CLOSE
Original image
Heather Bays' Etsy Store

20 Delightfully Geeky Baby Toys

Original image
Heather Bays' Etsy Store

Just because you were lucky enough to forgo pop music and trash television doesn’t mean your little one will be so lucky. But if you want to start your baby off on the right path as soon as possible, you can always help push him or her into geekdom with one of these great baby toys.

1. Vampire Pacifier

Whether your little angel is an Anne Rice, Bram Stoker, or Twilight fan in training, ThinkGeek’s pacifier fangs are a great way to make him grow to love his inner vampire.

2. Handlebar Mustache Pacifier

If your baby was just born to love Victrola records and Penny Farthing bicycles, then this fantastic handlebar mustache pacifier from appropriately named Etsy seller BabyHipsters is a must.

3. Golden Snitch Rattle

Just because your child probably won’t receive a letter inviting him to Hogwarts doesn’t mean that you can’t train him to be a professional quiddich player from an early age. If you want a champion seeker, start him out with this golden snitch rattle from Etsy seller ThreeDegrees.

4. Yoshi Egg Rattle

Teach your child the value of old-school games so they can appreciate why Yoshi, Tetris, and Pac-Man are so fantastic. Start your babe young with Etsy seller HandmadeMonster's rattle that looks like Yoshi’s egg.

5. Dr. Mario Pill Rattle

Etsy seller 72stitches' Dr. Mario rattles are great because they will not only get your child interested in classic Nintendo games from an early age, but they may also inspire your little angel to go into medicine—and who doesn’t want their baby to grow up to be a doctor?

6. Mario Baby Rattle

Etsy seller Mama24Boyz sells a PDF pattern of these designs for anyone interested in crocheting their very own Mario Bros. baby rattles. Yarn, needle, and intermediate crochet experience sold separately.

7. Eye Ball Rattle

Have you sworn to train your child how to survive the zombie apocalypse? Then get her started early with Etsy seller HandmadeMonster's eye ball rattle so she can become desensitized to the inevitable violence and gore that will take over the world in those dark days to come.

8. Cthulhu Rattle

Prefer your horror to be a little more psychological than a typical zombie gore-fest? Then interest your child in Lovecraft and the Cthulhu mythos with this cute little crocheted Cthulhu rattle by Etsy seller HeatherBays.

9. Death Star Rattle

If your baby Jedi is ready to destroy his first Death Star, start him off easy with this adorable baby rattle version by Etsy seller SincereCostumes. Sure, it will take a lot of spit, dirt and vomit to destroy this soft version, but like all Death Stars, it has its weak spots.

10. Lightsaber Rattle

Etsy seller Geek-a-Bye Baby sells all kinds of great geek baby goodies. This lightsaber rattle, for example, is a great way to accustom your child to using the Force from an early age.

11. Yoda Rattle

Similarly, Geek-a-Bye Baby’s Yoda rattle provides an excellent chance for you to expose your youngster to the light side of the Force before she ever learns that the dark side likes to bribe young recruits with cookies.

12. Doctor Hoo Owl

For geek parents who prefer the TARDIS to the Millennium Falcon, Geek-a-Baby’s adorable plush “Doctor Hoo” owl, based on Number 11, can help introduce your little companion to the wide world of Whovianism.

13. Dalek Plushies

These pastel yarn Daleks by Etsy seller fassbaby may not destroy the world, but be careful—they might just steal your baby’s heart. Aside from being adorable, they also feature a jingling bell inside so even before your little one can really grasp what it means to be The Doctor’s greatest nemesis, she’ll understand why the Daleks have been a fan-favorite since the sixties.

14. The One Ring Teether

This One Ring teether by Etsy seller averyrayne won’t make your baby invisible, but it might help the pains of teething disappear. Just make sure you take it away before she is old enough to start calling it “my precious.”

15. Nintendo Controller Teether

NinTeeth-o might not be as popular as Nintendo, but when your baby is teething, he’ll certainly appreciate this wooden controller by Etsy seller 3PrincessStore over the plastic game controller he’ll grow to love as he gets older.

16. Batman Teether

If you want your kid to grow up ready to take a bite out of crime, then get him started on the right path with this Batman teether by Etsy seller TeethME. It’s a much better way to start him on his road to superherodom than letting him become an orphan.

17. Superhero Rubber Duckies

It’s important to make bath time fun for your young ones or else you’re going to have a hard time getting them to scrub up as they get older. If you want to help make your babe’s bath fun and geeky, then grab one of these superhero rubber duckies.

18. Scrabble Building Blocks

Some parents want to teach their children the value of a dollar, but for others, the value of Scrabble letters can be just as important. These Scrabble blocks by Etsy seller TheBlackSpot are a great way to get your child familiar with Scrabble tiles before she can even spell the word “Scrabble.”

19. Presidential Building Blocks

Get your little one addicted to history from a young age with these Presidential Building Blocks that feature images and facts about all 44 presidents. When stacked in the proper manner, the blocks come together to form an American flag.

20. Periodic Table Blocks

Just because your little one is too young to read doesn’t mean she’s too young for science. Now you can begin to instill elemental knowledge before elementary school with these periodic table building blocks.

I regret that I can’t weigh in on the effectiveness of such great geek goodies as I don’t have any youngsters yet. But do any of you Flosser parents have any other useful tips on how to get your child interested in geek culture before they can even speak?

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
Nick Briggs/Comic Relief
entertainment
arrow
What Happened to Jamie and Aurelia From Love Actually?
May 26, 2017
Original image
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]

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