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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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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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