CLOSE
Original image
Getty Images

22 Vintage Photos of Animals Acting Like People

Original image
Getty Images

Forget celebrities being just like us. These vintage photos prove that animals have a rich history of indulging in activities usually reserved for humans.

They Listen to Music...

This image: Music lovers partner up for their favourite dance programme on the wireless, February 1926. Top image: A cat wearing headphones to listen to a radio, January 1926.

...And Go to Bars.

January 1936: A camel approaches the bar to be served by "Zandra," the pantomime cat from 'Dick Whittington' at Bournemouth Pavillion.

They Enjoy Family Meals...

July 1936: 'Tornado' Smith, the Wall of Death rider from Southend, and his wife having tea with their pet lion and lamb.

...And Go to Parties.

June 1934: Snake charmer Arimund Banu holds a party for stage performers' pets at the Prince of Wales Theatre, London.

They Play Board Games...

February 1933: A lamb and a cat playing draughts, watched over by a bantam, at Langford, Somerset.

...And Enjoy Sporty Activities!

1940: A young boy on skates clutches a large tabby cat.

Obesity is a problem for them, too.

1935: Ginger, the heaviest cat in London, is greeted by one of the staff at the restaurant where he lives, High Holborn, London, 12th October 1935. Ginger weighs in at twenty-three pounds

They Go on Road Trips...

September 1934: Mrs C Wylds behind the wheel with her pet pig at Terling in Essex.

...And Take Primping Seriously.

April 1932: Feline film star "Tibby" rests on the knee of Abraham Sofaer, leading man in her film for British Lion at Beaconsfield, The Flying Squad, while make-up man Gerald Fairbank trims her whiskers for the camera.

They Indulge in Fine Meals at Fancy Restaurants.

1980: Arthur, the cat food commercial cat, is wined and dined at a fancy restaurant.

They Get Behind the Wheel.

1933: A cat and a bulldog in a toy car.

They sing, too!

1926: Mr Macfrisco, the singing sea lion, has a singing lesson.

They Celebrate Birthdays...

August 1977: A twenty-seven year old cat celebrates her birthday, an age equivalent to 189 in human terms.

...And Go Window Shopping.

American silent film actress Phyllis Gordon (1889 - 1964) window-shopping in Earls Court, London with her four-year-old cheetah who was flown to Britain from Kenya.

They Strike a Pose.

June 1956: Members of the Malayan Police Band Bachan Singh and Abdul Rahman, due to appear at the Royal Tournament, visit London Zoo and make friends with Anabella the Orang-Outang.

They Do Laundry.

September 1933: A cat hangs a row of tame rats on the washing line to dry.

They Need an Annual Checkup from a Good Doctor. 

A zoo vet holding an iguana, circa 1956.

They go tanning.

January 1938: A piglet which is being treated by the PDSA (People's Dispensary for Animals) in Ilford with a sun ray lamp, to cure a skin ailment.

They Wear Glasses...

1925: Film actress Fay Webb with her pet goose, which is wearing an attractive pair of glasses.

...And Use Weapons.

1956: "Carrots" the rabbit fires table tennis balls from a toy cannon.

And hey—they write, too!

1955: A woman teaching her kangaroo to type.

All photos courtesy of Getty Images.

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