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8 Miraculous Super-Hero Resurrections

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In recent months, some popular comic-book super-heroes "“ including Batman, the Martian Manhunter and the Wasp "“ have died in the line of duty. Yeah, right. Death means nothing for super-heroes, who have a habit of returning to life in various inventive ways. Here are some of the most memorable examples.

1. Lightning Lad

One of the original members of the Legion of Super-Heroes, Lightning Lad (now called Live Wire) was also one of the first super-hero resurrections. When he died in action in 1963, it was a shock to young readers, who weren't used to seeing a good guy die in the comics. Two months later, however, his comrades found a way to revive him. Through the use of lightning rods, one of them could take their life-force into his body. Being selfless and heroic, six of them volunteered (including the legendary Superboy and the not-so-legendary Chameleon Boy). The cliffhanger: which one would be struck by lightning first, reviving Lightning Lad and sacrificing themselves, thereby becoming (as the title of the story suggested) "The Bravest Legionnaire"? In the end, it was Proty, a blob-like alien who had been Chameleon Boy's pet. Lightning Lad was alive, and none of the real Legionnaires had to die.

2. Professor X

profx.jpgIn the third X-Men film, Professor Xavier, the leader and mentor of the X-Men, was killed by Phoenix, only to return in the end. (You missed that bit? One reason to sit through the closing credits.) In the comics, Professor X was killed in 1967 in a blatant attempt to increase sales (in true TV drama style) by killing off a major character. Two years later, when Marvel Comics' editors realized that the team still needed his leadership, they decided to bring him back. Readers discovered that it wasn't Professor X who had died, but the Changeling, a villain who could change his form to look like anyone else. Suffering from a terminal illness, he decided to mend his ways and made a secret deal to replace Professor X while the professor was on a secret mission. Through his sacrifice, the Changeling was redeemed for his crimes.

3. Elektra

elektra.jpgYou might wonder how, after dying in the awful movie Daredevil (probably of embarrassment), martial arts master Elektra (played by Jennifer Garner) returned for her own, even worse, spin-off movie. In the comics, that was all explained. Elektra, created by writer-artist Frank Miller, was killed by the assassin Bullseye in 1982. She was so popular, however, that another writer resurrected her in an occult ceremony by a mystical ninja cult. Though fans had predicted that she'd return to life, not everyone was happy with it "“ especially not Miller, who had always wanted to maintain the power of her death.

4. Superman

death-of-superman.jpgSuperman is the most famous comic-book superhero, and some would say he's the greatest. Whatever the case, his death was certainly the most profitable. The Death of Superman, a 1993 story in which he died in his girlfriend Lois Lane's arms (after saving the world, naturally), made front-page newspaper headlines and sold 100 times more Superman comics than usual. Nobody really expected DC Comics to kill him (not permanently, at least), but the question was: how will he return? DC kept readers waiting for several months, in which other heroes tried to step into his shoes. Eventually, one of these heroes, the Krypton Man (a less ethical version of Superman), used Kryptonian technology to return the original guy to life. He also sacrificed himself in the process, so if Superman dies again, he'll have to find some other way to come back.

5. Hellcat

Hellcat.jpgPatsy Walker has one of the most interesting histories of any comic-book character. She started in 1945 as the wholesome, popular heroine of a humorous comic for girls. In the 1970s, she became a super-hero called Hellcat, fighting alongside the Avengers. She later married a superhero called Son of Satan, which was probably not a smart idea. As her enemies became more demonic, she was driven insane, eventually killing herself in 1994. Another bad move. In 2000, we discovered that she was trapped in Hell, in the "arena of tainted souls." A super-hero team called the Thunderbolts, using magical powers, entered Hell to save another dead superhero, Mockingbird (the wife of their leader, Hawkeye). In a story like the Thracian myth of Orpheus in the Underworld, they were tricked into saving Hellcat instead. (For the record, Mockingbird was also resurrected in a recent comic.)

6. Bucky

bucky.jpgWhen World War II hero Captain America returned in 1964 (having been frozen in ice for 20 years), it was thought that his young sidekick, Bucky Barnes, had died in action. This gave the good Captain several years of angst, in which he blamed himself for Bucky's death. In 2005, however, it was revealed that Bucky was found during the war by the Russian Army, who had "reprogrammed" him as a Soviet assassin during the Cold War. (He still hadn't aged much, because he'd been kept in "stasis" between assassination gigs.) Last year, when Captain America was shot by government agent Sharon Carter (who was under the control of the dastardly Red Skull), Bucky took over as the new Captain America. As Bucky, Sharon and the Red Skull have all "died" in the past, only to return to life, we can probably assume that the original Captain America will also be back.

7. Dupli-Kate

Some heroes' powers make them easy to resurrect. Introduced in Image Comics' Invincible, the Chinese-American adolescent heroine Dupli-Kate had the power to make several copies of herself. She soon struck up a romance with the title hero, the teenage Invincible, until she was killed fighting the Lizard League in 2007. She returned a few months later, however, revealing that only some of her duplicates had died, while the original was hiding somewhere"¦ which doesn't seem terribly heroic, but at least it makes some kind of sense. If you were being chased by a gang called the Lizard League, you'd probably hide somewhere too.

8. Aunt May!

aunt-may.jpgNon-superhuman characters don't get resurrected quite as often, but Spider-Man's loving Aunt May is an exception. When she died peacefully in 1995, fans didn't rush out to protest. She had been an old woman for the past 33 years of comics, and as Spider-Man had been married for some years, she no longer needed to look after him. Her final scenes with Spidey and his wife were actually very poignant. But while fans didn't complain en masse about her death, they weren't happy with other changes that were happening to Spider-Man at the same time. Faced with plummeting sales, Marvel Comics set about fixing things, which included changing just about everything else they had recently done. Hence, it was revealed that Aunt May had been kidnapped and replaced by an actress, who was given plastic surgery to impersonate her, as part of a scheme by the villainous Green Goblin (who, as you might guess, was thought dead). As the actress had fooled Spider-Man and his wife, even on her deathbed, that was one heck of a performance!

A few special mentions:

Freedom Fighters
Some deaths are simply needless. Three members of this team, after fighting evil since World War II, were killed in 2006. They weren't exactly resurrected, but were replaced by a new group of Freedom Fighters with the same names, similar costumes, similar powers and no great difference in personality. Cool death scene, though.

Killed in battle, he was resurrected when his ex-girlfriend, the Scarlet Witch, used her magical powers to create an alternative world in which (among other things) he still existed. Even though that world was later destroyed, Hawkeye somehow managed to survive.

Iron Fist
He was thought to have died in 1986, but he had actually been ambushed by plant-based aliens, who replaced him with another plant-based alien which had taken his form. Got that?

As a robot, this super-heroine has been destroyed no less than four times, but is still fighting fit. They have plenty of electronic geniuses with soldering irons over at Marvel Comics!

This DC Comics hero, able to change his body into practically any material, was sliced in half with a sword. Fortunately, he was able to join himself together again "“ one of his powers that had never previously been revealed (but was very convenient).

The super-hero and powerful cosmic being killed herself (to save the universe from her destructive power) in 1980. But like the original Phoenix, she rose from the ashes (for reasons too complicated to explain). She's now dead again, but X-Men readers don't believe it for a minute.

She died saving the universe, with great hoopla, back in 1985. Soon after, however, the entire history of the universe was changed. Years later, it was revealed that she was still alive after all.

When the most popular member of the Fantastic Four was killed in a battle with the nefarious Doctor Doom, his teammates followed his spirit to the gates of Heaven itself, where he was restored to life by a powerful cosmic being called the Creator.

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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
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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Sponsor Content: BarkBox
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.