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13 Plush Toys Grownups Will Love

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Plush toys really don't serve any serious purpose, and are often bought just to fill a gift obligation. But if you put some thought into it, you can really impress someone with their favorite things, in a form all ready to cuddle up with. You don't even have to look, because the list is right here!

1. Tickle Me Freud
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Forget Tickle Me Elmo! Tickle Me Freud is a serious psychoanalyst until you press his foot, then he shows his real personality with an infectious belly laugh!

2. Monty Python's Killer Rabbit
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From the movie Monty Python and the Holy Grail, this cute little bunny seems harmless, until he bares his teeth and eats you. Available in both original plush-only and electronic flashing-eye version. Run away! Run away!

3. Venereal Disease Microbes
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These toys are greatly magnified versions of the germs that cause Syphilis, Gonorrhea, Chlamydia, and Herpes. Available individually or as a set of four. Other microbes are available from Giant Microbes, from the flu to Mad Cow prions.

Lots more cool plushies, after the jump.

4. DRDs
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The science fiction series Farscape features little Diagnostic Repair Drones, or DRDs. These cute little robots are available in a 12 inch plush form!

5. Aliens
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You wouldn't think of the creature from Alien and its sequels as a cuddly toy, but someone did. Get an Alien Facehugger with Egg, or a somewhat more mature version of the Alien.

6. Cthulhu
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The elder god comes in many forms, including the original Cthulhu plush toy, the superhero version, a goth version, and the special Christmas version.

7. Badger Badger Badger
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A Weebl's Badger is a perfect gift for someone who has spent way too much time amusing themselves on the internet. If you're not familiar with the Badgers, click here.

8. Space Godzilla
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Space Godzilla is a clone of Godzilla, traveling through space via the power of his shoulder crystals! You may remember him from the movie Godzilla vs. Space Godzilla. Other characters from the Godzilla films are available in plush, too!

9. Celebrity Dogs
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These plush dolls are dogs that look like celebrities, from Happytails Pet Boutique. There are currently fourteen different celebrity dogs.

10. Viking Kitten
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I can never again hear Immigrant Song without thinking of kittens. If you know someone like that, they'd love to have a Viking Kitten of their own, from Rathergood. If you're not familiar with the Viking Kittens, click here.

11. Mars

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You've seen soft cuddly Earth globes, but how about Mars? This Hugg-A-Planet Mars features an accurate map of over 400 Mars locations, including the landing spots for exploratory probes.

12. Roadkill Toys
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This is so new, I'm not sure how it will go over. Roadkill Toys is starting out with a plushie called Twitch the Raccoon, who has been squashed flat, complete with blood and guts, all made from 100% polyester. Other roadkill designs are coming soon.

13. Einstein
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And this list wouldn't be complete without mental_floss' mascot, Albert Einstein. Any genius, wannabe genius, or budding genius could use him for inspiration!

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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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