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Coins-and-Banknotes.com

11 Unusually Shaped Coins

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Coins-and-Banknotes.com

Sure, state quarters and presidential dollar coins may be fun. But for a truly unique coin, you need to think outside the box—or the circle, as it were—and come up with a truly original shape. Here are 11 coins with shapes that just might not work in a vending machine.

1. Baseball

In honor of the National Baseball Hall of Fame's 75th anniversary next year, the U.S. Mint announced that it would produce special $5 gold, $1 silver, and half-dollar coins. The twist? They'll be convex, to more closely resemble baseballs. The Mint is running a contest for the design of the concave side—the reverse will feature an anniversary logo for the Hall of Fame. While it's the first time the Mint is venturing into convex coins (and actually it will require an act of Congress to change a law that requires a certain diameter for gold and silver coins), other countries have tried it out. France debuted one in 2009 for the International Year of Astronomy, and Australia made one last year featuring the Southern Cross constellation (above).

2. Australia

The Perth Mint has been working on an unusual series of coins to honor Australia—they're all shaped like the country itself. So far three silver coins have been produced in the series, featuring a kookaburra, an emu, and a kangaroo against backgrounds of iconic Australian landscapes. 

3. Pyramid

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To celebrate a worldwide tour of treasures recovered from Tutankhamun's Tomb, the Isle of Man produced special coins shaped as—what else?—a pyramid. The world's first pyramid-shaped coin (triangular, actually) was legal tender on the island, but was designed mainly for collectors. One side featured a drawing of King Tut taken from the tomb itself, with real sand recovered from the entrance of the tomb used to fill in the sun. The other side featured Queen Elizabeth.

4. Guitar

JoelsCoins.com

In 2004, Somalia celebrated the 50th anniversary of rock & roll with a limited-edition series of guitar-shaped coins, showing off different popular styles. They included the Gibson Flying V and a pink star guitar, like the one used by Gary Glitter. Based on the popularity of the coins, Somalia issued another set in 2012, this time with Jimmy Page's double-necked guitar and a rectangular one like Bo Diddley played. In the grips of Civil War for years, the Somalian government actually does not distribute currency, so these coins are mostly for collectors. But they've launched a whole series of bizarre shapes, including…

5. Motorcycle

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…Motorcycles...

6. Sportscar

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And sportscars. You should also check out the rare 3D coin set and an animal series.

7. A Jigsaw Flag

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Poland and Ukraine jointly hosted the Euro 2012 football tournament, and in the spirit of cooperation, they released rare bi-national coins. One set had a traditional coin broken into two pieces, one with the value of 10 Polish zloty and the other 10 Ukranian hryvnia. But those had nothing on the special Polish jigsaw coins that, when joined together, formed a flag shape. On one side of the completed coin is the UEFA trophy, on the other a sketch of four football players. Each piece was worth 10 zloty, roughly $2.80 at the time, and represented the four Polish cities that were hosting games in the tournament.

8. Heart

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The Pacific island of Palau has tried to appeal to coin collectors with a whole series of unique coins, featuring holograms, gems, and even freshwater pearls. But perhaps their most unusual is a set of heart-shaped coins. A 2009 minting featured a pair of angels, while the 2012 run showed a heart with wings and the slogan "My heart flies for you."

9. Valencia Cathedral

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It's unclear why the Cook Islands chose to issue a coin in tribute to Pope Benedict XVI's 2006 trip to Valencia Cathedral in Spain. But the resulting gold-on-silver coin is quite elaborate. It's shaped like the cathedral itself, supposedly the site of the Holy Grail. And where there would normally be a stained glass window, the coin instead features small crystals.

10. Europe

Fleur-de-Coin.com

The Republic of Nauru, a South Pacific island also known as Pleasant Island, wanted to honor the 2002 formation of the European Union with its own commemorative coin. Naturally, the $10 silver coin they minted took the shape of all of the founding nations of the E.U.

11. The Bermuda Triangle

Numista.com

Not shying away from its notorious legacy, Bermuda embraced the legend of the Bermuda Triangle with a series of triangular coins, the first coming in 1970. The coins are prized among collectors and feature images of ships sailing in the Atlantic. One 1997 release even displayed the wreckage of the Sea Venture, a 17th-century English ship that crashed into the reefs off of Bermuda.

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Man Buys Two Metric Tons of LEGO Bricks; Sorts Them Via Machine Learning
May 21, 2017
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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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8 Common Dog Behaviors, Decoded
May 25, 2017
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Dogs are a lot more complicated than we give them credit for. As a result, sometimes things get lost in translation. We’ve yet to invent a dog-to-English translator, but there are certain behaviors you can learn to read in order to better understand what your dog is trying to tell you. The more tuned-in you are to your dog’s emotions, the better you’ll be able to respond—whether that means giving her some space or welcoming a wet, slobbery kiss. 

1. What you’ll see: Your dog is standing with his legs and body relaxed and tail low. His ears are up, but not pointed forward. His mouth is slightly open, he’s panting lightly, and his tongue is loose. His eyes? Soft or maybe slightly squinty from getting his smile on.

What it means: “Hey there, friend!” Your pup is in a calm, relaxed state. He’s open to mingling, which means you can feel comfortable letting friends say hi.

2. What you’ll see: Your dog is standing with her body leaning forward. Her ears are erect and angled forward—or have at least perked up if they’re floppy—and her mouth is closed. Her tail might be sticking out horizontally or sticking straight up and wagging slightly.

What it means: “Hark! Who goes there?!” Something caught your pup’s attention and now she’s on high alert, trying to discern whether or not the person, animal, or situation is a threat. She’ll likely stay on guard until she feels safe or becomes distracted.

3. What you’ll see: Your dog is standing, leaning slightly forward. His body and legs are tense, and his hackles—those hairs along his back and neck—are raised. His tail is stiff and twitching, not swooping playfully. His mouth is open, teeth are exposed, and he may be snarling, snapping, or barking excessively.

What it means: “Don’t mess with me!” This dog is asserting his social dominance and letting others know that he might attack if they don’t defer accordingly. A dog in this stance could be either offensively aggressive or defensively aggressive. If you encounter a dog in this state, play it safe and back away slowly without making eye contact.

4. What you’ll see: As another dog approaches, your dog lies down on his back with his tail tucked in between his legs. His paws are tucked in too, his ears are flat, and he isn’t making direct eye contact with the other dog standing over him.

What it means: “I come in peace!” Your pooch is displaying signs of submission to a more dominant dog, conveying total surrender to avoid physical confrontation. Other, less obvious, signs of submission include ears that are flattened back against the head, an avoidance of eye contact, a tongue flick, and bared teeth. Yup—a dog might bare his teeth while still being submissive, but they’ll likely be clenched together, the lips opened horizontally rather than curled up to show the front canines. A submissive dog will also slink backward or inward rather than forward, which would indicate more aggressive behavior.

5. What you’ll see: Your dog is crouching with her back hunched, tail tucked, and the corner of her mouth pulled back with lips slightly curled. Her shoulders, or hackles, are raised and her ears are flattened. She’s avoiding eye contact.

What it means: “I’m scared, but will fight you if I have to.” This dog’s fight or flight instincts have been activated. It’s best to keep your distance from a dog in this emotional state because she could attack if she feels cornered.

6. What you’ll see: You’re staring at your dog, holding eye contact. Your dog looks away from you, tentatively looks back, then looks away again. After some time, he licks his chops and yawns.

What it means: “I don’t know what’s going on and it’s weirding me out.” Your dog doesn’t know what to make of the situation, but rather than nipping or barking, he’ll stick to behaviors he knows are OK, like yawning, licking his chops, or shaking as if he’s wet. You’ll want to intervene by removing whatever it is causing him discomfort—such as an overly grabby child—and giving him some space to relax.

7. What you’ll see: Your dog has her front paws bent and lowered onto the ground with her rear in the air. Her body is relaxed, loose, and wiggly, and her tail is up and wagging from side to side. She might also let out a high-pitched or impatient bark.

What it means: “What’s the hold up? Let’s play!” This classic stance, known to dog trainers and behaviorists as “the play bow,” is a sign she’s ready to let the good times roll. Get ready for a round of fetch or tug of war, or for a good long outing at the dog park.

8. What you’ll see: You’ve just gotten home from work and your dog rushes over. He can’t stop wiggling his backside, and he may even lower himself into a giant stretch, like he’s doing yoga.

What it means: “OhmygoshImsohappytoseeyou I love you so much you’re my best friend foreverandeverandever!!!!” This one’s easy: Your pup is overjoyed his BFF is back. That big stretch is something dogs don’t pull out for just anyone; they save that for the people they truly love. Show him you feel the same way with a good belly rub and a handful of his favorite treats.

The best way to say “I love you” in dog? A monthly subscription to BarkBox. Your favorite pup will get a package filled with treats, toys, and other good stuff (and in return, you’ll probably get lots of sloppy kisses). Visit BarkBox to learn more.

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