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17 Elaborately Staged Theme Park Ride Photos

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Back when amusement parks started using cameras to capture the facial expressions of their guests on their most wild rides, the companies thought it would just be a good way to make some extra money by giving guests a new souvenir option. Little did they know that the cameras would also serve as the backdrop for elaborately staged photos that only become more ridiculous given their setting. While the theme parks might not be too happy about the development, those of us who appreciate absurdly hilarious pictures couldn’t be more excited to see these funny photos. Here are a few of the best.

While Splash Mountain’s photo op spot has earned a bit of an unsavory reputation since so many women have turned to baring their breasts to the camera (earning it the nickname “Flash Mountain”), it has also become a favorite with pranksters looking to take an unforgettable ride photo. Perhaps the most impressive of all the posed coaster pictures ever taken is this one, featuring a gang of friends casually enjoying a game of Super Smash Brothers on the log ride’s biggest drop.

That same group also managed to keep playing their Monopoly game on the ride a little while before that. When you think about it though, this one makes a lot of sense. After all, if you’ve already been playing the game for hours while waiting in line, you certainly don’t want to quit just because you’ve finally made it to the front.

Of course, the award for most dangerous Splash Mountain picture has to go to Reddit user cefriano, who had to finish shaving no matter what else was going on. I hope that’s a safety razor.

You've heard of Snakes On A Plane, but what about Snakes on a Flume?

The most romantic staged ride picture is probably this one. Here’s the story, as told by Redditor Joefamous:

Lindsay is, in fact, the girl in the front and she did say yes. I would know because I was holding up one of the signs! The guy right behind her is her fiance, Chris.

I carried a backpack around all day with the signs folded up in the laptop sleeve along with snacks and jackets so she wouldn’t suspect anything. The 5 of us behind her practiced holding the signs the day before so they wouldn’t block each other from view. As soon as we were far enough on the ride, I passed out the signs(which were numbered so we had them in the right order) one by one and we hid them until we started going up the hill to the drop. as soon as we hit the peak, we all pulled out the signs and held them up until the pic was taken, then immediately passed them to the back of the log where I re-hid them in my backpack.

She didn’t see what happened until they posted the pic on the screen at the end of the ride! The actual ring was hidden in the backpack as well to keep it safe. As soon as we got off the ride he gave her the ring and we purchased the pics! We actually planned the whole thing and practiced so that it would be a complete surprise to her and pulled it off with a great picture to remember it by and a funny story to tell!

Sometimes the best staged photos are those that are completely nonchalant, like this one showing Tsetan Tenzin (the one holding the Honey Bunches of Oats) and three friends enjoying a delicious breakfast filled with whole grain.

While Splash Mountain might be the most popular venue for staged ride photos, it’s by no means the only place people pull off these silly stunts...

It seems appropriate to stage a fight from the movie Rocky IV, complete with announcers and fans, at the Raging Bull coaster at Six Flags Great America in Illinois. Granted, these friends of Redditor Zeuslightning could have done a scene from Raging Bull, but that might just be overkill.

Here is the same group of gents trying their hand at ping pong on Raging Bull a few months earlier.

Those Raging Bull fans aren’t the only ones who enjoy playing ping pong on roller coasters. Here are Mike McFerran and his friends staging a match on The Comet at The Great Escape & Splash Water Kingdom.

While getting the props out and ready for this shot was relatively easy, the real challenge was for Stephan and his friend to actually get their cigarettes lit in those conditions.

It’s important to always have fresh breath, which is why Matthew Morrell, Alicia Kramer, Rob Meyer, Abby Decker, and Jessica Brosius made sure to stay true to their brushing schedule even though it meant doing so on the Coal Cracker at Hersheypark.

The most common form of staged coaster pictures these days though are those involving a chess board or other game. That’s because they were all inspired by this XKCD comic. Since then, the site has a whole gallery dedicated to people who tried out the idea for themselves. These are a few of the best:

Here’s Thomas Hart and Daniel Madden at Canobie Lake Park.

These chess masters are Cam O'Grady, Jake Barnett, and Shelby Fowler who staged their tournament on the Cedar Point Millennium Force.

Karl Malakoff and his cousin, Lori Coulson, enjoyed a game on the Diamondback coaster at King's Island on Halloween. Eventually, Karl lost when his white king fell off the board.

Now this looks like a serious game, even if spectator Billy Brooks doesn't seem too into it. Players  Kristjan Moore and Daniel Carey definitely seem to know what’s at stake during their match on the Loggers Leap at Thorpe Park.

Of course, chess was just too easy for Randall and Ben Wald, so they decided to build a house of cards on the 79 foot drops of the Goliath coaster at Six Flags over Georgia.

Justin Howell and his friend felt the same way, which is why they took to playing Extreme Jenga while riding Thunder Run at Six Flags Kentucky Kingdom.

Have any of you ever performed a goofy stunt like these? If so, feel free to tell the story and share any links to the photos themselves. Also, while I tried to identify the people in these photos, sometimes it's impossible to track down the real origin of the image. If you happen to know the people in one of these pictures, let us know in the comments. Thanks!

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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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