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Wikipedia / "Duck Attack"

11 More Weird & Wonderful Wikipedia Lists

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Wikipedia / "Duck Attack"

Let's face it: Wikipedia is a goldmine of weirdness. Today I return to the well to bring you more of my favorite bizarro Wikipedia lists. Prepare yourself for wackiness, people!

1. List of Fictional Ducks

The Fictional Ducks list includes an (admittedly thin) section on Ducks in Video Games. Ahem:

Deadly Duck is the eponymous character of the Atari 2600 video game Deadly Duck (1982). The 2600 retrogame Duck Attack! (2010) features a mallard named Bruce, and additionally a grey variant named Mandy, a gold variant named Pat, a blue variant named Groucho, and a ruddy variant named Clarice.

But my absolute favorite fictional quacker is John D. Roderduck, "an antagonist duck from Donald Duck's Duck universe." I'm convinced that musician John Roderick is a distant cousin of this fictional duck.

2. List of People Who Have Been Pied

This one is self-explanatory, though the tagline at the top curtly notes: "This is an incomplete list, which may never be able to satisfy particular standards for completeness." The list includes columns for "Victim" and "Perpetrator," among others. Among the (allegedly) pied:

Willie Brown - San Francisco Mayor - "During speech" - by the Biotic Baking Brigade

William F. Buckley, Jr. - Conservative political commentator - "Unknown event" - by Aron Kay

King Carl XVI Gustaf - King of Sweden - "During a visit to Varberg" - by a "16-year old boy"

Bill Gates - Founder of Microsoft - "Meeting of the European Union" - by Noël Godin (who allegedly then said, "My work is done here.")

There's also a whole string of New York Yankees who were pied by fellow Yankee A.J. Burnett during various 2009 winning home games. It's a tradition!

3. List of Premature Obituaries

People for whom reports of their death were exaggerated. Including:

Mark Twain (twice)

Abe Vigoda (actor): In 1982, People magazine referred to him as 'the late Abe Vigoda'. He then posed for a photograph showing him sitting up in a coffin, holding the magazine in question. Vigoda claims that during the 1980s the widespread belief that he was dead cost him work. Erroneous reports of Vigoda's death have become something of a running joke, such as in television sketches.

Neil Young: was mistakenly reported dead on August 25, 2012 on NBCNews.com. A headline reported "Astronaut Neil Young, first man to walk on moon, dies at age 82". In fact, Neil Armstrong had died. NBC said they corrected the error after seven minutes. Some believe it was the result of confusing Armstrong with fellow astronaut John Young, who is still alive.

4. List of Fictional Drinking Establishments

25 watering holes that are only in our dreams, including:

Moe's Tavern (The Simpsons)

Mos Eisley Cantina (Star Wars)

Rick's Café Américain (Casablanca)

5. List of Sports

I bet you didn't know that these are actual sports:

Throwball

Deaf Basketball

Danish Longball (equipment includes "optional safety pads")

Mountain Unicycling

Noodling

6. List of TV Spin-Offs

This list begins with a surprisingly detailed discussion of the difference between a spin-off, a crossover, and a remake. Here are a few notable spin-offs along with their parent series:

Maude, Good Times, The Jeffersons, Checking In, Archie Bunker's Place, Gloria, 704 Hauser - All in the Family (that's one prolific show!)

Pinky and the Brain - Animaniacs

Frasier - Cheers (which also spawned The Tortellis, which lasted just thirteen episodes)

The Facts of Life - Diff'rent Strokes

Empty Nest - Golden Girls

It's an extremely long list of fascinating spin-offs. The number of shows spawned by Popstars is insane.

7. List of Films Considered the Worst

These are awful, at least according to critics. Best of the worst:

Santa Claus Conquers the Martians (1964)

Manos: The Hands of Fate (1966)

The Garbage Pail Kids Movie (1987)

Bio-Dome (1996)

Birdemic: Shock and Terror (2008)

The summary of Manos: The Hands of Fate begins: "A low-budget horror film made by an El Paso insurance and fertilizer salesman Hal P. Warren, the plot concerns a vacationing family that is kidnapped by a polygamous cult of pagans." But it gets way better worse!

8. List of Sesame Street Muppets

Learn the history behind some of your favorite Muppets! Including this poor professor, who was canceled for being overly boring:

Professor Hastings - Frank Oz - A bespectacled and old Fat Blue Anything Muppet professor with white hair who gives comically confused lectures, losing track of the subject and falling into short naps. Kermit often acts as his assistant, keeping him awake and reminding the absent-minded professor of the topic of his lecture. He was removed from the show because he was too dull.

9. List of Fictional Universes in Film and TV

Hey everybody, let's visit my favorite fictional universe, the Fringe universe. No, no, the other Fringe universe. Wait, are the parallel universes considered just one universe? I'm confused now. See also:

Tommy Westphall Universe - A Hypothetical Universe that encompasses St. Elsewhere and numerous other television shows (primarily those produced by US network NBC) which are directly or indirectly connected through fictional crossovers and spin-offs.

Whoniverse - Main setting of Doctor Who, Torchwood, Sarah Jane and other spin-offs of the Doctor Who series.

10. Planets in Science Fiction

Who could forget these sci-fi planets?

Erna - A seismically active planet with psychically malleable quasi-sentient natural forces called the Fae in Celia S. Friedman's Coldfire Trilogy.

K-PAX - A utopian planet in the novel and film of the same name, which is quite possibly the delusional invention of a madman who claims to be from the planet.

Tralfamadore - A planet populated by the phlegmatic Tralfamadorians in the works of Kurt Vonnegut.

Zarkon - Home planet of Philo, TV-station engineer in the film UHF.

11. List of Cryptids

Cryptids are animals presumed to exist, but their "existence has often been derived from anecdotal or other evidence, considered insufficient by mainstream science." Here are a few to haunt your dreams, along with Wikipedia's brief notes:

Devil Monkey - Unconfirmed, only one carcass has ever been found - Baboon-like body with kangaroo-like legs; very aggressive

Flatwoods Monster - Unconfirmed - Spade-headed extraterrestrial

Hellhound (aka Barghest, Black Shuck, Dip, Gwyllgi, Gytrash) - Unconfirmed - Large, black, spectral hound with red eyes

Kelpie - Unconfirmed - Carnivorous [and aquatic] equine

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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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