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The Other Doctors of Doctor Who

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There are eleven Doctors on Doctor Who, right? Well, yes, but not exactly. Those are the "canonical eleven" — the official Doctors. But are you familiar with some of the others?

1. The Dalek Movie Doctor

In the mid-60s, Dalek Fever was sweeping England. Dalek creator Terry Nation secured the rights to produce two Doctor Who movies. The Daleks and Dalek Invasion Earth: 2150 AD starred legendary British actor Peter Cushing (famous for Hammer films and Sherlock Holmes, and later famous as Grand Moff Tarkin in the original Star Wars film). His Doctor was more affable than William Hartnell's, and was different in another crucial respect—he was human. In 2005, the revived series played homage to the movies by borrowing elements of the TARDIS console room set, including the police box doors visible on the interior.

The trailer for Dalek Invasion Earth: 2150 AD

2. The Other First Doctor

When the series turned 20 in 1983, it was decided to do a spectacular feature-length episode featuring all five Doctors. However, two were unavailable: Tom Baker had other commitments and William Hartnell had died several years before. Hartnell's role was crucial, and the decision was made, for the only time in the series' history, to recast a Doctor. They selected Richard Hurndall, who leaned towards Hartnell's later, softer seasons. Hartnell made a cameo, in the form of retransmitted footage from "The Dalek Invasion of Earth" as a cold open, the only cold open in the original series' history.

First part of The Five Doctors, special edition edit. Hurndall appears around 4:25.

3. The Eight Morbius Doctors

Time Lords have thirteen lives, right? Well, until 1976, that wasn't established, and it was presumed they could regenerate indefinitely. In "The Brain of Morbius," the Fourth Doctor battles a heinous Gallifreyan criminal named Morbius, who is now reduced to a brain forced to live in a hideous, cobbled-together body. During a mental duel, the Doctor's past lives appear: Jon Pertwee, Patrick Troughton, William Hartnell... and then members of the production crew: George Gallacio, Robert Holmes, Graeme Harper, Douglas Camfield, Philip Hinchcliffe, Christopher Baker, Robert Banks Stewart, and Christopher Barry. After the 13-life limit was established, these eight became non-canon.

This clip is from the end of the story, so view with caution. The past Doctors show up around 14:00.

4. The Other Fourth Doctor: The Stage Doctor

In 1974, Doctor Who arrived on the stage in a production called Doctor Who and the Daleks in the Seven Keys to Doomsday, in a plot very loosely based on a TV serial, "The Keys of Marinus." Actor Trevor Martin was cast in the role, as an alternate version of the Fourth Doctor. He reprised the role a few years ago for an audio drama version of the story that is presently available on CD from Big Finish Productions.


These posters are for the stage and audio play versions of the story.

5. The Comic Relief: Red Nose Day Doctors

"Doctor Who and the Curse of Fatal Death" was a charity production for the Red Nose Day 1999 telethon. The story followed the Ninth Doctor as he announced his retirement and intention to get married, much to the disgust of the Master (played delightfully over-the-top by Jonathon Pryce), who teams up with the Daleks to destroy their mutual foe. Hijinks ensue, and the Ninth Doctor, played by Rowan Atkinson, ends up burning through all of his remaining regenerations as Richard E. Grant, Jim Broadbent, Hugh Grant, and, lastly, Joanna Lumley.

The full-length, official YouTube release by Red Nose Day

6. The Shalka Doctor

To celebrate the 40th anniversary in 2003, the BBC decided to try something new: an animated, webcast series, fully intended to be canonical. The Ninth Doctor was cast as Richard E. Grant, and "The Scream of Shalka" was produced and broadcast. It was reasonably successful, but it was quickly overtaken by Russell T. Davies' effort to revive the series live-action and became non-canon.

Part one of "The Scream of Shalka"

7. The Valeyard

Season 23, "The Trial of a Time Lord." The Sixth Doctor is on trial, and his prosecutor is a mysterious and sinister fellow called the Valeyard. But the Doctor realizes that the evidence has been tampered with, and it is eventually revealed that the Valeyard is in fact a possible future incarnation of the Doctor, and he has been promised all of the Doctor's remaining lives if he can get a conviction. Played with malevolent grace by Michael Jayston, the Valeyard escapes at the end of the serial, never to be seen again.

The Doctor arrives on Gallifrey and meets the Valeyard, the Inquisitor, and his jury of Time Lord peers.

8. The Dream Lord

In "Amy's Choice," the Doctor, Amy, and Rory find themselves in a strange dilemma — a sadistic fellow called the Dream Lord, played by Toby Jones, appears in the TARDIS and explains they have to decide which of two scenarios are real, before they get killed in one of them. He turns out to be a manifestation of the Doctor's own unconscious, triggered by psychic pollen caught in the Time Rotor. Fans have since speculated that this is the part of the Doctor that could eventually become the Valeyard.

The Dream Lord appears and explains their predicament.

9. The Watcher

There's another not-quite Doctor on the series, and he appeared in "Logopolis," the dramatic conclusion to Tom Baker's tenure as the Fourth Doctor. In the distance, a curiously luminous figure is seen, watching silently and then disappearing, occasionally helping, but never speaking. Played by Adrian Gibbs, "The Watcher" is a transitional Doctor, sort of an advance version of Number Five who appears to assist in a time of great danger.

Fan-produced set of Watcher clips (not exhaustive) from "Logopolis"

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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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