So We Made Some Changes to the Site

Not sure if anyone noticed, but we've made some changes around here. Figured we'd at least get a letter or two.

I kid! Since we rolled out the new site on Friday, we've been flooded with emails and comments. Most were constructive and polite. Some were constructive and hostile. And a select few I wouldn't be allowed to reprint. If I haven't responded to your email yet it's because I can't type very fast.

You made some very good points. Let's go over the common threads:

Where's the Morning Links/Brain Game/Daily Morning Quiz?

In the next few days, you'll see a box in the right-hand column on the homepage called Daily Floss. Inside will be links to the latest Morning Cup of Links, Brain Game, and 5 Questions. They'll also appear in the list of headlines on the homepage.

What's this link to "The Knowledge Feed" in the navigation?

That'll lead to a page kinda like this, except The Knowledge Feed will give you the first few sentences of each story in reverse chronological order. More like the old "Blogs" page.

How do you decide what goes in "Buzzing"?

When stories from our archives become popular on Facebook, Twitter, StumbleUpon, or Reddit, they'll be featured here. They could be recent stories that have fallen off the homepage or classics from our greatest hits album.

Let's say my power goes out for a week. I'll need to conserve my phone battery for emergencies, so I can't get my daily dose of mental_floss. When the lights come back on and I want to go back and read everything I missed, how will I do that?

There are no generators where you live? You don't have a second phone solely for _flossing? OK, you'll be able to keep hitting that "Load More" button for forever and keep seeing older posts. This will work in the homepage or in The Knowledge Feed.

Wait, what's going on with that "Load More" bar? It's not loading anything more on my phone.

If this isn't working for you, could you leave a comment with your browser/operating system/device? Also: An actual mobile version is launching soon, if you like mobile versions of things.

Change it back.

Give it a chance!

Why did you cut off your RSS feed?

Sorry about that. It was not intentional. We'll fix.

I just took a quiz and the average score was 760%. What equation are you math wizards using?

x = I have no idea what's happening. It's on the list.

Why isn't the 5 Question quiz on one page, like it always was?

That's something else we're trying to fix. It's not as easy a fix as I thought it would be (apologies to the people I told "it's an easy fix!"), but it's also on the list.

Who is this "we"? You and I were in Computer Science 1 together and you are not a programmer.

John and Marty are working around the clock to address everything we're talking about here, plus a host of behind-the-scenes issues. I wish there were three Johns and three Martys. Maybe some of them could get some sleep then.

Did you get angry emails the last time you redesigned the site?

Yes we did. And the time before that.

Why is there a picture of your daughters up there?

Because I'm not very photogenic. Charlotte and Katie have a new brother or sister on the way next month. When he or she arrives I'm going to disappear for a while. The site won't miss a beat, but we needed to work out the kinks before that happens. Thanks for your patience and your emails. I really think you'll grow to like this

If your issue wasn't touched on here, leave a comment, send me a note (, or tweet @EnglishJason.

Oh, and there's a quirk with the timestamp function, so I'll go ahead and publish the Brain Game and Morning Links right now. They'll be there when you wake up.

Hate Red M&M's? You Need a Candy Color-Sorting Machine

You don’t have to be a demanding rock star to live a life without brown M&M's or purple Skittles—all you need is some engineering know-how and a little bit of free time.

Mechanical engineering student Willem Pennings created a machine that can take small pieces of candy—like M&M's, Skittles, Reese’s Pieces, etc.—and sort them by color into individual piles. All Pennings needs to do is pour the candy into the top funnel; from there, the machine separates the candy—around two pieces per second—and dispenses all of it into smaller bowls at the bottom designated for each variety.

The color identification is performed with an RGB sensor that takes “optical measurements” of candy pieces of equal dimensions. There are limitations, though, as Pennings revealed in a Reddit Q&A: “I wouldn't be able to use this machine for peanut M&M's, since the sizes vary so much.”

The entire building process lasted from May through December 2016, and included the actual conceptualization, 3D printing (which was outsourced), and construction. The entire project was detailed on Pennings’s website and Reddit's DIY page.

With all of the motors, circuitry, and hardware that went into it, Pennings’s machine is likely too ambitious of a task for the average candy aficionado. So until a machine like this hits the open market, you're probably stuck buying bags of single-colored M&M’s in bulk online or sorting all of the candy out yourself the old fashioned way.

To see Pennings’s machine in action, check out the video below:

[h/t Refinery 29]

Universal Pictures
Pop Culture
The Strange Hidden Link Between Silent Hill and Kindergarten Cop
Universal Pictures
Universal Pictures

by Ryan Lambie

At first glance, Kindergarten Cop and Silent Hill don't seem to have much in common—aside from both being products of the 1990s. At the beginning of the decade came Kindergarten Cop, the hit comedy directed by Ivan Reitman and starring larger-than-life action star Arnold Schwarzenegger. At the decade’s end came Silent Hill, Konami’s best-selling survival horror game that sent shivers down PlayStation owners’ spines.

As pop culture artifacts go, they’re as different as oil and water. Yet eagle-eyed players may have noticed a strange hidden link between the video game and the goofy family comedy.

In Silent Hill, you control Harry Mason, a father hunting for his daughter Cheryl in the eerily deserted town of the title. Needless to say, the things Mason uncovers are strange and very, very gruesome. Early on in the game, Harry stumbles on a school—Midwich Elementary School, to be precise—which might spark a hint of déjà vu as soon as you approach its stone steps. The building’s double doors and distinctive archway appear to have been taken directly from Kindergarten Cop’s Astoria Elementary School.

Could it be a coincidence?

Well, further clues can be found as you venture inside. As well as encountering creepy gray children and other horrors, you’ll notice that its walls are decorated with numerous posters. Some of those posters—including a particularly distinctive one with a dog on it—also decorated the halls of the school in Kindergarten Cop.

Do a bit more hunting, and you’ll eventually find a medicine cabinet clearly modeled on one glimpsed in the movie. Most creepily of all, you’ll even encounter a yellow school bus that looks remarkably similar to the one in the film (though this one has clearly seen better days).

Silent Hill's references to the movie are subtle—certainly subtle enough for them to pass the majority of players by—but far too numerous to be a coincidence. When word of the link between game and film began to emerge in 2012, some even joked that Konami’s Silent Hill was a sequel to Kindergarten Cop. So what’s really going on?

When Silent Hill was in early development back in 1996, director Keiichiro Toyama set out to make a game that was infused with influences from some of his favorite American films and TV shows. “What I am a fan of is occult stuff and UFO stories and so on; that and I had watched a lot of David Lynch films," he told Polygon in 2013. "So it was really a matter of me taking what was on my shelves and taking the more horror-oriented aspects of what I found.”

A scene from 'Silent Hill'
Divine Tokyoska, Flickr

In an interview with IGN much further back, in 2001, a member of Silent Hill’s staff also stated, “We draw our influences from all over—fiction, movies, manga, new and old.”

So while Kindergarten Cop is perhaps the most outlandish movie reference in Silent Hill, it’s by no means the only one. Cafe5to2, another prominent location in the game, is taken straight from Oliver Stone’s Natural Born Killers.

Elsewhere, you might spot a newspaper headline which references The Silence Of The Lambs (“Bill Skins Fifth”). Look carefully, and you'll also find nods to such films as The Shining, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Psycho, and 12 Monkeys.

Similarly, the town’s streets are all named after respected sci-fi and horror novelists, with Robert Bloch, Dean Koontz, Ray Bradbury, and Richard Matheson among the most obvious. Oh, and Midwich, the name of the school? That’s taken from the classic 1957 novel The Midwich Cuckoos by John Wyndham, twice adapted for the screen as The Village Of The Damned in 1960 and 1995.

Arnold Schwarzenegger in 'Kindergarten Cop'
Universal Pictures

The reference to Kindergarten Cop could, therefore, have been a sly joke on the part of Silent Hill’s creators—because what could be stranger than modeling something in a horror game on a family-friendly comedy? But there could be an even more innocent explanation: that Kindergarten Cop spends so long inside an ordinary American school simply gave Toyama and his team plenty of material to reference when building their game.

Whatever the reasons, the Kindergarten Cop reference ranks highly among the most strange and unexpected film connections in the history of the video game medium. Incidentally, the original movie's exteriors used a real school, John Jacob Astor Elementary in Astoria, Oregon. According to a 1991 article in People Magazine, the school's 400 fourth grade students were paid $35 per day to appear in Kindergarten Cop as extras.

It’s worth pointing out that the school is far less scary a place than the video game location it unwittingly inspired, and to the best of our knowledge, doesn't have an undercover cop named John Kimble serving as a teacher there, either.


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