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45 Amazing Facts Everyone Should Know

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1. Jim Cummings is the voice of Winnie the Pooh. He calls sick kids in hospitals and chats with them in character.

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2. In the mid-1960s, Slumber Party Barbie came with a book called "How to Lose Weight." One of the tips was "Don’t eat."

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3. Ben & Jerry originally considered getting into the bagel business, but the equipment was too expensive.

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4. The first webcam watched a coffee pot. It allowed researchers at Cambridge to monitor the coffee situation without leaving their desks.

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5. When asked if he knew the speed of sound, Einstein said he "didn't carry such information in my mind since it's readily available in books."

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6. Marie Curie's notebooks are still radioactive.

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7. Hunger Games author Suzanne Collins also wrote for Clarissa Explains It All.

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8. The last time a Republican was elected president without a Nixon or Bush on the ticket was 1928.

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9. When three-letter airport codes became standard, airports that had been using two letters simply added an X.

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10. There is a word that rhymes with orange! Sporange is a botany term that means "spore case."

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11. The original Space Jam website still exists.

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12. In 1979, Japan offered new British PM Margaret Thatcher 20 "karate ladies" for protection at an economic summit. She declined.

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13. Before Google launched Gmail, "G-Mail" was the name of a free email service offered by Garfield's website.

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14. During the Cold War, the U.S. considered airdropping enormous condoms labeled "Medium" on the Soviets.

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15. Nikola Tesla on Thomas Edison: "He had no hobby, cared for no amusement of any kind and lived in utter disregard of the most elementary rules of hygiene."

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16. Kentucky tweaked its Wildcat logo in 1994 after people complained the tongue was too phallic.

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17. The final speech by Gregory Peck in To Kill a Mockingbird was done in one take.

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18. When New Jersey's Action Park sent crash-test dummies down its looping waterslide, the dummies were allegedly dismembered.

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19. In 1980, Detroit presented Saddam Hussein with a key to the city.

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20. The "Where's the Beef?" lady (Clara Peller) lost her job in 1985 after doing a Prego ad in which she "found the beef at somewhere other than Wendy's."

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21. Just before the Nazis invaded Paris, H.A. and Margret Rey fled on bicycles. They were carrying the manuscript for Curious George.

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22. In Super Mario Bros., the bushes are just clouds colored green.

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23. When fruit flies are infected with a parasite, they self-medicate with booze—they seek out food with higher alcohol content.

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24. In colonial America, lobster wasn't exactly a delicacy. It was so cheap and plentiful it was often served to prisoners.

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25. Crayola means "oily chalk." The name combines "craie" (French for "chalk") and "ola" (short for "oleaginous," or "oily").

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26. The Pittsburgh Penguins made Mister Rogers an honorary captain in 1991.

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27. The Constitution does not require the Speaker of the House to be a member of the House. In 2013, Colin Powell got a vote.

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28. Liz Sheridan, who played Jerry's mom on Seinfeld, wrote a book about her love affair with James Dean.

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29. Until coffee gained popularity, beer was the breakfast beverage of choice in some parts of the United States.

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30. In 1493, Columbus thought he saw mermaids. They were "not as pretty as they are depicted, for somehow in the face they look like men." (Probably manatees.)

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31. When the Westboro Baptist Church protested a soldier's funeral in Oklahoma, their tires were slashed. People in town refused to repair them.

CORY YOUNG/Tulsa World

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32. Taco Bell is named for its founder, Glen Bell.

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33. In a 1917 letter to Winston Churchill, Admiral John Fisher used the phrase "O.M.G."

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34. In 2007, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said there was "no chance the iPhone is going to get any significant market share."

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35. An early ATM was deemed a failure because its only users were "prostitutes and gamblers who didn’t want to deal with tellers face to face."

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36. Even Fidel Castro hated New Coke, calling it "a sign of American capitalist decadence."

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37. Bob Ross on his Air Force career: “I was the guy who makes you scrub the latrine…who screams at you for being late to work.”

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38. William McKinley was on the $500 bill, Grover Cleveland was on the $1,000, and James Madison was on the $5,000.

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39. Truman Show Delusion is a mental condition marked by a patient's belief that he or she is the star of an imaginary reality show.

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40. In 1973, Mao Zedong told Henry Kissinger that China had an excess of females and offered the U.S. 10 million Chinese women.

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41. Judge Judy reportedly makes $47 million a year.

JIM RUYMEN/UPI/Landov

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42. During the first Super Bowl in 1967, NBC was still in commercial when the second half kicked off. Officials asked the Packers to kick off again.

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43. The male giraffe determines a female's fertility by tasting her urine. If it passes the test, the courtship continues.

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44. Tenor Luciano Pavarotti's standard contract required that there be no noise or "distinct smells" in the vicinity of the artist.

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45. Cookie Monster is not changing his name. In a 2012 episode he said, "We've got to stop this Veggie Monster rumor before me reputation ruined."

All photos courtesy of Getty Images unless otherwise noted.

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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
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technology
Man Buys Two Metric Tons of LEGO Bricks; Sorts Them Via Machine Learning
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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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© Nintendo
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fun
Nintendo Will Release an $80 Mini SNES in September
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© Nintendo

Retro gamers rejoice: Nintendo just announced that it will be launching a revamped version of its beloved Super Nintendo Classic console, which will allow kids and grown-ups alike to play classic 16-bit games in high-definition.

The new SNES Classic Edition, a miniature version of the original console, comes with an HDMI cable to make it compatible with modern televisions. It also comes pre-loaded with a roster of 21 games, including Super Mario Kart, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, Donkey Kong Country, and Star Fox 2, an unreleased sequel to the 1993 original.

“While many people from around the world consider the Super NES to be one of the greatest video game systems ever made, many of our younger fans never had a chance to play it,” Doug Bowser, Nintendo's senior vice president of sales and marketing, said in a statement. “With the Super NES Classic Edition, new fans will be introduced to some of the best Nintendo games of all time, while longtime fans can relive some of their favorite retro classics with family and friends.”

The SNES Classic Edition will go on sale on September 29 and retail for $79.99. Nintendo reportedly only plans to manufacture the console “until the end of calendar year 2017,” which means that the competition to get your hands on one will likely be stiff, as anyone who tried to purchase an NES Classic last year will well remember.

In November 2016, Nintendo released a miniature version of its original NES system, which sold out pretty much instantly. After selling 2.3 million units, Nintendo discontinued the NES Classic in April. In a statement to Polygon, the company has pledged to “produce significantly more units of Super NES Classic Edition than we did of NES Classic Edition.”

Nintendo has not yet released information about where gamers will be able to buy the new console, but you may want to start planning to get in line soon.

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