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11 Monarchs Crowned While They Were in Diapers

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Babies sure are cute. But do they make good world leaders? Here’s a peek at some of history’s youngest rulers and their reigns.

1. King Oyo (Toro Kingdom, Uganda)

In 1995, Oyo became the youngest monarch in the world. He was three years old. When the coronation ceremony began, the toddler slid off the throne, ran away, and hid in his mother’s lap. Nowadays, he sits more comfortably. He rules the Toro Kingdom, a southwestern patch of Uganda that 2 million people call home. The 20-year-old oversees a cabinet and is advised by Uganda’s President, Yoweri Museveni.

2. Emperor Puyi (China)

China’s last emperor was one of its youngest: In 1908, Puyi became emperor at two years old. When the crowning ceremony began, Puyi (standing next to his father) had to be carried to the throne by his father. The king-to-be was scared, and he kicked, clawed, and cried the entire time. When Puyi was six years old, a revolution erupted and the Chinese dynasty crumbled.

3. Pomare III (Tahiti)

Some babies shake rattles. Others shake up politics. Pomare III did both: he became King of Tahiti at 17 months. His mother acted as his regent, but the little king didn’t last. He died at the age of five from an unknown disease and was succeeded by his 14-year-old sister.

4. Henry VI (England)

Henry VI was the bouncing baby king of not one, but two countries. In 1422, an eight-month-old Henry became England’s youngest King. Two months later, he became France’s King. He didn’t keep the latter title for long. By 1429, Joan of Arc had helped the French take the country back. England eventually lost the Hundred Years’ War, and Henry literally went insane. When he recovered, the War of the Roses erupted, and Henry landed on the losing side again. When he was 43, Henry was locked away in the Tower of London, where he eventually died.

5. Sobhuza II (Swaziland)

Sobhuza II became King of Swaziland before he could take his first step: the tyke was crowned when he was four months old. He’d keep the job for 82 years. Sobhuza II saw Swaziland gain its independence from Britain in 1968. That same year, he helped write a constitution, which he ditched in 1973. He became an absolute ruler and left behind almost 70 wives when he died.

6. Emperor Shang of Han (China)

There you are. Standing in line at the supermarket, stuck behind that mother who incessantly babbles about her child. It’s the world’s most perfect baby, she says. It will become the next Einstein, she says. It’s a pooping prodigy, she says. Well, if you’re ever cornered at register number four, just shush her by saying, “Did you know Shang of Han became Emperor of China when he was barely 100 days old? He ruled an entire country before he had any teeth!” Sure, Shang ruled for only one year before his 12-year-old cousin took over, but his resume is still more impressive than that of any supermarket super-child.

7. Tsar Ivan VI (Russia)

When he was two months old, Ivan VI was crowned Tsar of Russia. And it was all downhill from there. Ivan and his regents held power for just one year before Elizaveta Petrovna deposed them in 1741. Ivan spent 20 years in solitary confinement, moving from fortress to fortress. When Ivan was 23, he was murdered by his jail guards.

8. Mary Queen of Scots

Mary’s reign was sandwiched between two baby Kings. Her father, James, was 17 months old when he was crowned King. Her son, also James, was 13 months old when he became the Scottish ruler. Mary, however, beat them both: She became Queen of Scotland when she was six days old. Unfortunately, she was forced to hand over the Scottish crown to her son when she was only 25.

9. John I of France

John I became King of France the day he was born (his father had died four months earlier, in July 1316). Unfortunately, John’s reign was one of the shortest in history: he died five days later. His Uncle Philip, who served as regent, took over the throne. Some suspect that Philip poisoned the infant king.

10. Alfonso XIII of Spain

Alfonso XIII was born May 17, 1886. That same day, he became Spain’s King. Despite having his entire childhood to practice, Alfonso never became a good ruler. During his reign, Spain lost its last colonies, it became overrun by a military dictator, and the monarchy dissolved. Alfonso abdicated his rights to the crown in 1941 after Francisco Franco assumed control.

11. Shah Shapur II (Sassanid Empire)

Legend has it that in year 309, Persian nobles placed a crown upon the belly of King Hormizd II’s widow. Inside was history’s first fetal king: Shah Shapur II. The in utero ruler was the ninth leader of the Sassanid Empire, a powerful Persian kingdom covering modern Iran. Shapur II ruled for 70 years. In the late 4th century, he successfully ousted Christianity from the Middle East.

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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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