a child who was so excited by it, he ate it. We assume you won't bite into this canvas tote bag, but it is still a pretty thrilling design. The double-sided bag features an extended version of the iconic cover printed in vibrant color. And, when you purchase this tote, a book goes to a community in need. 

Find it: Amazon


Turn heads with this bold statement tote that's shaped like a gigantic cat head. No one can question your love for felines while you're slinging this 23-inch polyester bag with added ears on your shoulder.

Find it: Amazon


Is there anything more exciting than a parade of dinosaurs? Dustin Harbin researched dinosaurs and other creatures who lived among them for this highly detailed design. Each ancient beast is drawn to a relative scale and gets its own nameplate stating its length. The design later spurred a leporello (a 6.5-foot infographic that folds out), which features over 100 illustrated creatures.

Find it: Society6


Now you can put your writing journals into a bag that looks like a giant composition notebook, sort of like how you put all your grocery bags into another grocery bag for safe keeping. This cotton canvas bag comes with a small inner pocket for things like pens and knickknacks. 

Find it: Amazon

6. POKEMON; $60

This faux leather tote features the four starter Pokemon from the beloved Japanese franchise. Each pocket monster is designed in a traditional sailor tattoo style with flowers, leaves, and banners that say "Gotta Catch 'Em All!" There's even a matching wallet that you can store inside. The 16-inch tall bag has plenty of room for all your potions and Pokeballs.

Find it: ThinkGeek


Need to get something done? Maybe have some books carried with ease? Mr. Meeseeks is here to help with this blue, polyester tote. Just make sure you follow through or you'll have a lot of angry Meeseeks on your hands. 

Find it: Redbubble


Lovers of order and diagrams are definitely a fan of the classic Reed-Kellogg system, which converts sentences into organized trees. This 16-inch wide tote sports the first and last line of Moby-Dick in parsed trees on either side of the bag. 

Find it: Pop Chart Labs


Even a unicorn can be prone to tsundokuThis book-centric tote is based on the famous tapestry "The Unicorn in Captivity." Thankfully, in this version, the unicorn is free and surrounded by books. 

Find it: Society6

10. GUDETAMA; $40

Japan's favorite lazy egg cartoon now comes in bag form. This faux leather tote is 18 inches tall and comes with two little egg arms that hang from the side. The inside is lined with a yellow and white polka dot pattern and has an inner pocket for smaller items. And, it comes with a sunny-side up Gudetama coin purse that closes with a zipper and clips into place.

Find it: ThinkGeek


What if Link was a fox? It would certainly make running through Kokiri Forest a lot easier. This charming design is featured on both sides of the bag, which comes in three different sizes. 

Find it: Society6


Sorry—the tote bag image you were looking for is no longer available. This internet savvy design is printed on an American Apparel cotton tote. Hopefully items inside won't become corrupted like the outside. 

Find it: BZA


The whole solar system (sorry, Pluto) is lined up on this colorful tote. The vibrantly printed bag is covered on both sides and comes in three sizes. 

Find it: Society6


Cameras have undergone a lot of shape and design changes through the years. This collapsible canvas tote shows a variety of camera incarnations, starting with the first Kodak in 1888. The design cuts off before contemporary times, but its matching print shows modern options like the iPhone and GoPro.

Find it: Pop Chart Labs


This screenprinted, light-weight tote takes an old expression and modernizes it. We have to agree, there are a lot of great books out there with terrible movie counterparts.

Find it: Etsy

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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
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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Scientists Think They Know How Whales Got So Big
May 24, 2017
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It can be difficult to understand how enormous the blue whale—the largest animal to ever exist—really is. The mammal can measure up to 105 feet long, have a tongue that can weigh as much as an elephant, and have a massive, golf cart–sized heart powering a 200-ton frame. But while the blue whale might currently be the Andre the Giant of the sea, it wasn’t always so imposing.

For the majority of the 30 million years that baleen whales (the blue whale is one) have occupied the Earth, the mammals usually topped off at roughly 30 feet in length. It wasn’t until about 3 million years ago that the clade of whales experienced an evolutionary growth spurt, tripling in size. And scientists haven’t had any concrete idea why, Wired reports.

A study published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B might help change that. Researchers examined fossil records and studied phylogenetic models (evolutionary relationships) among baleen whales, and found some evidence that climate change may have been the catalyst for turning the large animals into behemoths.

As the ice ages wore on and oceans were receiving nutrient-rich runoff, the whales encountered an increasing number of krill—the small, shrimp-like creatures that provided a food source—resulting from upwelling waters. The more they ate, the more they grew, and their bodies adapted over time. Their mouths grew larger and their fat stores increased, helping them to fuel longer migrations to additional food-enriched areas. Today blue whales eat up to four tons of krill every day.

If climate change set the ancestors of the blue whale on the path to its enormous size today, the study invites the question of what it might do to them in the future. Changes in ocean currents or temperature could alter the amount of available nutrients to whales, cutting off their food supply. With demand for whale oil in the 1900s having already dented their numbers, scientists are hoping that further shifts in their oceanic ecosystem won’t relegate them to history.

[h/t Wired]