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11 Incredible Edible Daleks

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A dalek is a science fiction character found in the British TV series Doctor Who. They are evil alien mutants who travel inside cyborg shells and try to exterminate other beings. They are also funny-looking, and have inspired many cooks to recreate their appearance in tasty treats!

1. Dalek Oreo Cake Bites

Navaboo made daleks from Oreo cookies, cake, pretzels, almonds, candy, and frosting for a Doctor Who Series 6 kick-off party. The directions are posted at Flickr if you'd like to try these yourself! Image by Flickr user Navaboo.

2. Rice Krispy Dalek

Shawn Musho and Laura made a dalek out of Rice Krispys for a friend's Doctor Who-themed birthday party. The project took

...six boxes of rice krispies, a giant tub of peanut Butter, six bags of mini marshmellows, and tons of butter and corn syrup.

Of course, some of that got eaten along the way, but the end product was a great big tasty dalek! See pictures of the process in this album.

3. Blue Daleks

dalekcakes

These blue dalek cakes were made by Kyle, Raven, and Evan for Raven's birthday. Image by Flickr user hep svadja.

4. Dalek Decoration

Exterminate!

Alicia made cupcakes decorated with black and white daleks to enjoy while watching the Doctor Who season finale in 2008. Yes, the ball bearings are edible! Image by Flickr user ginnerobot.

5. Corinne's Cupcakes

Corinne was inspired to not only try some dalek cupcakes, but also to post pictures and instructions on her blog sparecake. The one on the right aiming way up was named Derp.

6. Dalek Smash Cake

Sarah Slaven made a dalek cake with a surprise inside. The top is a dome of chocolate, laid over two layers of cake decorated with cookies, candy, and marshmallows.

During a Doctor Who-themed birthday party, Eli used a Sonic Screwdriver to smash the dome and reveal the tentacled dalek monster that controls the robotic dalek shell! The process of building this cake is laid out in pictures and instructions.

7. Gingerbread Daleks

Nell at Snacks-acoricofallapatorius hand-cut these gingerbread daleks. And she used edible ball bearings. That takes artistry dedication. The rest of us can just use dalek cookie cutters.

8. Dalek Pie

Once you have the cookie cutters, you can make anything in the shape of a dalek! This photo is from dazmania83, but there is no other information, like what kind of pie it is -but it sure looks good!

9. Birthday Daleks

TARDIS cake  & Dalek cupcakes

Not only dalek cupcakes, but a TARDIS cake to accompany them! These were the centerpiece treats at Gary's birthday party in 2011. Image by Flickr user marence1.

10. The Dalek Jack-o-lantern

This stretches the meaning of "edible" just a bit, but a pumpkin is a fruit, after all! Julian carved this dalek-o-lantern in 2010. See more pictures in this photo album.

11. Dalek Egg

Dalek egg frontal view

Again, stretching the definition of edible just a bit -because while eggs are edible, this project requires the inside of the egg to be blown out. But the shell that's left is pure awesome. Nancy Sims created dalek eggs for a friend's birthday. The Flickr set has the instructions accompanying each picture. The colors were added in a pysanky-style method using dye and wax. The appendages are painted matchsticks. Image by Flickr user PugnoM.
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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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