CLOSE
Original image
Getty Images

11 Famous Misquotations and What Was Really Said

Original image
Getty Images

1. "Billions and billions." Carl Sagan never said this, and he even explained that he never said it in the first chapter of his book, which, incidentally, was titled Billions & Billions:

"Oh, I said there are maybe 100 billion galaxies and 10 billion trillion stars. It's hard to talk about the Cosmos without using big numbers...But I never said 'billions and billions.' For one thing, it's too imprecise."

The quote actually originated from Johnny Carson's impression of Sagan.

2. "The British are coming!" was very likely never shouted by Paul Revere. It was in the poem about his journey (Paul Revere's Ride), though. The thought is that most of the people in the colonies still considered themselves British, plus the whole mission was cloaked in secrecy - running through the village shouting may have thrown off the plans a bit.

3. "Let them eat cake!" has been attributed to the tragic Marie Antoinette for centuries, but she didn't say it. A similar quote was said by philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau in his autobiography Confessions: "I recalled the make-shift of a great princess who was told that the peasants had no bread and who replied: "Let them eat brioche." But he wasn't talking about Marie Antoinette. He was talking about an incident that happened 10 years before she was even born. The twisted quote was attributed to her probably to turn the country against her even more. Apparently, it worked.

4. "Houston, we have a problem." Not quite, not quite. When things went awry on Apollo 13, Fred Haise started with, "OK, Houston," and was then interrupted by Jim Lovell with, "I believe we've had a problem here," followed by "Houston, we've had a problem. We've had a main B bus undervolt."

5. "Can't we all just get along?" The context of Rodney King's famous quote is right, but what he actually said was, "People, I just want to say, you know, can we all get along?"

6. "I cannot tell a lie. It was I who chopped down the cherry tree." George Washington may have been honest, but he never said this statement. One of his many biographers, Parson Weems, made up the quote in the 1800s.

7. "Pride comes before a fall." Well, if you're quoting the Beatles, that's right. But if you're quoting the Bible, the saying is, "Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall."

8. According to WinstonChurchill.org, the quote "The only traditions of the Royal Navy are rum, sodomy and the lash," was never actually said by him. His assistant, Anthony Montague-Browne, said that Churchill wished it was his quote.

9. Mark Twain. Check out Snopes — it's full of misattributed Mark Twain quotes. They talked to the author of Nice Guys Finish Seventh, a book about Samuel Clemens. He said that any time a quote is anonymous, droll, and sarcastic, people pretty much automatically assume that Mark Twain said it. Here are just a couple that he never said (or they were misquoted):

"There are three kinds of lies: lies, damn lies, and statistics." He did quote this in his autobiography, but attributed it to Benjamin Disraeli.

"To cease smoking is the easiest thing I ever did. I ought to know because I've done it a thousand times."

"So I became a newspaperman. I hated to do it, but I couldn't find honest employment."

"Whenever I feel the urge to exercise, I lie down until it goes away."

10. "Ain't I a woman?" is supposedly a phrase Sojourner Truth delivered to much fanfare at the 1851 Women's Convention in Akron, Ohio. Although it's widely known as Truth's "Ain't I a Woman?" speech, she probably never said the phrase once, let alone the four times it's been said her speech contained it. So how did we get a transcript of an incorrect speech? We likely have feminist Frances Dana Barker Gage to thank. She was there the day the speech was given and published the version she remembered — 12 years after the fact. The version published the day after her speech was much different than the way Gage remembered it. If you check out both speeches, you'll notice that even the dialect is completely different.

11. Harry Truman may have popularized the saying "The Buck Stops Here," but he definitely didn't invent it. The sign that so famously resided on Truman's desk was actually a gift from Fred Canfil, a friend who saw the sign on the desk of a prison warden in Oklahoma. Canfil requested a sign for the President and it was mailed to him on October 2, 1945. Fun fact: the reverse side of the sign said "I'm from Missouri."

See also: 10 Famous Movie Misquotations.

Original image
iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
technology
arrow
Man Buys Two Metric Tons of LEGO Bricks; Sorts Them Via Machine Learning
May 21, 2017
Original image
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!

Original image
iStock
Sponsor Content: BarkBox
arrow
8 Common Dog Behaviors, Decoded
May 25, 2017
Original image
iStock

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.

SECTIONS
BIG QUESTIONS
BIG QUESTIONS
WEATHER WATCH
BE THE CHANGE
JOB SECRETS
QUIZZES
WORLD WAR 1
SMART SHOPPING
STONES, BONES, & WRECKS
#TBT
THE PRESIDENTS
WORDS
RETROBITUARIES