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10 Clearly Unscripted Moments from Late Night with Jimmy Fallon

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As Jimmy Fallon gets ready to yield his beloved 12:35am EST time slot to Seth Meyers, it’s a good time to look back at what we loved about Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. Fallon is well-known for breaking character from his SNL days, and Late Night embraced that quality. The result was tons of impromptu moments and, frankly, a show that seemed more real than most reality television these days. Here are ten.

1. DMX Thank You Note

It’s hard to imagine that it could get any better than Jimmy writing a thank you note to DMX. But he also raps, “All you need for a hip hop treat / Are some words that rhyme and a really good beat.” Announcer Steve Higgins can’t help but get in on the action and the whole thing deteriorates into references to corncob pipes, raccoon skin coats, and jalopies. Jimmy never seems to recover from the incident as the thank you notes continue.

2. Real People, Fake Arms with Miley Cyrus

In Miley’s defense, her visit to Late Night was smack-dab in the middle of her strenuous promotional tour for her album Bangerz. Her performance in the recurring sketch “Real People, Fake Arms” doesn’t seem to go as rehearsed. She’s supposed to be hiding her real hands from the camera, but they pop onto the screen every once in a while. Jimmy acknowledges her blunders towards the end, saying, “I think I saw an extra hand there.”

3. Improv Dance with Rebel Wilson

Jimmy enlists the hilarious Rebel Wilson to make up dance moves with him like “The Mick Jagger Chicken” and “The I’m Holding Too Much Eye Contact While Thrusting.” The spontaneity comes in when they refuse to act out one card and Rebel asks, “Who wrote these?” As usual, this leaves Jimmy in hysterics.

4. Jeff Musial Fails to Scare Jimmy

Every late show has an animal expert periodically stop by with a bunch of wild animals to terrify the host. It’s comedy gold. Jeff Musial is that person for Late Night. One of his most awkward visits to the show involves a prank gift that his kids allegedly made for Jimmy. When the old fake-spider-in-a-box trick fails to scare him, Jimmy’s face is priceless as he tosses the cube aside (watch at 1:55).

5. The Puppy Predictors Go Nuts

It would be a crime to script a segment that involves Jimmy Fallon and puppies. This is clear when Jimmy tries to calm his “puppy predictors” before releasing them. When they finally get let out, half of them run in opposite directions. Jimmy ends up scooping up puppies through the rest of the segment. But, hey, the overall group predicts Argo, which did win the Academy Award that year. Maybe the puppies know something we don’t.

6. Egg Roulette with Tom Cruise

Jimmy must have a way of convincing celebrities to do bizarre things, such as getting Tom Cruise to smash eggs into his hair for a game of “Egg Roulette.” Tom loses this round, cracking two raw eggs over his head. It’s hard to believe that Tom wouldn’t have micromanaged this game during the pre-show, but Jimmy’s hysterical laughter reveals how authentic the interaction is. He even yells, “This is the best, man!”

7. Jimmy’s Post-Pun Walk Away

Every week, Jimmy solicits his Twitter followers for tweets using a particular hashtag, like this one: #PolarVortexSongs. One tweet contains the pun “Chilly Joel,” which encourages Jimmy and Steve to start making puns of their own. Jimmy makes his last joke, then walks away ... through the set window. Warranted? Probably.

8. Freestylin’ with The Roots

A more obvious example of unscripted moments from the show is the popular segment, “Freestylin’ with The Roots.” It’s great to see Jimmy charm his audience and hear The Roots jam in all different genres. Plus, they have tough material to work with, like audience member Troy, who says he would have named the royal baby Prince Lucifer.

9. Jennifer Aniston Can’t Play Pictionary

Jimmy and Jennifer are joined by Lenny Kravitz and CeeLo Green in one of Jimmy’s favorite games, Pictionary. Jennifer seems reluctant to play and walks up to the other team’s easel. She groans, “I told you I stink at this!” Then CeeLo shouts out guesses for the other team. The moral is that if you’re ever playing celebrity Pictionary, pick Lenny Kravitz to be on your team.

10. Questlove’s Spit Take

Why did Questlove spit during Jimmy’s interview with Key and Peele? Who knows. Does it matter? No way. And because this one deserves to be watched over and over again, the Late Night tumblr has a gif. You’re welcome. 

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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]