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8 Smooches That (sort-of) Shook the World

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Considering how much fuss Richard Gere has gotten over his "obscene" attempts to plant an unwanted Hollywood-style kiss on Bollywood star Shilpa Shetty (Indian extremists have been salivating over the images and calling for Gere's arrest), we figured we'd investigate a few other lip-smacking shockers. You know, things that stunned the world, stopped the presses, or were thoroughly over-hyped for one reason or another.

_42878861_ahmadinejadafp203.jpg1. The Iranian Gloved Kiss
While we're not exactly fans of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Iranian Prez was recently accused of "indecent behavior" when he got caught kissing the thickly-gloved hand of his first grade teacher. Quick to act, a Hezbollah newspaper berated the smooth operator for behaving contrary to Sharia law. Of course, this isn't the first time the so-called forward-thinking Ahmadinejad has been criticized for his lefty views. The conservative leader has taken flak from ultra-conservative leaders for making such inflammatory statements as "women should be allowed to watch soccer matches."

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2. Star Trek's Interracial Kiss
I'm not sure what's most amazing about Nichelle Nichols—that the actress was discovered by Duke Ellington, that she became the first black character on TV to play a non-stereotypical role, that she was involved in television's first interracial (black/white) kiss, or that she actually got Martin Luther King, Jr. to become a Trekkie?! I'd have to say the last, since it was the civil rights activist who convinced Nichols to weather the public harassment and stay on the show, but the kiss was pretty revolutionary as well. Except that it wasn't really a kiss. Despite the public outrage and supposed banning of the show in various cities, Captain Kirk and Lt. Uhuru never actually locked lips-- NBC censors insisted that the two remain an inch apart at their closest.

AlGoreTipperKiss3.jpg3. Al Gore's Convenient Kiss
Who can forget when old Al planted one on the Tipster in 2000 to highlight his faith in monogamy and energize the Democratic National Convention? While ostensibly spontaneous, the make-out session was conceived to separate himself from Bill's lecherous ways while making a wooden Gore seem far more red-blooded. And the stunt worked. While turning off some, The Kiss gave Gore a significant boost in the polls. Who knows? If only he'd gotten to second base on stage, maybe he'd have sealed the election.

4. Superman's Kiss
Perhaps one of the most expensive kisses in history, producers on the 1982 film Deathtrap believed that the peck between former Superman actor Christopher Reeve and Michael Caine ended up being box office kryptonite. The quick smooch startled moviegoers, and set the filmmakers back at least $10 million dollars in bad publicity and lost revenue.

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5-7. Awards Show Kisses
Since these are all a little too gossipy, but should probably be included, let's lump "˜em together and keep them quick:

5. The Infamous Angelina Jolie/brother kiss. "I did not give Angie a French kiss, it was something simple and lovely," James Haven insists. Ugh. Simple and lovely? Debatable. Quick? Definitely not.
6. Madonna/Britney MTV kiss. I'm not sure why this was considered controversial and press-worthy since the whole affair was so blatantly manufactured. Perhaps it was just because despite her "I'm not that innocent" declarations, Britney still seemed pretty innocent at the time? What's funnier about the whole thing is that Christina Aguilera was involved in the smooching as well (pictured), and got zero buzz out of her part in the show.
7. The 1994 Michael Jackson/Lisa Marie "We're so in love" kiss. Clearly.

time2.jpg8. Ellen's TV Kiss
Easily one of the most talked about television smooches, the 1997 kiss between actress Laura Dern and comedian Ellen DeGeneres on the "coming out" episode of Ellen sparked a national firestorm. A few Baptist groups boycotted ABC/Disney for months for airing the show, and the Jurassic Park actress Laura Dern said her career was by hindered by the backlash—she was blacklisted in Hollywood for a year following the episode.

Thanks to Sandy Wood and Kara Kovalchik for providing the research. If you spotted any big, controversial or important kisses we missed, drop it in the comments below. You know we dig it when you learn us some facts!

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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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