CLOSE
Original image
Thinkstock

11 Situations Made Weird By People In Gorilla Suits

Original image
Thinkstock

People have been donning goofy ape suits for decades, often in some rather odd and/or inappropriate locations. Here are 11 of the most mind-boggling.

1. Fake Banana Caper Terrorizes Wisconsin

This 2009 news bulletin includes the greatest opening sentence in the history of journalism: “A bandit in a gorilla suit tore through Wisconsin convenience stores and tried swiping big, bogus bananas made of Styrofoam, police say.” After several unsuccessful raids, the culprit—a woman of indeterminate age—disappeared.

2. Bristol Palin Dances in A Gorilla Suit

During her stint on Dancing with the Stars, Sarah Palin's daughter Bristol decided to shake things up by putting on a gorilla suit and rocking out to the tune “Hey Hey We’re The Monkees.” Unfortunately, this performance netted her the evening’s lowest score.

3. Gorilla Climbs Broadcast Tower

Move over, Kong! In 1985, stuntman Donald W. Trest decided to scale a 2000-foot broadcasting tower … while wearing an ape suit. Trest’s previous escapades include dressing like Peter Pan and climbing atop the Houston Astrodome. 

4. The Denver Gorilla Run

How’s this for a head-scratching Guinness World Record category: “Largest Gathering of People Dressed as Gorillas.” The distinction belongs to the Denver Gorilla Run, an annual event that’s been raising cash for the Mountain Gorilla Conservation Fund since 2003. Every year, participants embark on a five-mile race while clad in simian costumes provided by the contest’s organizers.

5. Driver Uses Monkey Mask To Dodge Traffic Ticket

Jalopnik

After a number of photo-radar cameras were installed to automatically detect speeding drivers throughout Phoenix, resident Dave VonTesmar decided to confound the devices by covering his face with gorilla and giraffe masks to invalidate over 50 would-be traffic tickets, prompting a hefty backlash from the state’s Department of Public Safety. “You’ve got to identify the driver, and if you can’t, it’s not a valid ticket,” VonTesmar said.

6. Gorilla Thief Foiled by Meat Cleaver

When a thug sporting a hairy primate outfit attempted to burglarize the cash register of a Conway, South Carolina restaurant, one worker responded by warding him off with a meat cleaver. 

7. NBA Fan Shows Up in Gorilla Suit, Gets Promoted to Mascot

In 1980, performer and motivational speaker Henry Rojas was hired to strap on a gorilla suit and deliver a singing telegram to an unsuspecting fan at Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Phoenix, Arizona. “My dream was to play in the NBA, not go there wearing a costume,” Rojas said. At the Suns game in question, he couldn’t locate his target, so instead, he wound up amusing the entire stadium by shooting a few hoops and joking about with the referees. The audience liked his antics so much that “Go” the Gorilla became the Phoenix Suns’ official mascot, though Rojas himself retired from the gig in 1988.

8. Gorilla Creepily Watches Neighborhood Fire

When Kali Burns of Hampton, New Hampshire saw that his neighbor’s house was going up in smoke, he chose the only sensible course of action: He put on a gorilla suit and conspicuously stood behind a nearby fire truck.

9. Psychological Test Uses Gorilla Suit To Gauge Alertness

Watch this clip, designed to test selective attention. Be sure to count how many times a player wearing white passes the basketball:

Afterwards, you’ll be asked two follow-up questions: “How many passes did you count?” and “Did you see the gorilla?” According to the experiment’s designers, when the video was first shown at Harvard University many years ago, only half of the observers failed to notice the seemingly-obvious creature that walked directly through the shot.  

10. Bicycle Stolen by Two Gorillas and A Chicken

Talk about adding insult to injury. A Long Island teenager’s bike was taken by a trio of crooks back in 2010. Two of the thieves were disguised in gorilla suits while the third wore a chicken outfit

11. Banana Attacks Gorilla

It’s the primatological equivalent of “man bites dog.” A gorilla-costumed employee of one Strongville, Ohio cell phone store (who served as its mascot) was tackled by a prankster dressed as a banana in 2011.

This wasn't the last time a banana stirred up trouble. In February 2014, frightened motorists in Texas reported a man who was wearing a banana suit and holding an AK-47 while standing on the side of the freeway. Cops arrived and discovered he was acting as a gun store mascot. They issued him a citation—for soliciting alongside a roadway.

Original image
iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
technology
arrow
Man Buys Two Metric Tons of LEGO Bricks; Sorts Them Via Machine Learning
May 21, 2017
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
Library of Congress
war
arrow
10 Facts About the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
May 29, 2017
Original image
Library of Congress

On Veterans Day, 1921, President Warren G. Harding presided over an interment ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery for an unknown soldier who died during World War I. Since then, three more soldiers have been added to the Tomb of the Unknowns (also known as the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier) memorial—and one has been disinterred. Below, a few things you might not know about the historic site and the rituals that surround it.

1. THERE WERE FOUR UNKNOWN SOLDIER CANDIDATES FOR THE WWI CRYPT. 

Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

To ensure a truly random selection, four unknown soldiers were exhumed from four different WWI American cemeteries in France. U.S. Army Sgt. Edward F. Younger, who was wounded in combat and received the Distinguished Service Medal, was chosen to select a soldier for burial at the Tomb of the Unknowns in Arlington. After the four identical caskets were lined up for his inspection, Younger chose the third casket from the left by placing a spray of white roses on it. The chosen soldier was transported to the U.S. on the USS Olympia, while the other three were reburied at Meuse Argonne American Cemetery in France.

2. SIMILARLY, TWO UNKNOWN SOLDIERS WERE SELECTED AS POTENTIAL REPRESENTATIVES OF WWII.

One had served in the European Theater and the other served in the Pacific Theater. The Navy’s only active-duty Medal of Honor recipient, Hospitalman 1st Class William R. Charette, chose one of the identical caskets to go on to Arlington. The other was given a burial at sea.

3. THERE WERE FOUR POTENTIAL KOREAN WAR REPRESENTATIVES.

WikimediaCommons // Public Domain

The soldiers were disinterred from the National Cemetery of the Pacific in Hawaii. This time, Army Master Sgt. Ned Lyle was the one to choose the casket. Along with the unknown soldier from WWII, the unknown Korean War soldier lay in the Capitol Rotunda from May 28 to May 30, 1958.

4. THE VIETNAM WAR UNKNOWN WAS SELECTED ON MAY 17, 1984.

Medal of Honor recipient U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Maj. Allan Jay Kellogg, Jr., selected the Vietnam War representative during a ceremony at Pearl Harbor.

5. BUT THE VIETNAM VETERAN WASN'T UNKNOWN FOR LONG.

Wikipedia // Public Domain

Thanks to advances in mitochondrial DNA testing, scientists were eventually able to identify the remains of the Vietnam War soldier. On May 14, 1998, the remains were exhumed and tested, revealing the “unknown” soldier to be Air Force 1st Lt. Michael Joseph Blassie (pictured). Blassie was shot down near An Loc, Vietnam, in 1972. After his identification, Blassie’s family had him moved to Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery in St. Louis. Instead of adding another unknown soldier to the Vietnam War crypt, the crypt cover has been replaced with one bearing the inscription, “Honoring and Keeping Faith with America’s Missing Servicemen, 1958-1975.”

6. THE MARBLE SCULPTORS ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR MANY OTHER U.S. MONUMENTS. 

The Tomb was designed by architect Lorimer Rich and sculptor Thomas Hudson Jones, but the actual carving was done by the Piccirilli Brothers. Even if you don’t know them, you know their work: The brothers carved the 19-foot statue of Abraham Lincoln for the Lincoln Memorial, the lions outside of the New York Public Library, the Maine Monument in Central Park, the DuPont Circle Fountain in D.C., and much more.

7. THE TOMB HAS BEEN GUARDED 24/7 SINCE 1937. 

Tomb Guards come from the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment "The Old Guard". Serving the U.S. since 1784, the Old Guard is the oldest active infantry unit in the military. They keep watch over the memorial every minute of every day, including when the cemetery is closed and in inclement weather.

8. BECOMING A TOMB GUARD IS INCREDIBLY DIFFICULT.

Members of the Old Guard must apply for the position. If chosen, the applicant goes through an intense training period, in which they must pass tests on weapons, ceremonial steps, cadence, military bearing, uniform preparation, and orders. Although military members are known for their neat uniforms, it’s said that the Tomb Guards have the highest standards of them all. A knowledge test quizzes applicants on their memorization—including punctuation—of 35 pages on the history of the Tomb. Once they’re selected, Guards “walk the mat” in front of the Tomb for anywhere from 30 minutes to two hours, depending on the time of year and time of day. They work in 24-hour shifts, however, and when they aren’t walking the mat, they’re in the living quarters beneath it. This gives the sentinels time to complete training and prepare their uniforms, which can take up to eight hours.

9. THE HONOR IS ALSO INCREDIBLY RARE.

The Tomb Guard badge is the least awarded badge in the Army, and the second least awarded badge in the overall military. (The first is the astronaut badge.) Tomb Guards are held to the highest standards of behavior, and can have their badge taken away for any action on or off duty that could bring disrespect to the Tomb. And that’s for the entire lifetime of the Tomb Guard, even well after his or her guarding duty is over. For the record, it seems that Tomb Guards are rarely female—only three women have held the post.

10. THE STEPS THE GUARDS PERFORM HAVE SPECIFIC MEANING.

Everything the guards do is a series of 21, which alludes to the 21-gun salute. According to TombGuard.org:

The Sentinel does not execute an about face, rather they stop on the 21st step, then turn and face the Tomb for 21 seconds. They then turn to face back down the mat, change the weapon to the outside shoulder, mentally count off 21 seconds, then step off for another 21 step walk down the mat. They face the Tomb at each end of the 21 step walk for 21 seconds. The Sentinel then repeats this over and over until the Guard Change ceremony begins.

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