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10 Earth Day Celebrations Around the World

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Saturday, April 22 is Earth Day, celebrated since 1970 to raise awareness of global environmental issues and activism. Events and celebrations, coordinated by the Earth Day Network, are held around the world.

1. SUSTAINABILITY AND SOCIAL GOOD POP-UP // NEW YORK CITY

More than 70 organizations come together for Earth Day in New York City, and one event sponsored by the Earth Day Initiative and Kargoe (a social shopping app) is a pop-up shop of sorts featuring companies and groups that support sustainability and social responsibility. The event will be held near Chelsea Piers from 11 a.m. until 6 p.m on Saturday.

2. EARTH DAY UNITED // COPENHAGEN, DENMARK

Earth Day United via Facebook

Earth Day United will be held at Christiansborg Castle Square in Copenhagen on April 22. It will begin with an address by organizer Angajoq Nattortalissuaq (a Greenlandic shaman), and then a circle will be formed for sessions of drum-playing, aimed at all four corners of the world. Participation is free; bring your own drum or other musical instruments. There will be 15 minutes of drumming every half-hour for two hours, then the group is invited to join the March for Science.

3. EMPOWER EARTH DAY CELEBRATION // LONDON

There are at least seven bands scheduled to perform at The Hive in London for an Earth Day celebration sponsored by the Gaia Warriors, a collective of activists and musicians. The event will raise funds for British charities and groups fighting climate change and will feature environmental speakers, dance, yoga, shamans, a vegan cafe, and more.

4. EARTH DAY PARADE AND FESTIVAL // VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA

Mark Faviell via Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

The 7th annual Earth Day Parade and Festival will take place in Vancouver on April 22 beginning at 1 p.m. A parade starts things off, with the festival, which includes various educational talks and activities, continuing at Grandview Park until 5 p.m. The event is sponsored by Youth for Climate Justice Now.

5. GLOBAL UNITY AND REGENERATION GATHERING // LANJARON, SPAIN

New Earth Nation in Lanjarón, Granada, Spain, will hold a 24-hour Global Unity and Regeneration Gathering with presentations and workshops on environmentalism, healing, and awakening. Stop by to learn how to cultivate spirulina pools or make a self-regenerating water system for use at home.

6. EARTH DAY TOKYO // TOKYO, JAPAN

In Tokyo, Earth Day is a two-day celebration, this year on April 22 and 23 in Yoyogi Park. Around 100,000 visitors are expected to enjoy family activities and learn about businesses that use sustainable methods and materials and organizations that promote environmental protection. There will also be plenty of vegetarian food and music from socially conscious entertainers. Admission is free.

7. NURRAGINGY RESERVE NATURE WALKS // SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA

Nurragingy Reserve is a public park in Doonside, New South Wales, near Sydney. For Earth Day, the park has a full slate of activities, including four different nature walks with experts, storytelling, a recycled bike giveaway, and talks on attracting frogs and birds to your home garden.

8. EARTH DAY SAN FRANCISCO // SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA

San Francisco will stage their street festival for Earth Day at the San Francisco Civic center. Events include the sustainable chef showcase and organic food court, an eco fashion show, DIY workshops, activities for kids, an art gallery, and lots of live music. This will be the 46th year the city has held an Earth Day Festival and is being held in conjunction with this year's March for Science.

9. EARTH EXPO // JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA

Earth Expo via Facebook

South Africa is among the countries that call April 22 International Mother Earth Day. The Rand Show is the biggest consumer exposition in South Africa, held this year from April 14-23 in Johannesburg, and a big part of the exposition is Earth Expo, which is sponsored by several environmental organizations. Earth Expo will present educational forums on topics like nutrition, fashion, and technology, and discuss entrepreneurship and developing skills with those who want to make their businesses more sustainable.

10. THE MARCH FOR SCIENCE // UNITED STATES AND ELSEWHERE

There will be Earth Day celebrations all over the United States, but the one you'll see on the news will be the March for Science In Washington, D.C., with satellite marches in at least 425 other locations around the world. Scientists, science students, and science fans will converge to advocate for evidence-based government policies and environmental protection. The march is sponsored by 170 partner organizations, including the Earth Day Network. Many European countries are participating, too.

Other Earth Day celebrations will be taking place around the U.S., in Austin, Los Angeles, St. Louis, Cincinnati, Reno, and somewhere near you.

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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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Nick Briggs/Comic Relief
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What Happened to Jamie and Aurelia From Love Actually?
May 26, 2017
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Nick Briggs/Comic Relief

Fans of the romantic-comedy Love Actually recently got a bonus reunion in the form of Red Nose Day Actually, a short charity special that gave audiences a peek at where their favorite characters ended up almost 15 years later.

One of the most improbable pairings from the original film was between Jamie (Colin Firth) and Aurelia (Lúcia Moniz), who fell in love despite almost no shared vocabulary. Jamie is English, and Aurelia is Portuguese, and they know just enough of each other’s native tongues for Jamie to propose and Aurelia to accept.

A decade and a half on, they have both improved their knowledge of each other’s languages—if not perfectly, in Jamie’s case. But apparently, their love is much stronger than his grasp on Portuguese grammar, because they’ve got three bilingual kids and another on the way. (And still enjoy having important romantic moments in the car.)

In 2015, Love Actually script editor Emma Freud revealed via Twitter what happened between Karen and Harry (Emma Thompson and Alan Rickman, who passed away last year). Most of the other couples get happy endings in the short—even if Hugh Grant's character hasn't gotten any better at dancing.

[h/t TV Guide]

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