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11 Remarkably Cool Squids

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Sometimes, evolution has a field day. Invertebrates don’t come much wilder than squids, yet most people have only ever heard of the “giant” variety. So strap on a scuba tank, and let’s take a look at eleven equally-amazing cephalopods you might not know about.

1. Cock-Eyed Squid (Histioteuthis sp.)

Most animals are symmetrical. But the eyes of these deep-sea invertebrates are almost comically disproportionate: the left is usually over twice as big as the right and bulges out of the squid's head. 

2. Humboldt Squid (Dosidicus gigas)


Several unwary fishermen and divers have been attacked over the years off the shores of southwestern North America by 6-foot, multi-armed predators nicknamed “red devils.” In recent decades, they’ve starred in an onslaught of sensationalist basic cable documentaries with titles like Man-Eating Super Squid. Despite this publicity, it’s inaccurate to merely write off Dosidicus gigas as a “killing machine” and the creatures are now hugely important to marine conservation efforts.

3. Glass Squid (Family: Cranchiidae)

Wikimedia Commons

Tentacled and nearly transparent, it’s incredible to think that life on our own planet can look so alien. Stranger still are the organs known as photophores which emit tiny patches of light on some species as they navigate the inky depths.

4. Bigfin Squid (Magnapinna sp.)

If you thought the last entry looked like something out of a Steven Spielberg flick, check out the eerie footage above, captured by the crew of an oil drill back in 2007. It was filmed a mile and a half below the surface and features a member of the rarely-seen Magnapinna genus noted for having bent “elbows” on each arm.

5. Colossal Squid (Mesonychoteuthis hamiltoni)

No it’s not the giant squid (Architeuthis sp.). It’s even bigger… at least mass-wise. Although some internet sources have grossly overestimated the colossal squid’s length, adult specimens can weigh in at half a ton and boast the largest eyes in the animal kingdom. And oh yeah, their tentacles come with swiveling hooks for good measure.

6. Bush-Club Squid (Grimalditeuthis bonplandi)

This one scores points in the “sneakiness” category. A fairly large squid, the Bush-Club is named for a pair of long, skinny tentacles with fish-shaped bulbs on each tip. These are held far away from the body and seem to move on their own, doubtlessly attracting hapless prey in the process. 

7. Grimaldi Scaled Squid (Lepidoteuthis grimaldii)

Wikimedia Commons

Cephalopods and Monacan royalty might sound like an odd pairing. But Prince Albert I was an amateur teuthologist (squid scientist) whose hobbies included sifting through the “precious regurgitations” of sperm whales for specimens. The distinctive “scales” which cover much of this species’ flesh caught his eye and it was later named for the elite house of Grimaldi to which he belonged.

8. Whiplash Squid (Family: Mastigoteuthidae)


Thousands of tiny suckers give a pair of slender feeding tentacles a flypaper-like consistency with which a member of this genus may snag its next meal (usually a sand-dwelling crustacean).

9. Market Squid (Doryteuthis opalescens)

Wikimedia Commons

True, its common name isn’t particularly exciting. But apart from being widely used as calamari, the market squid is turning heads because of its remarkable color-changing ability that’s inspired engineers to investigate technological adaptations. However, Doryteuthis opalescens is just one of several cephalopods that can blend into its environment so effectively.

10. Japanese Flying Squid (Todarodes pacificus)

Hokkaido University

It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s a… squid? The Japanese flying squid launches itself into the air and can glide over a distance of 65 feet thanks to an incredible water-based jet propulsion system.

11. Octopoteuthis deletron


In lieu of vertebrate sex organs, cephalopod mating usually involves males latching sperm packets onto the sides of their partners, to be fertilized later. But because their vision is impaired by living so far below the reach of sunlight, Octopoteuthis can’t always discern which gender is which. As one researcher put it, males therefore “routinely and indiscriminately mates with both [sexes]”, hoping at least a few of them will have been females. 


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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
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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Nick Briggs/Comic Relief
What Happened to Jamie and Aurelia From Love Actually?
May 26, 2017
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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]