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How 8 Denver Neighborhoods Got Their Names

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LoDo. RiNo. Like many cities, Denver, Colorado has its fair share of neighborhood names that have been made up for business and gentrification purposes. But several of the city’s neighborhoods have much deeper histories—and connections to the city’s long-ago status as a mining boom metropolis. Here are the stories behind eight of Denver’s most notable neighborhood names.


Auraria Library via Wikimedia // CC BY-SA 4.0

You might think that Auraria got its name from the school that’s in its midst, the Auraria Higher Education Center, but you’d be wrong. Auraria is older than Denver itself. The neighborhood was originally a mining town named after the founders’ hometown of Auraria, Georgia, itself named after the Latin word for gold, aurum. The town was founded in 1858 after gold was found in Cherry Creek, but a competing boom town, Denver, was founded just weeks later. Denver survived, and Auraria was incorporated into it in 1860, after which it became more commonly known as West Denver. It’s been a part of the city ever since.


The Phipps mansion. Image credit: Jeffrey Beall via Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0

At first, Belcaro wasn’t a neighborhood, it was a mansion owned by Colorado Senator Lawrence Phipps (the name broadly means beautiful dear one in Italian). Weirdly, the 33,000-square-foot mansion was commissioned during the Great Depression as a way of creating jobs. The mansion became an icon and sparked a neighborhood name—it even has a variety of broccoli rabe named after it.


Baker isn’t named after the people who founded it. It’s the land originally homesteaded by Elizabeth and William Byers, who settled there in the 1850s. However, the general area had several names, such as “Broadway Terrace,” until the 1970s, when the City of Denver named it after Baker Junior High. In turn, the school was named after James Hutchins Baker, a famous Denver educator who never lived in the neighborhood.


Back in the day, Five Points marked the start of Denver’s suburbs. It got its name for the spot where the original Denver ended and the suburbs began—a place where Denver’s diagonal grid meets Washington Street, 26th Avenue, Welton Street, and 27th Street. (The roads still get slightly wonky at that convergence.) The name was first popularized by the Stout Street Herdic Coach Company, a horse-powered bus company that used the name as one of its destinations. However, the designation apparently incensed Denverites who worried that its similarity to an infamous New York neighborhood would make visitors think it was a slum. Five Points went on to become a historically black neighborhood known as “The Harlem of the West” and remains one of the city’s oldest neighborhoods.


Eekim via Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Capitol Hill is even older than Five Points, but it wasn’t always known for the golden state capitol dome that now graces its titular hill. In fact, it was also called “Quality Hill” because of the large number of mining millionaires who chose to make their homes there. Though the neighborhood is now known for its hustle and bustle, it used to be tightly controlled by its rich residents, who fought for its tidiness and exclusivity.


Named after the creek that runs through Denver, much of Cherry Creek was once its own town called Harman (sometimes misspelled as Harmon). Named after Edwin P. Harman, a Southern landowner who owned much of the original area, the town was apparently formed “because irrigation for crops and trees was needed for protection against tramps, bums, bummers, and the liquor traffic.” The town lasted for fewer than ten years and was annexed into Denver in 1895.


Saint Joseph's Polish Roman Catholic Church. Jeffrey Beall via Flickr // CC BY-ND 2.0

Like its namesake globe, Globeville was once international in flavor. It was named after the Globe Smelting and Refining Company, which attracted a wide variety of European workers to the area. By the 1920s the area had residents of more than 50 nationalities, according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. Too bad all the smelting there left a Superfund site behind.


Jeffrey Beall via Wikimedia //CC BY-SA 3.0

The Highlands neighborhood (also called Highland) got its name because it was on higher ground than the Platte River. It was originally its own town, called Highlands, which consisted of several smaller neighborhoods—more than 35 at one point. Highlands was only annexed to Denver in 1896, three years after the Silver Panic caused a citywide depression. The town prided itself on its clean air and water far above the city’s coal mining operations, and was home to a number of sanatoriums.

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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
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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One Bite From This Tick Can Make You Allergic to Meat
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We like to believe that there’s no such thing as a bad organism, that every creature must have its place in the world. But ticks are really making that difficult. As if Lyme disease wasn't bad enough, scientists say some ticks carry a pathogen that causes a sudden and dangerous allergy to meat. Yes, meat.

The Lone Star tick (Amblyomma americanum) mostly looks like your average tick, with a tiny head and a big fat behind, except the adult female has a Texas-shaped spot on its back—thus the name.

Unlike other American ticks, the Lone Star feeds on humans at every stage of its life cycle. Even the larvae want our blood. You can’t get Lyme disease from the Lone Star tick, but you can get something even more mysterious: the inability to safely consume a bacon cheeseburger.

"The weird thing about [this reaction] is it can occur within three to 10 or 12 hours, so patients have no idea what prompted their allergic reactions," allergist Ronald Saff, of the Florida State University College of Medicine, told Business Insider.

What prompted them was STARI, or southern tick-associated rash illness. People with STARI may develop a circular rash like the one commonly seen in Lyme disease. They may feel achy, fatigued, and fevered. And their next meal could make them very, very sick.

Saff now sees at least one patient per week with STARI and a sensitivity to galactose-alpha-1, 3-galactose—more commonly known as alpha-gal—a sugar molecule found in mammal tissue like pork, beef, and lamb. Several hours after eating, patients’ immune systems overreact to alpha-gal, with symptoms ranging from an itchy rash to throat swelling.

Even worse, the more times a person is bitten, the more likely it becomes that they will develop this dangerous allergy.

The tick’s range currently covers the southern, eastern, and south-central U.S., but even that is changing. "We expect with warming temperatures, the tick is going to slowly make its way northward and westward and cause more problems than they're already causing," Saff said. We've already seen that occur with the deer ticks that cause Lyme disease, and 2017 is projected to be an especially bad year.

There’s so much we don’t understand about alpha-gal sensitivity. Scientists don’t know why it happens, how to treat it, or if it's permanent. All they can do is advise us to be vigilant and follow basic tick-avoidance practices.

[h/t Business Insider]