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16 of Our Favorite Rabbits

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The Lunar New Year begins on February 3rd. According to the Chinese zodiac, we will welcome the Year of the Rabbit. Rabbits are an attractive animal: they are adorably cute, relatively unthreatening, full of energy, and have those ridiculous long ears we can laugh at. Plus they seem to live for sex. Let's take a look at some of our most beloved pop culture lagomorphs.

1. Thumper

Thumper is the adorable baby rabbit who befriends Bambi in the 1942 Disney movie Bambi. Thumper has little ability to self-censor, but is cute enough to get away with saying whatever is on his mind. He famously repeated his father's advice, "If you can't say somethin' nice, don't say nothin' at all."

2. That Silly Trix Rabbit

The Trix rabbit is an advertising icon for Trix cereal in TV ads that date back to 1959, usually ending with a kid voicing the slogan, "Silly rabbit -Trix are for kids!" But the rabbit actually got to eat Trix twice -in 1976 and 1980. Both times the decision was made by a box top voting promotion.

3. Jackalope

Image by Flickr user Paul-W

The jackalope (Lagomorpha fantasticus) is a rarely-sighted creature determined to be a cross between a wild rabbit and a deer. It resembles a rabbit with the exception of its long, sharp antlers. The best way to capture a jackalope is to lure it closer with whiskey. Most people who have survived an encounter with a jackalope had plenty of whiskey with them. The jackalope presents a particular threat to tourists, and is most commonly seen displayed taxidermy-style. The legend of the jackalope most likely arose from sightings of ordinary wild rabbits suffering from the effects of the Shope papilloma virus, which causes hard tumors to grow on the animal's head.

4. Bunnicula

Bunnicula, the vampire rabbit of children's literature, made an appearance in the list 8 Rabbits to Avoid, but many commenters told of how they loved Bunnicula. How can anyone be scared of a vegetarian vampire rabbit, anyway?

5. The White Rabbit

The White Rabbit led Alice down the rabbit hole in the Lewis Carroll story Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. He reappears as a herald for the King and Queen of Hearts, which may give us a clue as to what he was late for when he hurried so in the first scene. Pictured is a White Rabbit from the 1951 Disney movie.

6. Roger Rabbit

Roger Rabbit was the protagonist of the 1988 film Who Framed Roger Rabbit. The movie was notable for being the first blockbuster hit to mix animation and live action footage. Disney produced the movie and released it as a Touchstone film because of the sexual innuendo, particularly in the character of Roger's wife Jessica Rabbit -who would be on this list herself if she were really a rabbit instead of a human 'toon who married a rabbit.

7. The Velveteen Rabbit

The Velveteen Rabbit is a toy from the 1922 children's book by Margery Williams. The story tells us how a toy rabbit can become real if it is loved enough, and the heartbreak that love can bring. I tear up every time I even think of the story, although my children are not so affected.

8. The Playboy Bunny

Playboy's iconic rabbit head logo was designed by Art Paul in 1953 for the first Playboy magazine, and has appeared on the cover of every issue since, although sometimes it is pretty hard to find. The rabbit symbol is used throughout the Playboy Enterprises empire, most famously as the trademarked costume for waitresses at Playboy Clubs, known as Playboy Bunnies.

9. Hazel

Hazel is the leader of several rabbits we love from the 1972 book Watership Down by Richard Adams and the 1978 film of the story. The group of rabbits go on a quest for a new and safer place to settle and build a rabbit colony, leaving readers in tears periodically along the way.

10. The Energizer Bunny

The little pink rabbit toy that just kept going and going and going sold a lot of batteries for Energizer. The Energizer Bunny debuted in 1988 and caught on quickly. Many folks don't realize that the first Energizer Bunny ad was a response to a long-lived Duracell battery ad campaign.

11. The Tortoise and the Hare

One of Aesop's most famous fables, The Tortoise and the Hare explains how being in a hurry won't help at all if you can't stay focused on the goal. Although the hare in the story is strictly a loser, we can identify with him in his imperfections.

12. The Easter Bunny

Image by Flickr user Andreas Marx

Many pre-Christian symbols were appropriated for use in Christian holidays, no matter how pagan. The Easter Bunny is a symbol of springtime and fertility, first mentioned in literature in Germany around the year 1500. He appears to have taken a page from Santa Claus in that he magically delivers eggs (another fertility symbol) and candy while children sleep on Easter eve. You don't see the Easter Bunny deliver his goods, but he is often honored in the shape of your chocolates.

13. Harvey

Imaginary rabbits come in two varieties: we prefer pleasant, as in Harvey, the rabbit-shaped pooka that befriends Elwood P. Dowd in the play Harvey and the 1950 film of the same name. Harvey is never seen by the audience except in a portrait commissioned by Dowd, but he is gentle, loyal, and wise, according to what Dowd tells of him. In contrast, the 2001 movie Donnie Darko features a terrifying imaginary man-in-a-bunny suit named Frank.

14. The Killer Rabbit of Caerbannog

The Killer Rabbit that guards the entrance to the cave of Caerbannog in the movie Monty Python and the Holy Grail also made the list of Rabbits to Avoid, but those of us who haven't been attacked can't get enough of the bunny. He also appears in the Broadway musical Spamalot.

15. Oolong the Pancake Bunny

Oolong is the name of the rabbit in the picture captioned “I have no idea what you’re talking about… so here’s a bunny with a pancake on its head.” Beginning in 1999, photographer Hironori Akutagawa trained Oolong to balance objects on his head and took pictures, which he posted on his website. He became an internet sensation in 2001 and built a fan base until his death in 2003. He was eight years old. Urban Dictionary defines “pancake bunny” as the patron saint of silence.

16. Bugs Bunny

Bugs Bunny gives real-life heroes a run for their money in popularity contests. He is second only to Mickey Mouse as the best-known cartoon character ever. Bugs has one Oscar, three Oscar nominations, and has appeared in over 175 films. Bugs is the smart alec, carrot-chewing, wise-cracking trickster rabbit we would all like to be -at least for a while.

Honorable mentions: Peter Rabbit, Peter Cottontail, the Cadbury Bunny, Rabbit, Buster Bunny, Ricochet Rabbit, It's Happy Bunny, and Brer Rabbit.

See also: The Horror of Bunnies: 8 Rabbits to Avoid

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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
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technology
Man Buys Two Metric Tons of LEGO Bricks; Sorts Them Via Machine Learning
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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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© Nintendo
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fun
Nintendo Will Release an $80 Mini SNES in September
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© Nintendo

Retro gamers rejoice: Nintendo just announced that it will be launching a revamped version of its beloved Super Nintendo Classic console, which will allow kids and grown-ups alike to play classic 16-bit games in high-definition.

The new SNES Classic Edition, a miniature version of the original console, comes with an HDMI cable to make it compatible with modern televisions. It also comes pre-loaded with a roster of 21 games, including Super Mario Kart, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, Donkey Kong Country, and Star Fox 2, an unreleased sequel to the 1993 original.

“While many people from around the world consider the Super NES to be one of the greatest video game systems ever made, many of our younger fans never had a chance to play it,” Doug Bowser, Nintendo's senior vice president of sales and marketing, said in a statement. “With the Super NES Classic Edition, new fans will be introduced to some of the best Nintendo games of all time, while longtime fans can relive some of their favorite retro classics with family and friends.”

The SNES Classic Edition will go on sale on September 29 and retail for $79.99. Nintendo reportedly only plans to manufacture the console “until the end of calendar year 2017,” which means that the competition to get your hands on one will likely be stiff, as anyone who tried to purchase an NES Classic last year will well remember.

In November 2016, Nintendo released a miniature version of its original NES system, which sold out pretty much instantly. After selling 2.3 million units, Nintendo discontinued the NES Classic in April. In a statement to Polygon, the company has pledged to “produce significantly more units of Super NES Classic Edition than we did of NES Classic Edition.”

Nintendo has not yet released information about where gamers will be able to buy the new console, but you may want to start planning to get in line soon.

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