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7 Modern Werewolves You Need To Know

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Time to get in the mood for Halloween! While werewolves predate Greek mythology, the story of Lycaon is still one of the earliest examples of a man shapeshifting into an anthropomorphic wolf-like creature. If you recall, Lycaon was transformed into a wolf after eating human flesh. Skip ahead to our times and shapeshifters abound on big and small screens everywhere. Here are seven you need to know.

1. Wilfred Glendon

Werewolf of London, released in 1935, is one of the first werewolf movies and one of the first depiction of werewolves as we know them now: bipedal monsters who are affected by the moon. While in Tibet searching for a mysterious plant, Wilfred Glendon (Henry Hull), a botanist, is attacked by a werewolf. All the basic werewolf mythology is there. Glendon turns into a wolf under the full moon and becomes a vicious killer. However, in this version, lycanthropy can be temporary cured by the same plant he happened to gather in Tibet. Convenient, eh? The wolf designs are basic and don’t do much to obscure the human features, but makeup artist Jack Pierce’s look became the foundation for all subsequent werewolf depictions on the big and smalls screen.

2. Larry Talbot

Six years later, Larry Talbot (Lon Chaney, Jr.) is bitten by a werewolf (Bela Lugosi) while killing it with a silver walking stick in The Wolf Man. It was the first time that silver was used as a weapon against werewolves. The wolf makeup, also done by Jack Pierce, evolved a bit, creating a less human, hairier monster. Although Talbot dies in the original, the wolf man appears in a few other films, including Abbot and Costello Meet Frankenstein, where Talbot is desperate to find and kill Frankenstein’s monster and Dracula. And in the land of denial, the 2010 remake doesn’t exist.

3. David Kessler

An American Werewolf in London features David Kessler and his friend Jack, American tourists in England. After they’re attacked, Jack dies and David is turned into a werewolf. That doesn’t stop Jack from coming to David, begging him to off himself in order to stop him from killing people. David ignores the warnings, transforms, murders a bunch of people and then is shot down. Not bad for a John Landis helmed horror comedy. Unlike the Wolf Man before him, Kessler’s transformation looks more wolf than man.

Hairy fact: Rick Baker’s special effect makeup designs were the first to ever win the Academy Award for Best Makeup.

4. Scott Howard

From the frightening to the ridiculous… Teen Wolf’s Scott Howard (Michael J. Fox?) uses his genetically-inherited lycanthropy to pick up chicks and win basketball games. Is it a metaphor for puberty? A lesson about accepting who you are no matter what? A way to capitalize on the success of the Back to the Future star? The werewolf design is really just a hairy Michael J. Fox in basketball shorts. Scott Howard made way for other cheesy werewolf underdog stories like in the Canadian TV series, Big Wolf on Campus.

5. Daniel “Oz” Osbourne

In a town filled with vampires, demons and praying mantis creatures, the world of Buffy the Vampire Slayer was no stranger to mythical creatures with bad special effects makeup. But at least the second season addition, Oz (Seth Green) was free from much of the angst that has plagued movie werewolves. His blasé attitude toward his curse and anything else that came his way was Oz’s key character trait. Unlike many other teenage werewolf depictions, Oz was cool (he played in a band) and got the girl without ever having to take his shirt off. Todd McIntosh’s werewolf design changed from season to season, going from full wolf to a man-faced hybrid.

Hairy fact: The part of the werewolf was never actually played by Green, but rather a rotation of stunt men.

6. Remus Lupin

What werewolf list would be complete without including Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban’s Remus Lupin, the poor, weary Defense against the Dark Arts teacher? In the Harry Potter universe, werewolves are common knowledge but there is a stigma to the curse. The supernatural elitism makes it difficult for Lupin to find work, even getting him fired from his teaching post. The Wolfsbane Potion helps prohibit some of the full moon side effects, much like the plant in Werewolf of London. The film’s depiction of the werewolf is CGI.

7. Bigby Wolf

In the comic book Fables, fairy tale characters come to New York City to live in their own society. Their sheriff is Bigby Wolf, formerly The Big Bad Wolf. Opposed to the normal werewolf mythology, Bigby is a wolf who’s transformed into a human, using a lycanthropy-stained knife. He doesn’t need a full moon to transform. In wolf form, he’s bigger and stronger than any opponent, although silver is a weakness. Bigby’s hair grows so often that he is forced to shave multiple times a day. His supernatural senses are so intense that he must chain smoke in order to down them out.

Oh yeah, and he’s in love with Snow White.

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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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Nick Briggs/Comic Relief
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]