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7 Hilarious Garfield Variants

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The comic strip Garfield has endured since 1978, when Jim Davis invented the lovable triad of Garfield, Odie, and their owner Jon Arbuckle. As a seven-year-old kid, I was a big fan -- Garfield loved lasagna, and so did I. Odie (the dumb dog) was Garfield's nemesis, so I decided that dogs were dumb. Garfield hated Mondays and diets...you get the idea.

Garfield as a comic strip succeeds mainly because it's so accessible and bite-sized, featuring a predictable three-panel format. This accessibility has made the cartoon bland, leading creative cartoonists to remix Garfield into new strips, often reusing art, dialogue, and other portions of the original. While the remixes are of questionable legality (many are arguably parodies, others maybe not), they are consistently funny and weird. Because the humor primarily involves bleak madness, absurdism, and the absence of Garfield as a meaningful companion, comparisons to the work of Beckett come up a lot.

The primary fact that's central to most of these alternate versions of Garfield is that, in the actual comic, Jon can't hear Garfield's thoughts. By shifting the perspective away from Garfield's inner life, Jon's life comes into sharp relief: he's an isolated man whose home life with his pets is, at best, troubling. Enjoy!

1. Realfield

Garfield has been replaced with a regular orange tabby, minus thought bubbles. The site is in Spanish, but an auto-translation does a good job of explaining the effect:

Jon goes from being a beloved character to be a paranoid and shy type who talks to his cat ... which of course is not answered.

(More Realfield.)

2. De-Garfed

Garfield's thought bubbles have been removed, but nothing else changes. Jon's paranoia is revealed.

De-Garfed

(More De-Garfed.)

3. Garfield Minus Garfield

Garfield has been removed completely. Jon is alone with his madness, and there's a whole book of this (listing Jim Davis as the author, though these strips are based on work by Dan Walsh...which are based on work by Jim Davis).

Garfield Minus Garfield

(More Garfield Minus Garfield.)

4. The Garfield Randomizer

What if you randomly recombined Garfield panels to make a new comic? Would it still be funny? You be the judge.

The Garfield Randomizer

(More Garfield Randomizer. A similar, but non-customizable, site is the Garfield Generator.)

5. Garkov

What happens when you extract all the text from the Garfield strips, put it in a database, then extract and combine it using a math/logic process called a Markov chain? Garkov!

Garkov

(More Garkov.)

6. Barfield

In which Garfield has some intestinal issues. (Note: it gets pretty gross.)

Barfield

(More Barfield.)

7. Lasagna Cat

Deeply weird videos, some involving live action, recreating original Garfield strips. Here's one (there are dozens), bearing the description "Garfield is caught trying to harm Odie with a bone":

(More Lasagna Cat on YouTube; see also LasagnaCat.com.)

More Alternate-Universe Garfield Stuff

Check out Arbuckle, a community project in which artists re-draw the strip, minus Garfield's thought bubbles, but retaining Jon's dialogue. Also, don't miss The Death of Garfield, a collection of strips in which Garfield assumes his "death pose" and his thought bubbles are removed, raising the possibility that Garfield is indeed dead. Nothing Garfield is similar -- a collection of edited strips in which most of the text has been removed, typically leaving us with a very odd impression of Garfield and Jon. Finally, Garfield Variations features (mostly charming, sometimes NSFW) re-drawn variants of Garfield in new contexts.

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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
technology
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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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iStock
Animals
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Scientists Think They Know How Whales Got So Big
May 24, 2017
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iStock

It can be difficult to understand how enormous the blue whale—the largest animal to ever exist—really is. The mammal can measure up to 105 feet long, have a tongue that can weigh as much as an elephant, and have a massive, golf cart–sized heart powering a 200-ton frame. But while the blue whale might currently be the Andre the Giant of the sea, it wasn’t always so imposing.

For the majority of the 30 million years that baleen whales (the blue whale is one) have occupied the Earth, the mammals usually topped off at roughly 30 feet in length. It wasn’t until about 3 million years ago that the clade of whales experienced an evolutionary growth spurt, tripling in size. And scientists haven’t had any concrete idea why, Wired reports.

A study published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B might help change that. Researchers examined fossil records and studied phylogenetic models (evolutionary relationships) among baleen whales, and found some evidence that climate change may have been the catalyst for turning the large animals into behemoths.

As the ice ages wore on and oceans were receiving nutrient-rich runoff, the whales encountered an increasing number of krill—the small, shrimp-like creatures that provided a food source—resulting from upwelling waters. The more they ate, the more they grew, and their bodies adapted over time. Their mouths grew larger and their fat stores increased, helping them to fuel longer migrations to additional food-enriched areas. Today blue whales eat up to four tons of krill every day.

If climate change set the ancestors of the blue whale on the path to its enormous size today, the study invites the question of what it might do to them in the future. Changes in ocean currents or temperature could alter the amount of available nutrients to whales, cutting off their food supply. With demand for whale oil in the 1900s having already dented their numbers, scientists are hoping that further shifts in their oceanic ecosystem won’t relegate them to history.

[h/t Wired]

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