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14 Notable Multiple Births (for a total of 69 babies)

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Triplets, quadruplets, quintuplets, and more may seem almost commonplace now compared to years past, at least to those of us who just read about them. But they are anything but commonplace to parents who find themselves suddenly leading a large family! Until just a few decades ago, multiple conceptions were rare, and surviving children from multiple births were extremely rare. Advances in prenatal diagnosis and neonatal care have raised the odds of survival, and fertility drugs have increased the incidence of multiple pregnancies. Scientists believe another factor is the growing tendency for women to give birth at an older age, since multiples are more common in older mothers.

Triplets

296Coble.jpgTriplets occur naturally only in one of about 6400 births, but the rate has skyrocketed with the use of fertility therapies. On May 4, 2007, Kyle, Emma, and Katie Coble, ages 5, 4, and 2, were killed in a car wreck that injured their mother and grandmother. Their parents, Lori and Chris Coble couldn't imagine life without children and opted for in-vitro fertilization a few months later. Three of the ten fertilized embryos were viable, and the Cobles insisted on implanting all three, even though their doctor preferred to use only two. The triplets were born on May first, and are said to be doing well at a hospital in Orange County, California. The two girls and a boy are named Ashley, Ellie and Jake.

Quadruplets

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The Keys quadruplets were born in 1915 in Hollis, Oklahoma. Alma Keys knew something was different about her fifth pregnancy, but she didn't know what until the four girls were born. The family turned down circus and freak show offers, but put the four on display every year at the state fair to raise money. The quadruplets were granted a full scholarship to Baylor University and graduated together in 1937.
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The Fultz quadruplets were four identical girls born in 1946 in Rockingham, North Carolina. They grew up advertsing Pet Milk products. Three of the Fultz sisters died of breast cancer; the remaining sibling, Catherine Fultz Griffin, was treated for breast cancer. The News-Record of North Caroina has the story of the Fultz quads in a six-part series.
Continue reading for more quads, quints, sexts, septs, and more.

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Lee and Pam Deschler of Pennsylvania kept an online diary from the time they found out they were going to have four babies at once until the children were 5 and a half. Most quadruplets are born around 29 weeks of pregnancy (39-40 weeks is normal for a single pregnancy). With the help of first-class medical supervision at Good Samaritan Medical Center in Phoenix, Arizona, the babies were delivered at 32 weeks and 5 days, weighing 3-4 pounds each. Reading their story gives one just a taste of how scary carrying multiple babies can be.

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Karen Jepp of Calgary, Alberta bore four daughters last August, a rare instance of identical quadruplets. The babies were conceived without fertility drugs, and were delivered two months early. The odds of identical quadruplets are about one in 13 million. Less than 50 cases appear in medical records (including the Fultz quads). Karen and her husband J.P. traveled to Great Falls, Montana for the Caesarian birth, making the four girls American citizens. The quadruplets have been home a few months now, and are thriving.

Quintuplets

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The Dionne sisters were the first quintuplets to survive infancy. The five identical girls were born prematurely on May 28, 1934, near Corbeil, Ontario to Elzire and her husband Oliva Dionne. The government of Ontario took custody of the girls from their parents and raised them in a specially-built facility that came to be known as Quintland. Marie, Cecile, Yvonne, Emilie, and Annette were made wards of the crown to protect them from exploitation. However, they were exploited by their new guardians. The quints lived an isolated life while Quintland saw millions of visitors (and dollars). The family regained custody when the sisters were nine years old, but they never bonded with their biological parents. They later broke off all contact with the family. The two surviving sisters, Annette and Cécile, are almost 74. An extensive history of the Dionne quints is online at Quintland. Also see videos of the Dionne quintuplets.

268diligenti.jpg The Diligenti quintuplets were born in Argentina in 1943. Their parents, Italian immigrant Franco Diligenti and opera singer Ana Aversano kept the event a secret, going so far as to register the births in different districts. They were determined to shield their children from the intense publicity surrounding the Dionne family, and were, for the most part, successful. Now age 64, the Diligenti quints are the world's oldest complete set of quintuplets.
266Fischer.jpgThe Fischer quintuplets were the first known set of surviving quintuplets in the US. The four girls and a boy were born on September 14th, 1963 in Aberdeen, South Dakota. Their childhood was documented in magazines and in collectible kitsch, such as dolls and calendars. As they approach 45, all the quintuplets still live in the Aberdeen area.

Sextuplets

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The Dilley sextuplets were the first surviving sextuplets in the United States. The family and their medical team were prepared for quintuplets after an ultrasound detected five heartbeats. After delivering five by Caesarian section, there was still another baby underneath! The four boys and two girls will turn 15 years old on May 25th. See a video of the family.
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Kate Gosselin has only been pregnant twice, but delivered eight children. Twin girls were born in 2000, followed by sextuplets in 2004. The delivery of the three boys and three girls was attended by a team of 50 doctors, nurses, and specialists in Hershey, Pennsylvania. The Gosselin family has a reality show on The Learning Channel (TLC) called John and Kate Plus 8, airing Mondays at 9PM EDT. You can read their story at the family's website.
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The Harris sextuplets of Birmingham, Alabama were born on July 7, 2002. They are the first surviving set of African-American sextuplets in the USA, all born healthy. Like the Dilleys, they were expecting quintuplets and were surprised at the sixth child. In 2005, the TV show Extreme Makeover Home Edition sent the six toddlers, along with their parents Chris and Diamond and older brother Dewayne to Walt Disney World and built them a new 5,800 square foot home.

Septuplets

Patti Frustaci was the first woman in the US to give birth to septuplets. The four boys and three girls were delivered by Caesarian section 12 weeks prematurely. One girl was stillborn, and two boys and a girl died within 19 days from hyaline membrane disease, a complication of prematurity. The three surviving infants, Richard, Patricia and Stephen were found to have developmental deficits and cerebral palsy. Sam and Patti Frustaci sued their fertility doctor and clinic and accepted a 2.7 million dollar settlement. The couple later conceived healthy twins, but the family broke up sometime afterward.

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Kenny and Bobbi McCaughey produced the world's first surviving set of septuplets on November 19, 1997. The babies were conceived with the help of fertility drugs. The McCaugheys received some negative publicity due to their decision not to have "selective reduction" performed in order to boost the survival chances of the remaining babies. The septuplets were delivered nine weeks prematurely, and two of the children have cerebral palsy. The family grants very few interview requests outside of yearly updates with Ladies Home Journal (posing here with their older sister Mikayla) and Dateline NBC, where you can see their tenth birthday report.

Octuplets

300chuckwu.jpgThe first octuplets born in the US were the offspring of Nkem Chukwu and her husband Iyke Louis Udobi of Houston, Texas. The oldest, a girl named Ebuka was born December 8th, 1998, 15 weeks prematurely. A medical team was able to delay the other babies until their Caesarian delivery on December 20th. All the babies weighed less than two pounds. The smallest, a 10.3 ounce girl named Odera, died a week after birth. The remaining five girls and two boys are reportedly healthy at nine years old.
There have been a few cases recorded of nontuplets conceived, but no incidences of any of the children surviving.

Further Reading
List of multiple births.
The History of High-order Multiples.
Quintuplet 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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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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