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Why Carlton has two moms: 5 TV Switches we weren't supposed to notice

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Having more than one actor portray the same character happens more often than you'd think on many popular TV series. The reason behind the switcheroo is not always explained to the viewing public, which means of course that we automatically assume the actor asked for a raise. But that's not always the case.

1. Yo, Janet, smell ya later!

Vivian & Vivian

Janet Hubert-Whitten portrayed Will Smith's Aunt Vivian on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air from 1990 until 1993. Her real-life pregnancy wasn't an issue, as it was written into the script. So why was she replaced by Daphne Reid for the series' last three seasons? The official explanation at the time was that she'd gained 60 pounds and had become "hormonally difficult," but in a revealing interview in Jet magazine, Will Smith stated, "I can say straight up that Janet Hubert wanted the show to be The Aunt Viv of Bel-Air Show. She said once, "˜I've been in the business for 10 years and this snotty-nosed punk comes along and gets a show.'"

2. Poor Durwood... er, Darrin

Darrin & Darrin

An even more famous example of the old actor switcheroo is Dick York, the original (and to many fans, the definitive) Darrin on Bewitched. York started his professional acting career in 1943 and found steady work both on TV and in films. While filming They Came to Cordoba with Gary Cooper and Rita Hayworth in 1959,

a mishap aboard a railroad handcar caused York to tear most of the muscles in the right side of his back, an injury that would plague him the rest of his life.

During his tenure on Bewitched, the pain became increasingly worse, despite the studio doctors loading him up with painkillers. Eventually, he was only able to stand upright for 30 minutes at a time, so he retired his role to Dick Sargent.

More switches after the jump.

3. "They say she's the same, but she isn't the same..."

Becky & Becky

The role of eldest daughter Becky on Roseanne was something of a revolving door. Alicia "Lecy" Goranson played Becky from 1988 until 1992, when she graduated from high school and enrolled at Vassar College. At first, she was able to make occasional cameo appearances on the show, so the writers developed the Becky-elopes-with-Mark storyline to explain her absence. But soon her studies took priority, and Sarah Chalke was hired as Becky #2. By 1997, Goranson was again able to schedule some Roseanne time, temporarily bumping Chalke out of the role. Personal circumstances forced her to miss a few episodes, leaving Chalke to pinch-hit for her occasionally.

The show's producers never tried to conceal the actress switch and actually poked fun at it in several episodes.

4. Who shot my career in the neck?

Ellie & Ellie

Barbara Bel Geddes originated the role of Southfork matriarch Miss Ellie on Dallas. She exuded a quiet strength that enabled her to stand up to J.R. while also nurturing Jock and letting him think that he ran the ranch. In 1984, Bel Geddes took a break from the show for heart bypass surgery, and during her post-operative recovery she decided that she'd worked long enough and it was time to retire. Donna Reed was brought in as the new Miss Ellie, but Dallas fans openly expressed their displeasure with Reed's glamour versus Bel Geddes' earth mother persona. More to the point, Larry Hagman disliked her. So when the show's ratings dipped, he made a personal appeal to Bel Geddes to return to the series. Reed was dismissed despite having signed a three-year contract.

5. A pair of Partridges

Chris & Chris

Jeremy Gelbwaks was originally cast as the youngest son, Chris, on The Partridge Family. Of course, the best lines on PF went to Shirley Jones, David Cassidy, and Danny Bonaduce. The youngest kids were pretty much just there to fill out the family band and occasionally look cute during close-ups. Gelbwaks left after the first season; the official party line was that his father's job had transferred the family out of state. However, Danny Bonaduce has since revealed that

Jeremy had been something of a terror on-set, known for pranks such as kicking his fellow actors viciously in the shins just before the director yelled "Action!"

He was replaced by blond, blue-eyed Brian Forster, who looked nothing like his predecessor. Nevertheless, producers reported only receiving one fan letter questioning the change.As always, now is the time to weigh in with your opinion "“ real Becky or fake Becky? York or Sargent? Do you even remember the first Chris Partridge? Enquiring flossy minds want to know!

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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
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technology
Man Buys Two Metric Tons of LEGO Bricks; Sorts Them Via Machine Learning
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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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© Nintendo
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fun
Nintendo Will Release an $80 Mini SNES in September
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© Nintendo

Retro gamers rejoice: Nintendo just announced that it will be launching a revamped version of its beloved Super Nintendo Classic console, which will allow kids and grown-ups alike to play classic 16-bit games in high-definition.

The new SNES Classic Edition, a miniature version of the original console, comes with an HDMI cable to make it compatible with modern televisions. It also comes pre-loaded with a roster of 21 games, including Super Mario Kart, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, Donkey Kong Country, and Star Fox 2, an unreleased sequel to the 1993 original.

“While many people from around the world consider the Super NES to be one of the greatest video game systems ever made, many of our younger fans never had a chance to play it,” Doug Bowser, Nintendo's senior vice president of sales and marketing, said in a statement. “With the Super NES Classic Edition, new fans will be introduced to some of the best Nintendo games of all time, while longtime fans can relive some of their favorite retro classics with family and friends.”

The SNES Classic Edition will go on sale on September 29 and retail for $79.99. Nintendo reportedly only plans to manufacture the console “until the end of calendar year 2017,” which means that the competition to get your hands on one will likely be stiff, as anyone who tried to purchase an NES Classic last year will well remember.

In November 2016, Nintendo released a miniature version of its original NES system, which sold out pretty much instantly. After selling 2.3 million units, Nintendo discontinued the NES Classic in April. In a statement to Polygon, the company has pledged to “produce significantly more units of Super NES Classic Edition than we did of NES Classic Edition.”

Nintendo has not yet released information about where gamers will be able to buy the new console, but you may want to start planning to get in line soon.

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