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Taija Vigilia

20 Artistic Takes on Disney Princesses

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Taija Vigilia

Fans of Brave's heroine, Merida, have been up in arms the last week over a Disney redesign that left the princess looking skinnier, sexier, and more in line with the rest of the company’s animated princesses. While it was announced that Disney was backing away from the redesign, the newest word is that the new Merida was only created for a specific line of limited edition merchandise and that the company isn’t going to pull the design at all. Here are some other ways the Disney princesses may have been portrayed.

1. Sexy Sirens

J. Scott Campbell’s Fairytale Fantasies portray the beautiful princesses in a comic book style—including the exaggerated figures and skimpy clothing. The result is essentially a teenage boy’s fantasy version of the fairytales he was told as a child.

2. Princess In Panties

If you think Merida was over sexualized in the new Disney design, just wait until you see DeviantArt user Bianni’s series featuring princesses in their lingerie.

Note: While none of the images are outrightly explicit, they're still largely NSFW.

3. The Princesses Who Lost

From its bad-assed warriors to full-on zombies, Jeffery Thomas’ Twisted Princess series shows what would have happened to the princesses if the bad guys won: Some princesses fight to take back what was once theirs, while others turn into the black-hearted villains they once resisted.

4. Princesses Want Your Brains, Not Your Heart

Artist Witit Karpkraikaew did a series of Disney princesses as zombies and, as you might expect, the results are not pretty—though they are awesomely gory.

5. These Gals Can Save Themselves

One of the biggest complaints about Disney princesses is the fact that they always need a hero there to rescue them. Well, that’s not a problem when it comes to the princesses designed by DeviantArt user joshwmc. In fact, they could probably take you down without breaking a sweat.

6. Tattoos Filled With Tattooed Gals

Artist Timothy John Shumate drew up a whole series of tattoo flash designs featuring Disney princesses—many of which have tattoos of their own in the artwork. It’s only a matter of time before one of his designs ends up on someone’s skin and in one of our geeky tattoo roundups.

7. More Accurate Costuming

Disney artists take a lot of liberties with their creations, particularly when it comes to designing accurate clothing for their characters. Fortunately, Claire Hummel is here to set the record straight with historically accurate depictions of the famous princesses based on the time period the stories take place and the detailing in the Disney designs. I highly recommend visiting her site to check out the whole gallery, particularly her interpretation of the evil sorcerer Maleficent.

Humorously, Claire later did a historically accurate depiction of Maid Marian for April Fool’s Day, showing lovely Marian as an actual fox shredding off its fancy clothing.

8. One Fish, Two Fish…

What do princess mermaids wear for Halloween? While I’m sure the answer varies from mermaid to mermaid, this Dory costume by Amy Mebberson sure works great for Ariel.

9. Maybe They’re All The Same

Amy Mebberson does a lot of great geek art, but it’s hard to beat this take on all of the princesses as different incarnations of The Doctor. The best thing about this line-up is that he would finally get to be a ginger—twice even!

10. The Fifth Princess

Amy doesn’t limit her princess crossovers to just Doctor Who. Here is Ariel as a very cool, but still tough-looking version of Leeloo.

11. Sailor Princesses

Artist Drachea Rannak is primarily fascinated by Sailor Moon, but she’s willing to let characters from other franchises join in on the fun and has even done a whole series of princesses reworked as characters from the popular anime. While I prefer Mulan, they’re all quite good, so you really should check out her facebook pictures and pick out your own favorite princess from the series.

12. Different Slave, Same Result

Think Jabba would do any better if he took a different princess as his slave? DeviantArt user ArtistAbe points out that he’d better choose wisely or he’ll likely end up in the exact same situation he was in with Leia.

13. The Force Is Strong With These Girls

Artist Ralph Sevelius wondered what would happen if the Disney princesses took over Star Wars and the results are delightful, from Mulan as Boba Fett to Jasmine as Slave Leia. Rapunzel makes a particularly great Jedi; since her hair already glows and has such magical properties, it may as well work as her lightsaber as well.

14. Steampunk Dreams

DeviantArt user MecaniqueFairy has a whole collection of Disney characters, including villains, in their best steampunk attire. His take on Merida is particularly great in how much detail it features—notice the bear head carved into the crossbow.

15. They’re So Cute At That Age

You’ve seen the Muppet Babies, but have you ever seen the Princess Babies? DeviantArt user moonchildinthesky imagined what all the princesses would look like before they started kindergarten and the results are utterly adorable.

16. Semi-Formal Princesses

If prom is magical and fairy tales are magical, then the proms of Disney princesses must be teeming with magic—and adorably awkward couples as well. Deviantart user spicystewdemon took the time to imagine what the classic characters would look like at their senior proms and the results are just as beautiful and nerdy as you might expect.

17. After the Fairy Tale

Aside from her prom pictures, Spicystewdemon has done quite a few works based on Disney characters. One of her newest series features the princesses as moms, something Jasmine seems quite well adapted to here.

18. Disney University

So between the time they graduated high school and when they had kids, what were those crazy Disney kids up to? Why going to college, of course. And DeviantArt user Hyung86 gives us a great idea of what our favorite characters would be up to during their years of higher education. Unsurprisingly, Alice goes into art, Arthur gets into fencing and Prince Adam becomes the team quarterback who Belle fawns over.

19. Their Age Since Their Releases

While most of the princesses are teenagers at the time their stories are set, Taija Vigilia calculated how old the princesses would be if they were born the years their movies were released, and then put them all together at a tea party. When she created this last year, Snow White would now be 75, Cinderella would be 62, and on the other end, Tiana would be 3 and Rapunzel would be 2.

20. Let Their Light Shine In

Artist Mandie Manzano may not actually make stained glass, but she’s quite gifted when it comes to designing it. She’s done all kinds of pop culture icons, but her collections of Disney characters are particularly beautiful, even when they include the Evil Queen from Snow White.

What do you guys think of Merida’s design? Should Disney’s princesses be pretty or should the company care more about creating good role models? And if you got to redesign any of them, what would you change about one of the Disney princesses?

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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
technology
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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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iStock
Animals
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Scientists Think They Know How Whales Got So Big
May 24, 2017
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iStock

It can be difficult to understand how enormous the blue whale—the largest animal to ever exist—really is. The mammal can measure up to 105 feet long, have a tongue that can weigh as much as an elephant, and have a massive, golf cart–sized heart powering a 200-ton frame. But while the blue whale might currently be the Andre the Giant of the sea, it wasn’t always so imposing.

For the majority of the 30 million years that baleen whales (the blue whale is one) have occupied the Earth, the mammals usually topped off at roughly 30 feet in length. It wasn’t until about 3 million years ago that the clade of whales experienced an evolutionary growth spurt, tripling in size. And scientists haven’t had any concrete idea why, Wired reports.

A study published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B might help change that. Researchers examined fossil records and studied phylogenetic models (evolutionary relationships) among baleen whales, and found some evidence that climate change may have been the catalyst for turning the large animals into behemoths.

As the ice ages wore on and oceans were receiving nutrient-rich runoff, the whales encountered an increasing number of krill—the small, shrimp-like creatures that provided a food source—resulting from upwelling waters. The more they ate, the more they grew, and their bodies adapted over time. Their mouths grew larger and their fat stores increased, helping them to fuel longer migrations to additional food-enriched areas. Today blue whales eat up to four tons of krill every day.

If climate change set the ancestors of the blue whale on the path to its enormous size today, the study invites the question of what it might do to them in the future. Changes in ocean currents or temperature could alter the amount of available nutrients to whales, cutting off their food supply. With demand for whale oil in the 1900s having already dented their numbers, scientists are hoping that further shifts in their oceanic ecosystem won’t relegate them to history.

[h/t Wired]

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