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65 Amazing Facts That Will Blow Your Mind

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Getty Images/Arno Burgi

OK, "blow your mind" is a bit dramatic. But 65 Amazing Facts You'll Probably Enjoy and Likely Consider Mentioning to Your Friends didn't fit.

1. Google's founders were willing to sell to Excite for under $1 million in 1999—but Excite turned them down.

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2. There was a third Apple founder. Ronald Wayne (pictured at home in 2010) sold his 10% stake for $800 in 1976.

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3. The famous Aaron Burr “Got Milk?” ad from 1993 was directed by Michael Bay.

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4. According to Amazon, the most highlighted Kindle books are the Bible, the Steve Jobs biography, and The Hunger Games.

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5. A California woman once tried to sue the makers of Cap'n Crunch because Crunch Berries contained "no berries of any kind."

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6. Wilford Brimley was Howard Hughes's bodyguard.

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7. During WWI, German measles were called "liberty measles" and dachshunds became "liberty hounds."

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8. In a 2008 survey, 58% of British teens thought Sherlock Holmes was a real guy, while 20% thought Winston Churchill was not.

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9. At one point in the 1990s, 50% of all CDs produced worldwide were for AOL.

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10. Toy companies failed to duplicate the success of Theodore Roosevelt's teddy bear with William Taft's "Billy Possum."

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11. Nutella was invented during WWII, when an Italian pastry maker mixed hazelnuts into chocolate to extend his chocolate ration.

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12. In response to The Lorax, the forest products industry published Truax to teach kids the importance of logging.

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13. Tsutomu Yamaguchi was in Hiroshima for work when the first A-bomb hit, made it home to Nagasaki for the second, and lived to be 93.

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14. A British man changed his name to Tim Pppppppppprice to make it harder for telemarketers to pronounce.

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15. J.P. Morgan once offered $100,000 to anyone who could figure out why his face was so red. No one solved the mystery.

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16. Prairie dogs say hello with kisses.

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17. In the mid-1960s, Slumber Party Barbie came with a book called "How to Lose Weight." One of the tips was "Don’t eat."

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18. A 2009 search for the Loch Ness Monster came up empty. Scientists did find over 100,000 golf balls.

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19. After OutKast sang “Shake it like a Polaroid picture,” Polaroid released a statement that said, “Shaking or waving can actually damage the image.”

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20. New Mexico State's first graduating class in 1893 had only one student—and he was shot and killed before graduation.

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21. In the mid-1980s, Fergie of The Black Eyed Peas was the voice of Charlie Brown's sister Sally.

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22. Jonas Salk declined to patent his polio vaccine. "There is no patent," he said. "Could you patent the sun?"

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23. Only one McDonald’s in the world has turquoise arches. Sedona, AZ thought yellow clashed with the natural red rock.

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24. The 50-star American flag was designed by an Ohio high school student for a class project. His teacher originally gave him a B–.

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25. According to the National Insurance Crime Bureau, the most commonly stolen vehicle in 2012 was the 1994 Honda Accord.

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26. After leaving office, Lyndon Johnson let his hair grow out.

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27. Crabs have their own version of the fist pump. Male crabs wave their claws in the air to attract females.

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28. Calvin Klein's Obsession for Men is used by researchers to attract animals to cameras in the wilderness.

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29. Sean Connery turned down the Gandalf role in Lord of the Rings. "I read the book. I read the script. I saw the movie. I still don't understand it."

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30. E.B. White of Charlotte's Web fame is the "White" of Strunk and White, who wrote The Elements of Style.

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31. Chock Full o' Nuts coffee does not contain nuts. It's named for a chain of nut stores that the founder converted into coffee shops.

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32. 12+1 = 11+2, and "twelve plus one" is an anagram of "eleven plus two."

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33. San Francisco 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh played Screech's cousin on a 1996 episode of Saved by the Bell: The New Class.

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34. At the height of Rin Tin Tin's fame, a chef prepared him a daily steak lunch. Classical musicians played to aid his digestion.

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35. The Arkansas School for the Deaf's nickname is the Leopards. The Deaf Leopards.

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36. If your dog's feet smell like corn chips, you're not alone. The term "Frito Feet" was coined to describe the scent.

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37. A sex pheromone found in male mouse urine was named "darcin," for Jane Austen's Mr. Darcy.

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38. Barry Manilow did not write his hit "I Write the Songs."

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39. He did, however, write State Farm's "Like a Good Neighbor" jingle.

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40. And "I am stuck on Band-Aids, 'cause Band-Aid's stuck on me."

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41. Winston Churchill's mother was born in Brooklyn.

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42. Officials in Portland, Ore., drained 8 million gallons of water from a reservoir in 2011 because a buzzed 21-year-old peed in it.

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43. There's a basketball court above the Supreme Court. It's known as the Highest Court in the Land.

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44. If you start counting at one and spell out the numbers as you go, you won't use the letter "A" until you reach 1,000.

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45. On a 1999 episode of The West Wing, Nick Offerman ("Ron Swanson") played a man lobbying the White House to build a $900 million wolves-only roadway.

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46. The medical term for ice cream headaches is sphenopalatine ganglioneuralgia.

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47. After Leonardo da Vinci's death, King Francis I of France hung the Mona Lisa in his bathroom.

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48. Redondo Beach, CA adopted the Goodyear Blimp as the city's official bird in 1983.

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49. In 2001, Beaver College changed its name to Arcadia in part because anti-porn filters blocked access to the school's website.

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50. Peeps Lip Balm is something that exists.

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51. Quentin Tarantino played an Elvis impersonator on The Golden Girls.

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52. Wendy's founder Dave Thomas dropped out of high school but picked up his GED in 1993. His GED class voted him Most Likely to Succeed.

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53. Sleeping through winter is hibernation, while sleeping through summer is estivation.

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54. In Spain, Mr. Clean is known as Don Limpio.

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55. In Qaddafi's compound, Libyan rebels found a photo album filled with pictures of Condoleezza Rice.

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56. Reed Hastings was inspired to start Netflix after racking up a $40 late fee on a VHS copy of Apollo 13.

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57. Marie Curie's notebooks are still radioactive. Researchers hoping to view them must sign a disclaimer.

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58. Hunger Games author Suzanne Collins also wrote for Clarissa Explains It All.

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59. When three-letter airport codes became standard, airports that had been using two letters simply added an X.

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60. Just before the Nazis invaded Paris, H.A. and Margret Rey fled on bicycles. They were carrying the manuscript for Curious George.

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61. William McKinley was on the $500 bill, Grover Cleveland was on the $1,000, and James Madison was on the $5,000.

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62. In 1999, the U.S. government paid the Zapruder family $16 million for the film of JFK's assassination.

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63. How many licks does it take to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop? The world may never know. But on average, a Licking Machine made at Purdue needed 364.

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64. Janis Joplin left $2,500 in her will for her friends to "have a ball after I’m gone."

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65. Fredric Baur invented the Pringles can. When he passed away in 2008, his ashes were buried in one.

For more amazing facts follow @mental_floss on Twitter. Images courtesy of Getty Images and iStock. Ronald Wayne image via Karen T. Borchers/MCT/Landov.

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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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