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11 Lesser-Known Names for Baby Animals

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We know that infant chickens are called chicks and baby ducks are called ducklings. But how do we appropriately refer to the newborn offspring of animals that don’t often get cooed over in their early developmental stages? Here are 11 of some of the more offbeat and uncommon names for baby animals.

1. Baby alpaca/llama: cria

Wikimedia Commons

Despite the subtle distinctions between llamas and alpacas with regards to size, strength, and quality/quantity of wool fiber produced from their respective fleeces, both animals can interbreed and successfully produce offspring. Both genetically pure llamas/alpacas and their mixed progeny are called cria in the singular, crias in the plural.

2. Baby clam: larva


That steaming helping of seafood stew will look much less appetizing with the word “larva” stuck in your head. I’m sorry.

3. Baby hare: leveret

A curious fact about hares: Rather than sheltering their newborn young from potential dangers in their environment, a mother hare will leave her offspring behind for long periods of time within an hour of their birth in order to avoid attracting predators to them, returning to provide food at night. The Wildlife Rehabilitation Society of Edmonton, hoping to curb instances of well-intentioned but ill-informed citizens spontaneously adopting baby hares found in fields, promotes a catchy slogan: "If you see a baby hare, leave it right there!" They may know the correct term is leveret, but it's much harder to rhyme with it.

4. Baby fish: fry, fingerling

Flickr user calwhiz

The names for baby fish are memorable for their irony: fry, a common method of preparing the edible varieties for consumption, and fingerling, a type of potato that pairs well as a side. Not suitable for vegetarians.

5. Baby fox: kit

Wikimedia Commons

Born blind, deaf, and toothless, fox kits mature quickly. Around 4-5 weeks, their blue eyes darken to amber; within the first month, they develop their trademark white face patches; and they reach adult proportions in as little as six months. 

6. Baby hawk: eyas


In general, a fledgling hawk taken from its nest within its first year of life, specifically for the purposes of falconry, is called an eyas. In particular, the two baby hawks born in Washington Square Park under the watchful eye of the New York Times HawkCam in 2012 are called Boo and Scout.

7. Baby pig: shoat/farrow


In addition to the more obvious "boarlet" and "piglet," baby hogs and boars may also correctly be referred to as shoats (newly weaned pigs) or a farrow (a collective term for a group of young pigs). For the purposes of a nursery rhyme, however, "this little piggy" is an appropriate substitute.

8. Baby jellyfish: ephyra

Image from Flickr user frostnova

And the term for a group of jellyfish traveling together: a “smack.”

9. Baby beaver: pup, kit, kitten

Flickr user Fakan

With names borrowed from both cats and dogs but none truly of their own, it's not hard to imagine a baby beaver might have some identity struggles growing up.

10. Baby platypus: puggle

Baby Animalz

Although there’s some controversy over its unofficial status as a legitimate term for baby platypuses, “puggle” is a term borrowed from baby echidnas and applied to its fellow egg-laying mammale. There is no officially recognized label for platypus babies, but in recent years “platypup” has emerged as a more logical but less memorable alternative. And yes, I used “platypuses” as a plural for platypus, and I’m sticking to my guns here.

11. Baby swan: cygnet, flapper


The “ugly duckling” may have outgrown his awkward phase and blossomed into a beautiful swan, but I speak from experience: those things are mean.

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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
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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Why Your iPhone Doesn't Always Show You the 'Decline Call' Button
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When you get an incoming call to your iPhone, the options that light up your screen aren't always the same. Sometimes you have the option to decline a call, and sometimes you only see a slider that allows you to answer, without an option to send the caller straight to voicemail. Why the difference?

A while back, Business Insider tracked down the answer to this conundrum of modern communication, and the answer turns out to be fairly simple.

If you get a call while your phone is locked, you’ll see the "slide to answer" button. In order to decline the call, you have to double-tap the power button on the top of the phone.

If your phone is unlocked, however, the screen that appears during an incoming call is different. You’ll see the two buttons, "accept" or "decline."

Either way, you get the options to set a reminder to call that person back or to immediately send them a text message. ("Dad, stop calling me at work, it’s 9 a.m.!")

[h/t Business Insider]