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Oh, the Places Your Ashes Will Go!

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Want to be cremated, but worry that your ashes will just end up buried in a cemetery or sitting in some boring urn? Fear not! Have a look at these 10 bizarre places that ashes have gone.

1. Into a Comic Book

When longtime Marvel Comics editor Mark Gruenwald died in 1996, he left an interesting final wish: he wanted to have his ashes mixed into the ink used in one of Marvel's titles. The company obliged by reprinting a 1985 collection of the Gruenwald-penned Squadron Supreme with the specially prepared ink in 1997. Gruenwald's widow, Catherine, wrote in the book's foreword, "He has truly become one with the story."

2. Into Fireworks

Writer Hunter S. Thompson literally went out with a bang. Thompson's appropriately gonzo 2005 memorial service featured a fireworks show in which each boom and crack dispersed some of the writer's ashes. Johnny Depp underwrote the fireworks display at a cost of $2 million.

3. Up Keith Richards' Nose?

In 2007 music mag NME asked Rolling Stones guitarist to name the strangest thing he'd ever snorted. The reporter was probably expecting an odd answer given Richards' legendary proclivity for partying, but Richards' response was a jaw-dropper. Richards told the magazine, "The strangest thing I've tried to snort? My father. I snorted my father. He was cremated and I couldn't resist grinding him up with a little bit of blow."

Richards went on to explain that snorting a rail of dear old Dad hadn't caused him any health problems and that he didn't think his old man would have cared. The remarks sparked a predictable media firestorm, though, and the Stones' publicist released a statement calling Richards' story "an off-the-cuff remark, a joke." Richards himself later revised the tale and said that he planted his father's ashes at the base of an oak tree.

4. Into a Pringles Can

The name Fredric Baur may not ring any bells, but you know his most famous creation. In 1966 Baur invented the Pringles can so Procter & Gamble could ship its new chips without using bags. Baur was so proud of the achievement that he told his children he wanted to be buried in the iconic can. When he died in 2008 at 89, they honored his wishes by placing his ashes in a Pringles can before burying them. According to his son Larry, Baur's children briefly debated what flavor canister to use before settling on original.

5. Onto a Frisbee

More than anyone, Edward "Steady Ed" Headrick was responsible for transforming the Frisbee from a fad toy into a valued piece of sporting equipment. While working as a manager at Wham-O, Headrick designed numerous improvements to the flying disc, and during the 1970s he created the sport of disc golf. Before his 2002 death, Headrick told his children that he wanted to have his ashes mixed into the plastic for a batch of Frisbees. His hope was that the proceeds from the sales could help establish a disc golf museum, but he also wanted to have a bit of fun. Headrick's son Daniel later told the San Francisco Chronicle, "He said he wanted to end up in a Frisbee that accidentally lands on someone's roof."

Headrick's wish came true, and the discs are quite valuable as collectors' items now. A two-disc set fetches upwards of $200 on Amazon.

6. Out of a Shotgun

There's no more fitting way for a hunter to go out than this. When James Booth, a British expert on vintage shotguns, died in 2004, his wife asked an ammunition company to mix his ashes into a batch of shotgun shells. The Caledonian Cartridge Company happily complied and presented Joanna Booth with 275 12-gauge cartridges containing James' ashes; a minister even blessed the shells. The widow then invited a group of close friends over for a hunt, and the group used the cartridges to bag ducks, pheasants, and partridges.

7. Into Space

Looking for the remains of "˜60s icon and LSD advocate Timothy Leary? You're going to need a space shuttle. In 1997 Leary's remains were on the first rocket to send cremated ashes into space. Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry's ashes went into orbit on the same flight. Space burial company Celestis will send a portion of anyone's remains into the final frontier for a fee. According to the company's website, your ashes can go into Earth orbit for $2,495, find their way into lunar orbit for $9,995, or make the trek into deep space for $12,500.

8. Into a Tattoo

When English parents Mark and Lisa Richmond tragically lost their son Ayden when he was just two years and four months old, they wanted to find a fitting way to honor his memory. The couple owned a tattoo parlor, so they decided to remember the boy with a bit of ink. Mark got a seven-inch portrait of Ayden tattooed on his chest using ink that had been mixed with his son's ashes.

9. Onto a Reef


If you're a sea lover, Eternal Reefs can help turn your remains into a permanent reef. After the ashes are mixed into concrete, the reefs go into the water and provide a new habitat for fish and other marine life. A 2' x 3' Aquarius Memorial Reef will set your loved ones back $3,995.

10. Into a Diamond

LifeGem can take the ashes of a departed loved one and convert them into a diamond. The process looks basically identical to the production of synthetic diamonds, except the carbon used to kick start the production comes from the cremated remains. Depending on the color and size of the diamond you want, prices can range from $2,699 all the way up to $24,999.

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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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