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13 Exquisite Easter Eggs

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Easter time is upon us all and whether or not you celebrate, you can still appreciate the artistry that goes into many Easter eggs. Here are a few of my favorite designs from all over the world.

1. Pysanky Easter Eggs

Also known as Ukrainian Easter eggs, these stunning shapes are applied not with dyes or paint, but with carefully applied beeswax. A wooden tool, called a ‘kistka' is used to apply the wax. Although the most common Pysanky eggs are those using patterns, like the one above by Wikipedia user Lubap, the methods can be used to create all variety of designs, including this amazing recreation of Van Gogh’s Starry Night.

2. Cross Stitched Eggs

Ukrainian Easter eggs are known throughout the world for their complex designs and beautiful artwork, but Ukrainian artist Forostyuk Inna decided to forgo the usual wax and dye methods and opted to cross stitch her eggs instead. No one seems to be quite sure about the methods she used to create these cool designs, but that only serves to make them that much more incredible.

3. Carved Emu Eggs

The emu egg shell naturally has three layers of color, ranging from white to teal to a deep green that often appears black. By taking advantage of these layers, artist Gary LeMaster is able to create intricately detailed and colorful egg creations with nothing more than a set of carving tools. He also works with all other types of eggs, including regular old chicken eggs, adapting his style to suit the egg type and design accordingly.

4. Celebrity Eggs

When it comes to Easter eggs featuring celebrity images, one name stands out above all the rest. Artist John Lamoroni does amazing egg portraits of everyone from President Obama to Elton John. My personal favorite is this wonderful piece featuring the characters from Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland.

5. Kiss Easter Eggs

Who says you have to be an professional artist to create eggs that everyone will remember? Flickr user Rakka created these unforgettable rock star eggs with nothing more than a bit of creativity and a set of markers.

6. The Egg Bot

Not only do you not have to be a professional artist to create amazing egg designs, you don’t even have to be a human. The Egg Bot is a specially designed invention that serves only one purpose—to decorate eggs and other rounded objects. While this may not sound all that impressive, the selection of its completed projects is (a handful of these projects are seen above).

7. Geode Easter Eggs

Perhaps you like your eggs a little more exotic, but 100% natural. If so, these geode eggs are something you can easily make at home using a few simple ingredients you already have at home.

8. Chalkboard Eggs

If you’re looking for another simple Easter egg project that your kids can enjoy, these chalkboard eggs featured on Skip to My Lou are a great option. Just cover eggs with chalkboard paint and let your little ones write and draw on them with their chalk.

9. Lucha Libre Eggs

You may think eggs are fragile, but these masked warriors can certainly hold their own in a fight. If you want to make your own luchadore eggs, Diary of a Crafty Chica has a great tutorial to guide you.

10. Battlestar Galactegga

For the sci fi geeks in our audience, these Battlestar Galactica eggs are a good way to celebrate your interests while still following holiday traditions. Geeks Are Sexy has some great tips for making your own, but your results will most certainly vary based on your own artistic talents.

11. World of Warcraft Easter Eggs

The world of World of Warcraft might be full of fun Easter eggs, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make literal Easter eggs based on the game’s characters. Be sure to check out the awesome Noblegarden Contest winning egg designs.

12. Knitted Easter Eggs

Not everyone likes to eat eggs, and it seems like a waste to decorate real eggs if you don’t want to eat them. Fortunately, these knitted Easter eggs by Purl Bee provide a vegan-friendly alternative that also has the benefit of being a lot less fragile.

13. Felted Eggs

While these eggs seen on Craftzine may look like they don’t use actual eggs, the shell is actually a crucial part of the felted nest structure. The felted wool is simply formed around the exterior of a very carefully cut egg.
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If you’re looking for more Easter egg decorating goodness, be sure to check out Miss C’s article from a few years ago that also has links to instructions for creating your own awesome designs. If you have any links to your own favorite artistically inclined eggs though, please feel free to share the links in the comments.

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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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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.

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