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4 Royal Scandals Juicier Than Prince Harry's Strip Billiards

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A few days ago, photos of Prince Harry cavorting naked with a blonde hit the web. While the prince has had his share of controversy in the past, including attending a party in a Nazi uniform and getting caught smoking weed, he has a long way to go to catch up to some of his scandalous relatives.

1. George IV

While most Americans think that George III was a tyrant, it was actually his son who took being a horrible monarch to a new level. The licentious George IV was possibly the worst monarch in British history, and even before he took the throne he managed to involve himself in dozens of scandals. Because he was rather unattractive, he found the best way to get women to sleep with him was to offer them what in today’s money would be hundreds of thousands—in some cases, millions—of pounds. However, after he had gotten what he wanted (and often a child or two as well), he would refuse to pay. His father usually ended up footing the bill to make the women go away. It was no wonder George tried to get out of his financial agreements, considering he was a prolific gambler and once had debt collectors surround his residence demanding payment.


But the biggest scandal of his life involved his main mistress, a twice-widowed Catholic woman named Maria Fitzherbert. When she refused to sleep with him, he started sending her suicide notes that ran as long as 42 pages. Eventually she relented—but only if he married her.

Unlike the Prince of Wales today, George simply could not marry a commoner. On top of that, it was actually illegal for him to marry a Catholic. He ignored all that, though, and married Mrs. Fitzherbert in a secret wedding in the dead of night. It was so secret that seemingly everyone in England knew about it within a few months. Ten years later, when his father insisted he get married for real to a foreign princess he hated, George’s illegal marriage threatened to derail the whole thing. In the end he abandoned his mistress and numerous children to do his duty, but his image was tarnished forever.

2. Edward VII

Edward VII was almost certainly the most over-sexed monarch in British history. Throughout his life it is estimated he slept with thousands of women. Some led to scandals, including a former friend threatening to blackmail the prince after he slept with his friend’s wife. But without a doubt it was his very first sexual encounter that sent the strongest shockwaves through the royal family.


Edward (who was called Bertie by his family) had the misfortune of being a libertine in a family of prudes. His parents, Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, had both been virgins when they married and it never occurred to them that their children would ever consider not following that path themselves. But at the age of 19, his parents sent him off to a military camp for the summer, and there he encountered the camp prostitute. Despite being watched like a hawk by his chaperones, he managed to have sex with her three different times, all of which he recorded in his diary.

Eventually one of his chaperones found out what was going on and informed Edward's parents. Their reaction was melodramatic, to say the least. They could never look at him again without being reminded about how he had failed. He could never get married now because his wife would be too good and pure for him. Bertie went back to school at Cambridge, but his father, not content to berate him in letters, came to visit and took his son on a long walk in the rain in order to yell at him some more. When Prince Albert fell ill a short time later, the doctors told Queen Victoria it was due to the shock of her son’s betrayal. Albert died of his illness and Victoria blamed her son and heir for the death of her beloved husband for the rest of her life. All because he got it on with a hooker.

3. Queen Victoria

While she may have been prudish in her younger years, in old age Queen Victoria may have thrown caution to the wind. Once she was widowed, she withdrew almost completely from public life and isolated herself on her country estates. There she became close to a Scottish servant named John Brown (pictured with the Queen). She allowed him to take liberties that no one else would dream of, like calling her “woman” instead of “Your Majesty.” She gave him presents and created special honors and medals to present to him alone. Her children took to calling Brown “Mama’s lover,” and soon rumors were getting back to London about their relationship. Some claimed they slept in adjoining rooms and that a minister had admitted on his death bed that he had presided over a secret marriage between the two. A popular magazine started referring to the queen as Mrs. Brown.

When Brown died, Victoria was distraught. She had a statue of him built and the instructions she left when she died included that she be buried with a lock of his hair, his photograph, and a ring he had given her. After Victoria’s death, her youngest daughter went through her diaries and burned many of the pages that she thought were too dirty to ever see the light of day. Many are presumed to have been about Brown.

Incidentally, like Prince Harry, Queen Victoria was also the subject of a salacious image in her youth, although this one was on purpose. As a gift for her husband early in their marriage she had a racy portrait painted of herself, one which Prince Albert found so sexy that he hid it away in his private office so no one else would ever accidentally see it. The portrait was only recently deemed acceptable for release so be prepared:

4. The Duke of Kent

No member of the royal family has ever been considered more scandalous to the family that the current queen’s Uncle George, the Duke of Kent. His life is considered so unsavory that to this day his papers are sealed at Windsor Castle, and no researchers are allowed to look at them. This may have something to do with the fact that George was bisexual.


As the fourth son of George V and fifth in line to the throne, George, like Prince Harry, knew his chances of becoming king were slim and he was freer than his brothers to live the life he wanted to. And it turned out the life he wanted to live involved lots of sex and drugs.


Before his marriage, he is supposed to have enjoyed the company of thin blonde men, but afterwards his tastes expanded to include a black (female) singer. He was arrested for engaging in homosexual activity at least once, but released when his identity was confirmed. The papers may not have reported on his indiscretions, but all of high society knew about them.

George was also heavily addicted to morphine and cocaine, and was put under house arrest by one of his brothers during the 1920s in an attempt to cure him. It didn’t work.

The Duke was not discreet when it came to writing to his lovers, and was reportedly blackmailed by a male prostitute over his love letters. Other dirty missives by George to Noel Coward were probably stolen from the playwright’s house.

George died in a plane crash at the age of 39. Mystery even surrounds his death. While the official version is that the pilot took the wrong flight path and crashed into a mountain, rumors started circulating that the Prince, a pilot himself, had been flying while drunk. Others spread salacious rumors that his lifestyle had become too much of a liability for his family, and he had been killed on purpose.

Just to be safe, Prince Harry might want to rethink his next game of strip billiards.

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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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8 Common Dog Behaviors, Decoded
May 25, 2017
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Dogs are a lot more complicated than we give them credit for. As a result, sometimes things get lost in translation. We’ve yet to invent a dog-to-English translator, but there are certain behaviors you can learn to read in order to better understand what your dog is trying to tell you. The more tuned-in you are to your dog’s emotions, the better you’ll be able to respond—whether that means giving her some space or welcoming a wet, slobbery kiss. 

1. What you’ll see: Your dog is standing with his legs and body relaxed and tail low. His ears are up, but not pointed forward. His mouth is slightly open, he’s panting lightly, and his tongue is loose. His eyes? Soft or maybe slightly squinty from getting his smile on.

What it means: “Hey there, friend!” Your pup is in a calm, relaxed state. He’s open to mingling, which means you can feel comfortable letting friends say hi.

2. What you’ll see: Your dog is standing with her body leaning forward. Her ears are erect and angled forward—or have at least perked up if they’re floppy—and her mouth is closed. Her tail might be sticking out horizontally or sticking straight up and wagging slightly.

What it means: “Hark! Who goes there?!” Something caught your pup’s attention and now she’s on high alert, trying to discern whether or not the person, animal, or situation is a threat. She’ll likely stay on guard until she feels safe or becomes distracted.

3. What you’ll see: Your dog is standing, leaning slightly forward. His body and legs are tense, and his hackles—those hairs along his back and neck—are raised. His tail is stiff and twitching, not swooping playfully. His mouth is open, teeth are exposed, and he may be snarling, snapping, or barking excessively.

What it means: “Don’t mess with me!” This dog is asserting his social dominance and letting others know that he might attack if they don’t defer accordingly. A dog in this stance could be either offensively aggressive or defensively aggressive. If you encounter a dog in this state, play it safe and back away slowly without making eye contact.

4. What you’ll see: As another dog approaches, your dog lies down on his back with his tail tucked in between his legs. His paws are tucked in too, his ears are flat, and he isn’t making direct eye contact with the other dog standing over him.

What it means: “I come in peace!” Your pooch is displaying signs of submission to a more dominant dog, conveying total surrender to avoid physical confrontation. Other, less obvious, signs of submission include ears that are flattened back against the head, an avoidance of eye contact, a tongue flick, and bared teeth. Yup—a dog might bare his teeth while still being submissive, but they’ll likely be clenched together, the lips opened horizontally rather than curled up to show the front canines. A submissive dog will also slink backward or inward rather than forward, which would indicate more aggressive behavior.

5. What you’ll see: Your dog is crouching with her back hunched, tail tucked, and the corner of her mouth pulled back with lips slightly curled. Her shoulders, or hackles, are raised and her ears are flattened. She’s avoiding eye contact.

What it means: “I’m scared, but will fight you if I have to.” This dog’s fight or flight instincts have been activated. It’s best to keep your distance from a dog in this emotional state because she could attack if she feels cornered.

6. What you’ll see: You’re staring at your dog, holding eye contact. Your dog looks away from you, tentatively looks back, then looks away again. After some time, he licks his chops and yawns.

What it means: “I don’t know what’s going on and it’s weirding me out.” Your dog doesn’t know what to make of the situation, but rather than nipping or barking, he’ll stick to behaviors he knows are OK, like yawning, licking his chops, or shaking as if he’s wet. You’ll want to intervene by removing whatever it is causing him discomfort—such as an overly grabby child—and giving him some space to relax.

7. What you’ll see: Your dog has her front paws bent and lowered onto the ground with her rear in the air. Her body is relaxed, loose, and wiggly, and her tail is up and wagging from side to side. She might also let out a high-pitched or impatient bark.

What it means: “What’s the hold up? Let’s play!” This classic stance, known to dog trainers and behaviorists as “the play bow,” is a sign she’s ready to let the good times roll. Get ready for a round of fetch or tug of war, or for a good long outing at the dog park.

8. What you’ll see: You’ve just gotten home from work and your dog rushes over. He can’t stop wiggling his backside, and he may even lower himself into a giant stretch, like he’s doing yoga.

What it means: “OhmygoshImsohappytoseeyou I love you so much you’re my best friend foreverandeverandever!!!!” This one’s easy: Your pup is overjoyed his BFF is back. That big stretch is something dogs don’t pull out for just anyone; they save that for the people they truly love. Show him you feel the same way with a good belly rub and a handful of his favorite treats.

The best way to say “I love you” in dog? A monthly subscription to BarkBox. Your favorite pup will get a package filled with treats, toys, and other good stuff (and in return, you’ll probably get lots of sloppy kisses). Visit BarkBox to learn more.

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