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15 My Little Pony Mashups

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If you want to create something that will appeal to internet surfers, keep this in mind: the essence of comedy is the juxtaposition of opposites, or at least somewhat unrelated things. When you combine the pleasantness of something cute with the excitement of something popular but not cute, you get a surefire hit -that is, if you have the talent to pull it off. Several years ago I posted Cute Little Cthulhu on this same theme. Those mashups came from juxtaposing the horror of Cthulhu with something cute like babies, fuzzy slippers, or Hello Kitty. In more recent years, the "cute" tends to come from the popular toys of the My Little Pony series, which provides the adorably shaped horses and a dose of nostalgia for those that grew up with them. There's no end to the horror that artists will mash with the ponies.

1. Kirk and Spock

Sara Bean makes customized My Little Ponies any way you want them! These two pay homage to Star Trek, as the Kirk pony wears a proper command uniform and has an Enterprise decal/tattoo/brand on his rear flank. Spock has not only Vulcan ears but also a unicorn horn! You can order yours through her Etsy shop. Check out her Transformers and Boba Fett ponies, too!

2. Video Games

DeviantART member nickyv917 puts My Little Ponies into video games, as least as far as the cover art goes. Would you like to play Battlefriend 3? How about Manecraft? Or Assassin's Steed? There are pages and pages of these!

3. Darth on a Pony

Six-year-old Sarah got a birthday cake featuring her pop culture favorites: Darth Vader riding a My Little Pony! And little girls should get what they like on their birthday cakes. This mashup cake is only one of Sarah's awesome birthday cakes that combine Darth with figures such as Tinkerbell and the Disney Princesses. See the rest at Cake Wrecks.

4. My Little Alien

Finnish artist Mari Kasurinen, also known as DeviantART member Spippo, added Super Sculpey to a MLP toy to create the Alien Queen pony.

5. My Little Cthulhu

Kasurinen also crafted this lovely elder god pony called My Little Cthulhu. And you must see her pony dressed in Lady Gaga's infamous meat dress!

6. My Little Scissorhands

See Kasurinen's collection called My Little Pop Icons. It contains pony versions of Jason Voorhees, Michael Jackson, The Joker, Frida Kahlo, Jack Sparrow, and various other surprises, like this Edward Scissorhands pony.

7. Flutter Trooper

Twitter user Dakster Sullivan spotted this cosplayer who combined his love of Star Wars and My Little Pony by dressing as Flutter Trooper!

8. My Little Avengers

Eight of the characters from The Avengers look good as ponies! Bad guy Loki is outnumbered, but each character stands on its own as well. DeviantART member EatToast made these mashups, and posted each separately and together. You'll find links to each here.

9. Daft Ponies

EatToast has quite a portfolio of My Little Pony mashup art, including a lot of Doctor Who ponies, but I was particularly drawn to this pair of ponies based on the musical duo Daft Punk. They are made with My Little Ponies layered with Sculpey and painted with acrylics, recreating the musicians' iconic helmets.

10. The Rainbow Knight Rises

The soundtrack of a The Dark Knight Rises trailer was synched to relevant scenes from the My Little Pony cartoon series to make this wonderful mashup by cloverfieldmoster, who does quite a bit of this sort of thing. Check his YouTube channel, Cloverfieldmoster's Equestrian Network, for more My Little Pony video mashups. Another source for MLP video mashups is Lost in Equestria.

11. Sweet Bacon Pony

DeviantART member BAwesome-BAcon has lots of MLP-themed art, most of it edible, but is particularly famed for this pony made of bacon.

12. The Four Little Ponies of the Apocalypse

Robot Chicken gave us this video mashup of Biblical prophesy and My Little Ponies called Apocalypse Pony. Favorite quote: "I love you, Pestilence!" It's a parody of an ad for new MLP toys. Get a good look at the actual ponies used in the video at Popped Culture.

13. Sparkles, the Soldering Unicorn

My Little Pony mashups can be useful! Matt Pinner made this pony called Sparkles with a soldering iron for a horn. It was inspired by an idea from Sean Bonner.

14. My Little Death Dealer

Frank Franzetta painted many pictures of The Death Dealer, but this one is what fans remember best. DeviantART member zedew recreated the painting in a My Little Pony version in homage to Franzetta after learning of his death two years ago.

15. My Little Firearms

Gunbronies are gun enthusiasts who are My Little Pony fans. They sometimes add MLP designs to firearms to show their allegiance, and their art skills. Erin Palette rounded up pictures of some. She also owns a holster featuring pony Luna on it. DeviantART member Annadill is a member of an Equestria Task Force, which are MLP airsoft gun groups with chapters all over. One of his artworks is a set of grips for a Smith & Wesson sporting the symbol of pony Rainbow Dash. Another is a leather holster with the symbol of pony Applejack.

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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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