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Peeps Imitate Life: 11 Sweet Marshmallow Scenes

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Since we published Heaps of Peeps two years ago, many, many creative people have taken a stab at making whimsical dioramas using our favorite marshmallow chicks and bunnies. They illustrate scenes from movies, books, songs, and TV shows, but I'm very impressed by the many that recreate real life scenes from history, the news, and just plain life.

1. Octopeeps

The Chicago Tribune has a Peeps diorama contest called Peeps on Parade. One of the many entries is Octopeeps, a tableau that depicts new babies of mother-of-14 Nadya Suleman.

2. Thrilla in Manila

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From last year's Washington Post's diorama contest, Sam Chin and friends made a scene called Thrilla in Manila, illustrating prisoners in Cebu, Philippines doing their Thriller dance. See a slide show of all the finalists from 2008.

3. The Peepatrator

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One of the winners from the Washington Post diorama competition last year depicted ex-senator Larry Craig in the infamous restroom scene.

4. Hung Jury

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The ABA Journal has a contest called Peeps in Law. This entry by the McDonough family is called Hung Jury. After all, one of our basic rights is a trial by a jury of our Peeps!

5. U2 3D

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A team from National Geographic put Peeps in a concert hall as U2 as they appear in the film U2 3D.

6. Yes, We Did

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The celebration of Barack Obama's victory in the US presidential election took many forms, including Peeps! Image by Victoria Bernal.

7. Wreck of the Edmund Peepsgerald

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Peeps recreate history in this diorama depicting the last moments of the SS Edmund Fitzgerald, a freighter that sank in a storm on Lake Superior in 1975 and memorialized in a song by Gordon Lightfoot. Image by Anita Ritenour.

8. Peeposuction

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Cosmetic surgery is more popular and accessible today than ever before. If humans can get a little work done, why not Peeps? Image by lonecellotheory.

9. Hunting with Veep Peep

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Candace MacGuire and Sally Theder illustrated then-vice president Dick Cheney' unfortunate hunting trip with Peeps for the 2006 Seattle Times competition.

10. Give Peeps a Chance

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Peeps take to the streets just like their human counterparts do to protest war and injustice. Image by Tony Case.

11. Peep Show

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In a scene seen in human cities all over, Peeps put on strip show complete with pole dancers! Image by Adam Ross.
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Hurry and put your Peeps together! Some of the linked conrtests are still taking entries. Also check out the National Geographic Peeps in Places photo contest; the deadline for entry is Wednesday. has been extended to April 13th.
See also: Heaps of Peeps

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Looking for smart gift ideas? In search of a new quirky t-shirt? Head over to 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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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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