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24 Pictures of Adorable Cats And Dogs From Meet The Breeds 2012

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Each year, the American Kennel Club throws Meet the Breeds in New York City's Jacob Javits Center. More than 200 breeds of cats and dogs are available for cuddling and photo ops (if you can get them to sit still!). We hit the floor to bring you adorable pictures and interesting factoids about 24 breeds.

Abyssinian


Abyssinians have uniquely colored coats thanks to a dominant mutant gene that gives each strand of fur a base color, then three bands of darker colors. The hair is lighter at the root, and darker at the ends. The first cat to have its entire genome published was an Abyssinian.

English Springer Spaniel

In 19th and early 20th century Britain, a litter of spaniels would be divided up by size: The smaller dogs were used to hunt woodcock, and were called "Cockers"; bigger dogs were used to flush, or spring, game, and were called "Springers." The first English Springer Spaniel came to Canada from England in 1913.

British Shorthair


These cats get their teddy bear good looks thanks to a short but extremely dense coat, which creates a plush effect. Look familiar? The British Shorthair was the inspiration for Puss in Boots and the Cheshire Cat in Alice in Wonderland.

Beagle


Beagles can't be too tall: In the U.S., their height limit is 15 inches; in England, 16 inches.

Savannah


Savannahs are a cross between domestic cats and Servals, a wild African cat; they can weigh 20 pounds or more, and can be trained to walk on a leash. The breed was accepted by the International Cat Association in 2001.

Portuguese Pointer


This breed came from the Orient to the Iberian Peninsula as early as the 14th Century, and was brought to America by Portuguese bird hunters.

Sphynx


The first attempts at creating this breed began in 1966, when a hairless kitten was born in Ontario, Canada. That kitten, a male named Prune, was bred with other cats in an attempt to create more hairless kittens, but because hairlessness is caused by a recessive gene, those attempts had limited success. More naturally hairless cats were found in Minnesota and Toronto between 1975 and 1978, and these cats were bred with Devon Rex, another cat with little body hair. The Sphynx breed—so-named for its resemblance to the Egyptian Sphinx sculpture—traces its history back to those cats.

Cardigan Welsh Corgi


Known as "the corgi with a tail," this breed is descended from the Teckel or Dachshund family. They were not declared to be a separate breed from the better known Pembroke Welsh Corgi until 1934.

Bengal


These exotic-looking felines are a hybrid of domestic cats and Asian leopard cats, which gives their coats a distinctive marbled and spotted pattern. Bengals are only domestic breed that has rosettes—a spot with a center that is halfway between the color of the coat and the color of the spot—like the ones found on jaguars and ocelots.

Norwich Terrier


The ancestors of these dogs—who have a nose for rats and other vermin—came from England's East Anglia and Leicestershire regions, near Cambridge. In fact, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, breeders would sell these terriers to Cambridge University students (the dogs got rid of rats in the dorms).

Devon Rex


The founding father of this breed, Kirlee, was born in 1959. These cats are very intelligent, and can be trained to walk on a leash and perform tricks.

Chinese Crested


These dogs also come in a fully-coated variety called Powderpuff.

Toyger


Since the late 1980s, breeders have been trying to replicate the pattern and colors on the coats of tigers. Hence, the toyger. The cats that started off this trend were a striped domestic shorthair named Scrapmetal; a Bengal named Millwood Rumpled Spotskin; and a street cat from Kashmir, India, named Jammu Blu, who had spots between his ears instead of typical tabby lines.

Bull Terrier


Bull terriers go all the way back to 19th century England, when James Hinks bred existing bull-and-terriers (crosses between bulldogs and various terriers), his own white Bulldog Madman and White English Terriers (which are now extinct). The dogs, called White Cavaliers in that day because of their all-white coats, were crossed with brindle Staffordshire terriers in the early 1900s to create a colored variety.

American Wirehair


This breed is the result of a spontaneous mutation that occurred in a kitten born in upstate New York in 1966. The mutation has not yet been reported in any other country.

Border Terrier


Though this dog was not shown as a specific breed until the late 19th century, it can be seen in paintings of hunting scenes from the 18th century. Border Terriers were used by shepherds, farmers and poachers who needed a terrier who could keep up with the horses, go to ground to kill or bolt game, and fit in comfortably in their homes.

LaPerm Shorthair


These cats first appeared in 1982. Some of these cats are born hairless, then grow sparse, curly coats (some even have curly whiskers), but LaPerms can have straight fur, too.

Wire Fox Terrier


For 100 years, the fox terrier was shown in the United States as one breed with two varieties—Smooth and Wire. Separate standards were approved in 1985. The ancestor of the wire is thought to be rough-coated terriers of Wales, Derbyshire, and Durham.

Maine Coon

The Maine Coon gets its name from a widespread, by biologically impossible, legend—that the breed originated from matings between semi-wild domestic cats and raccoons. Another popular theory: the breed came from six pet cats sent to Wiscasset, Maine by Marie Antoinette as she was planning to escape from France during the French Revolution. Most likely, Maine Coons are a cross between domestic shorthair cats and longhairs brought to America by New England seamen or Vikings.

Pumi


There are only 100 Pumis—a Hungarian dog used for herding sheep and cattle—in the United States.

Ragdoll


The breeder who originally developed the Ragdoll breed claimed the matriarchal cat, Josephine, was genetically altered at a medical center where she was taken after she was hit by a car. Afterward, all of her kittens were born with the laid-back personalities this breed is known for (apparently all the kittens born before Josephine's hospitalization acted like normal kittens).

Nederlandse Kooikerhondje

This quiet dog helped kooikers (decoy men) lure ducks into traps. Its name means small Dutch decoy dog; the breed is not yet fully recognized by the American Kennel Club.

Selkirk Rex


This cat has a thick, plush, curly coat that actually comes from a dominant gene. The first Selkirk was born to a house cat in Montana in 1987, and was bred with a black Persian, creating three curly haired and three straight haired kittens.

Greater Swiss Mountain Dog


This dog is one of the earliest Swiss breeds; it was instrumental in the development of both the St. Bernard and the Rottweiler.

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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
technology
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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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iStock
Animals
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Scientists Think They Know How Whales Got So Big
May 24, 2017
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iStock

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]

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