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6 Things Named After Napoleon

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No matter what you think of him, Napoleon certainly did a number on this world. And whether it's as the savior of revolutionary France or the scourge of Western civilization, his name keeps on keeping on. Of course, not everything "Napoléon" adds luster to his legacy. Here are a few examples to prove it.

1. His Son: Napoleon II

Sadly, Napoléon François Joseph Charles Bonaparte (aka Napoléon II, or, as we like to call him, "the Deuce"), never had a chance to fill his father's shoes. Despite being the son of Emperor Napoléon I, and garnering the title King of Rome at birth in 1811, poor Napoléon II never ruled anything. By the time of his fourth birthday, the First French Empire had already collapsed. Then, after Napoléon I's brief return to power and his final military defeat at Waterloo in 1815, the emperor abdicated in favor of his son. This proved a futile gesture, however. The brilliantly resourceful statesman Charles-Maurice de Talleyrand, a high official in Napoléon's government, had arranged for Louis XVIII to take over a new royalist government. Napoléon's escape from exile on the island of Elba and his short-lived return as emperor didn't convince the French senate to anoint young Napoléon II instead of Louis XVIII.

That wasn't the worst of it for junior, however. Under formal terms of the treaty ending the Napoleonic Wars, young Napoléon also was barred from ever ruling his mother's Italian lands. As duke of Reichstadt (a title based on his mother's Hapsburg lineage), Napoléon the younger spent his short life essentially under guard in Austria, where he died of tuberculosis in 1832. He wasn't confined to Austria forever, though. In 1940, a fellow with an even more nefarious name, Adolf Hitler, disinterred Napoléon's body and sent it packing to Paris, where it could be entombed beside his father's.

2. His Quirk: The Napoleon Complex

A Napoleon complex is nothing more than an inferiority complex that vertically challenged individuals self-treat with an unhealthy dose of belligerence, a healthy pursuit of achievement, or both. Think of the tough little brawler, eager to take on all challengers—especially big ones. Think of singer-songwriter Paul Simon (5-foot-3) and actors Judy Garland (4-foot-11), Danny DeVito (5-feet), Michael J. Fox (5-foot-4), and David Spade (5-foot-7). Then there are basketball's Earl Boykins (5-foot-5) and football's Wayne Chrebet and Doug Flutie (both 5-foot-10). Overachievers all. Think of Britain's prime minister Winston Churchill, for that matter, or Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin. At 5-feet, 6-inches each (the same, by modern measure, as Napoléon I), either of the World War II"“era leaders could have had the complex named after him if Napoléon had not gotten there first.

The idea of a psychological "complex," by the way, wasn't around in Napoléon's time. It arose in 1899, with the publication of Sigmund Freud's Interpretation of Dreams. In that groundbreaking book, Vienna's pioneer of psychoanalysis introduced the term "Oedipus complex," referring to a child's repressed sexual desire for the parent of the opposite gender. Freud can't claim "Napoléon complex," however. It seems to have arisen in the early 1900s as a casual term, more a backhanded insult than a psychological diagnosis.

3. A Pig Named Napoleon

animal-farm.jpgGeorge Orwell's 1945 novel Animal Farm tells of a revolt strikingly close to the one that transformed the Russian Empire into the Soviet Union. That is, except for one minor detail: Orwell's rebels and revolutionaries are a bunch of animals (in the farm sense of the word). Feeling a little oppressed, Mr. Jones's barnyard creatures turn against their owner, drive him off the land, and begin running things themselves under an "all animals are equal" banner.


However, idealism crumbles pretty quickly as an unscrupulous pig named (you guessed it!) Napoleon wrests control, turns on his comrades, and becomes more tyrannical than old Jones ever was. In fact, the sacred "all animals are equal" mantra quickly finds itself warped into something significantly less utopian: "all animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others." In an allegorical sense, Napoleon stands for the USSR's Stalin. But the evil porker's name, after the corporal who hijacked the French Revolution, certainly fits.

4. Napoleon Solo (1964"“1968 Vintage)

The Man from U.N.C.L.E. premiered in 1964 as TV's answer to the James Bond movies, and each episode was packed with espionage, intrigue, sophistication, and action. With Robert Vaughn in the role of Napoleon Solo, a dashing secret agent and ladies' man, the show's popularity grew through the first two seasons. In season three, however, the producers fell under the spell of the competing TV series Batman, starring Adam West. Impressed by the ratings Batman was drawing with its tongue-in-cheek comedy approach to action-adventure, they began taking The Man from U.N.C.L.E. in distinctly comic book directions. The lowest comic denominator didn't work out for the show's ratings, though, and Solo quickly degenerated from sophisticated to camp. In the worst episode, Vaughn danced with a man in a gorilla suit.

5. An Anthropologist Named Napoleon

Until 2000, Napoleon Chagnon was known as author of the best-selling anthropology text of all time: Yanomamö: The Fierce People. But since then, his research has been mired in controversy. The anthropologist, along with geneticist James Neel, inoculated many of the Venezuelan tribe's members. Unfortunately, it was right about this time that the Yanomami experienced their first-ever measles epidemic, leading to thousands of deaths in the region and reducing the tribe to half its original size.

Coincidence? Perhaps. Allegations against Chagnon have divided the anthropological community. Many defend the expedition, claiming it would be impossible for a vaccine to spark such an outbreak. Critics, however, point to the expedition's financier, the Atomic Energy Commission, as proof that the accused were using the Yanomami as human test subjects. Either way, the scandal raised serious questions about the practices of studying indigenous peoples.

6. The Napoléon Complex Martini

chez-nap.jpgWhat's terrible about one part Napoléon Mandarin Liqueur to three parts vodka with an orange peel twist? Nothing, we guess, unless you're a martini purist. No offense to Chez Napoléon on West 50th Street in Manhattan, where the Napoléon Complex is a bartender's specialty, but we'll take ours classic: fine, juniper-scented gin (not vodka); the merest suggestion of dry vermouth (wave the vermouth bottle in the general vicinity of the shaker); and a fat, green, pimento-stuffed olive on a toothpick.

This article was excerpted from Forbidden Knowledge: A Wickedly Smart Guide to History's Naughtiest Bits. You can pick up a copy in the mental_floss store.

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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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This Week's Best Amazon Deals You Can Still Get
May 28, 2017
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Amazon

As a recurring feature, we share some amazing Amazon deals we’ve turned up. These items were the ones that were the most popular with our readers this week, and they’re still available.

Mental Floss has affiliate relationships with certain retailers (including Amazon) and may receive a small percentage of any sale. But we only get commission on items you buy and don’t return, so we’re only happy if you’re happy. Good luck deal hunting! 

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KITCHEN

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Cuisinart CSBP-100 3-in-1 Stuffed Burger Press for $11.47 (list price $14.99)

Wilton Nonstick 6-Cavity Donut Pan for $8.15 (list price $9.99)

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Presto 04820 PopLite Hot Air Popper for $17.55 (list price $29.99)

Contigo AUTOSEAL Transit Stainless Steel Travel Mug, 16 oz, Polar White with Grayed Jade Lid Accent for $15.55 (list price $24.99)

AUTOSPOUT Straw Ashland, 24oz, Monaco for $8.49 (list price $12.99)

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URPOWER 2nd Version Essential Oil Diffuser, 100ml Aroma Essential Oil Cool Mist Humidifier with Adjustable Mist Mode,Waterless Auto Shut-off and 7 Color LED Lights Changing for Home Office Baby for $15.95 (list price $39.99)

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Sherpa Throw Blanket Lt Grey 50x60 Reversible Fuzzy Microfiber All Season Blanket for Bed or Couch by Bedsure for $23.99 (list price $59.99)

Hoover Vacuum Cleaner WindTunnel 3 High Performance Pet Bagless Corded Upright Vacuum UH72630PC for $139.51 (list price $189.99)

LANGRIA Shredded Memory Foam Pillow Firm for Optimal Orthopedic Support, Removable Washable Bamboo Cover Hypoallergenic Anti-Bacterial CertiPUR-US Certification,Queen Size for $12.99 (list price $59.99)

Downy Unstopables In-Wash Scent Booster Beads - FRESH, 26.5 oz. for $10.97 (list price $15.99)

Aszaro Cedar Balls, Cedar Cubes & Cedar Sachets 40 pc Combo Pack | 20 Natural Cedar Wood Balls, 20 Blocks & 5 Bonus Sachets | Ward Off Moths, Mildew And Mustiness For Easy Garment Care for $17.97 (list price $25.99)

Garment Steamer, Holan Portable Handheld Clothes Steamer, Fast Heat-up and 200ml Capacity Fabric Steamer with Two Brushes Perfect for Home and Travel for $17.99 (list price $39.90)

Monkey Hook Picture Hanger Home and Office Pack, 30 pc set for $11.25 (list price $19.75)

Queen Size SafeRest Premium Hypoallergenic Waterproof Mattress Protector - Vinyl Free for $29.95 (list price $95.98)

LUCID Premium Hypoallergenic 100% Waterproof Mattress Protector - 15 Year Warranty - Vinyl Free - Queen for $19.99 (list price $40.00)

HANSLIN Desk Top Swivel Alarm Clock for $23.75 (list price $29.99)

WBM Himalayan Glow 1002 Hand Carved Natural Salt Lamp with Genuine Neem Wood Base/Bulb and Dimmer Control, Crystal, Amber, 8 - 9-Inch, 8 - 11 lb for $30.98 (list price $39.95)

 

HEALTH AND BEAUTY

BS-MALL Makeup Brushes Premium Makeup Brush Set Synthetic Kabuki Cosmetics Foundation Blending Blush Eyeliner Face Powder Brush Makeup Brush Kit (10pcs, Golden Black) for $9.99 (list price $39.99)

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Crest 3D White Luxe Whitestrip Teeth Whitening Kit, Glamorous White, 14 Treatments - Packaging May Vary for $34.69 (list price $44.99)

Gillette Fusion Manual Men’s Razor Blade Refills, 12 Count, Mens Razors / Blades for $33.97 (list price $47.99)

Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry-Touch Sunscreen, Broad Spectrum Spf 45, 3 Fl. Oz., Pack Of 2 for $11.24 (list price $14.99)

Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Body Mist Sunscreen, Broad Spectrum Spf 30, 5 Oz. for $7.47 (list price $10.99)

Thinksport Kid's Safe Sunscreen SPF 50+, 3oz for $10.87 (list price $11.99)

Colgate MaxFresh Wisp Disposable Travel Toothbrush, Peppermint - 24 Count for $3.41 (list price $7.99)

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OFFICE, SCHOOL, AND CRAFTS

SwissGear 1900 Scansmart TSA Laptop Backpack - Black for $54.99 (list price $130.00)

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Fineliner Color Pen Set,0.38mm Colored Fine Line Point,Assorted Colors,10-Count for $6.58 (list price $9.99)

uni-ball 207 Impact Gel Pens, Bold Point (1.0mm), Blue, 12 Count for $20.00 (list price $26.46)

Elmer's Liquid School Glue, Washable, 1 Gallon, 1 Count for $14.08 (list price $20.49)

Westcott Jumbo Circles Template (T-826) for $4.31 (list price $7.00)

Amzdeal Magnifier Eye Glasseses Eye Loupe For Reading Drawing Making handicrafts Repairing for $11.89 (list price $39.99)

OUTDOORS, GARDEN, AND SPORTS

Coleman 12 oz. Enamel Mug for $3.49 (list price $8.98)

Igloo 5 Gallon Seat Top Beverage Jug with spigot for $22.99 (list price $39.99)

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ALPS Mountaineering Crescent Lake 0-Degree Sleeping Bag (Regular) for $43.19 (list price $53.99)

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Imarku BBQ Grill & Baking Mats, Durable , Heat Resistant, Set of 10 Non-Stick Grilling Accessories for $23.99 (list price $49.99)

TOOLS

TIWIN LED Light Bulbs 100 watt equivalent (11W),Soft White (2700K), General Purpose A19 LED Bulbs,E26 Base ,UL Listed, Pack of 6 for $19.99 (list price $23.99)

Kidde FA110 Multi Purpose Fire Extinguisher 1A10BC, 1 Pack for $19.98 (list price $42.99)

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GlowBowl A-00452-01 Motion Activated Toilet Nightlight for $10.40 (list price $24.99)

Mothers 07240 California Gold Clay Bar System for $14.24 (list price $15.37)

J5 Tactical V1-Pro Flashlight The Original 300 Lumen Ultra Bright, LED 3 Mode Flashlight for $12.95 (list price $29.95)

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SE MH1047L Illuminated Multi-Power LED Head Magnifier for $8.94 (list price $15.44)

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