CLOSE
Original image
Instructables user hatstand4510

15 Pieces of Seriously Geeky Cat Gear

Original image
Instructables user hatstand4510

If you’re like 99 percent of other people surfing online right now, you love geeky stuff and cats. So what better way to enjoy both at the same time than with some geeky cat toys like these?

1. Time and Relative Dimension in Cat Nip

Tardis Builders user astromark’s cat loves boxes, so he built a half-scale replica for his kitty, Kaylee. He even incorporated her name into the lock design.

2. Doctor Mew, I Presume

This TARDIS cat house by Etsy seller The Cat Ball might not be as big as the first, but on the plus side, it doesn’t take up that much space. Also, just as some cats prefer bags over boxes, some felines enjoy a small, crushable space more than a massive, sturdy cat condo.

3. Go Ahead, Attack The TARDIS

Is your kitty a bigger fan of Daleks than of The Doctor? Is he bent on world domination? Then don’t give him a TARDIS to hang out in—give him one to beat up, like this toy by Etsy seller Kanga23, so he can pretend like he’s putting The Doctor in danger every time he pounces.

4. Boldly Going Where No Cat Has Gone Before

Is your cat a total Trekkie? Make his playtime out of this world with this U.S.S. Enterprise amazing cat tree! Best of all, thanks to Instructables user hatstand4510, you can even follow the instructions to make your own.

5. The Trouble With Kitty Tribbles

Etsy seller Kitty of Mine offers another great surprise for any Trekkie kitties out there—Tribble cat toys. While they don’t repopulate like the ones in the show, they are made from recycled fur coats, so your cat is certain to love them.

6. CAT-AT

It might not actually walk, but this cat condo by Redditor BillyAppletini is a pretty spot-on replica of an AT-AT Walker—at least on the outside. The inside actually looks more like a little kitty mancave with tiny bird head trophies on the wall and a full bar with airplane-sized booze bottles on the wall.

7. Use the Force, Fluffy

What kitty doesn’t want to be a Jedi master? Thanks to Etsy seller GEEKitty, every cat has the chance to learn the way of the Force. Just remember not to give these to skittish kitties as fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, and hate leads to suffering.

8. Is Your Fluff Ball A Rebel or A Loyalist to the Empire?

Head to your local Petco any time after mid-September to get your hands on their new line of Star Wars toys. While most of the products are for pups, they do have a Princess Leia headband for cats; mice toys that look like Yoda, Darth, Chewie and a Stormtrooper; cat teasers with Yoda, Darth, a TIE fighter, and the Millennium Falcon on a string; and feathered ball toys that look like Darth, the Death Star, C-3PO, and R2-D2.

9. Angry Cats With Angry Birds

Another of the handful of commercially-available geek toys for cats are those featuring the characters from Angry Birds. Hartz partnered up with the gaming company to release vibrating plush toys, plastic balls, and a wand toy all featuring your favorite angry avians.

10. Level Up, Kitty

With a piranha plant and a question box, this cat tree by Instructables user Geckoo_Designs is perfect for any cat fascinated by the Mario Bros. series. Unfortunately, while it is posted on Instructables, only the materials, tools and a few tips have been included, so you’ll have to use your imagination if you want to create your own.

11. So Many Questions to Bash Open

If you don’t have the skills or space for a Mario cat tree, you can always get a question box cat toy for your kitty instead, courtesy of Etsy seller GEEKitty.

12. The Dungeon Kitty Master

If your little bundle of fluff prefers old-school games to video games, this D20, also from GEEKitty, is just what she’ll need to host an all-feline D&D session.

13. Gotta Catch ‘Em All?

If your cat seems to kill mice and lizards just so she can build a collection of all the dead animal species in your area, then perhaps she secretly wishes they were Pokemon. If that’s the case, these Pokeball cat toys by Etsy seller ShyLemon might curb her killing spree—at least, until she figures out how to trap the creatures inside the balls.

14. Night of the Living Cat Toys

Speaking of dead things, maybe your little fluff ball just wants to kill something in the hopes that it will come back to life. If she’s obsessed with the living dead, then she’ll certainly love this zombie cat toy by Etsy seller misohandmade.

15. Technological Kitties Only

Looking for something free for your cat to play with that won’t clutter your home? Then download some of these great Games For Cats on your tablet and let your kitty go wild thanks to Friskies.

Original image
iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
arrow
technology
Man Buys Two Metric Tons of LEGO Bricks; Sorts Them Via Machine Learning
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
iStock
arrow
Health
One Bite From This Tick Can Make You Allergic to Meat
Original image
iStock

We like to believe that there’s no such thing as a bad organism, that every creature must have its place in the world. But ticks are really making that difficult. As if Lyme disease wasn't bad enough, scientists say some ticks carry a pathogen that causes a sudden and dangerous allergy to meat. Yes, meat.

The Lone Star tick (Amblyomma americanum) mostly looks like your average tick, with a tiny head and a big fat behind, except the adult female has a Texas-shaped spot on its back—thus the name.

Unlike other American ticks, the Lone Star feeds on humans at every stage of its life cycle. Even the larvae want our blood. You can’t get Lyme disease from the Lone Star tick, but you can get something even more mysterious: the inability to safely consume a bacon cheeseburger.

"The weird thing about [this reaction] is it can occur within three to 10 or 12 hours, so patients have no idea what prompted their allergic reactions," allergist Ronald Saff, of the Florida State University College of Medicine, told Business Insider.

What prompted them was STARI, or southern tick-associated rash illness. People with STARI may develop a circular rash like the one commonly seen in Lyme disease. They may feel achy, fatigued, and fevered. And their next meal could make them very, very sick.

Saff now sees at least one patient per week with STARI and a sensitivity to galactose-alpha-1, 3-galactose—more commonly known as alpha-gal—a sugar molecule found in mammal tissue like pork, beef, and lamb. Several hours after eating, patients’ immune systems overreact to alpha-gal, with symptoms ranging from an itchy rash to throat swelling.

Even worse, the more times a person is bitten, the more likely it becomes that they will develop this dangerous allergy.

The tick’s range currently covers the southern, eastern, and south-central U.S., but even that is changing. "We expect with warming temperatures, the tick is going to slowly make its way northward and westward and cause more problems than they're already causing," Saff said. We've already seen that occur with the deer ticks that cause Lyme disease, and 2017 is projected to be an especially bad year.

There’s so much we don’t understand about alpha-gal sensitivity. Scientists don’t know why it happens, how to treat it, or if it's permanent. All they can do is advise us to be vigilant and follow basic tick-avoidance practices.

[h/t Business Insider]

SECTIONS
BIG QUESTIONS
arrow
BIG QUESTIONS
WEATHER WATCH
BE THE CHANGE
JOB SECRETS
QUIZZES
WORLD WAR 1
SMART SHOPPING
STONES, BONES, & WRECKS
#TBT
THE PRESIDENTS
WORDS
RETROBITUARIES