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12 Common Dreams and What They Supposedly Mean

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Despite Freud’s well-documented beliefs, dream interpretation isn’t a straightforward method. In fact, the majority of modern scientists and psychologists accept dreams and their meanings as unsolved mysteries. Regardless, there are some extremely common dreams that we all keep having.

Though most psychologists disagree with the current state of dream interpretation, people still choose to consult so-called dream experts. Often times, these analysts disagree. To get a clear picture, we will examine the viewpoints of four authors. Lauri Loewenberg has written three books on this topic and has appeared on The Dr. Oz Show and Anderson Cooper 360. Ian Wallace is a dream psychologist who wrote The Complete A to Z Dictionary of Dreams. Russell Grant published The Illustrated Dream Dictionary, which connects symbols in dreams with waking life. Finally, Lauren Lawrence has a New York Daily News column on dream analysis and was the host of the show Celebrity Nightmares Decoded. Based on these four sources, here are 12 common dreams and interpretations. 

1. Falling

Loewenberg calls this dream a “red flag from your subconscious.” She believes this dream is common in people who are having a major life problem with work, relationships, or elsewhere. Grant’s work concurs with this viewpoint, even citing the same examples.

2. Teeth falling out

The experts greatly disagree on this one. Wallace views teeth as a symbol of power and confidence. This dream is supposedly a sign that something happened in the dreamer’s life that has caused him or her to lose confidence. According to Grant, teeth are a bad omen and represent a broken relationship. Lawrence has a Freudian answer to this dream. For women, she believes the dream is an example of wish-fulfillment—they want to become pregnant. For men, it is a desire for sexual stimulation.

3. Showing up to work or school naked

The experts largely agree that this dream represents vulnerability and anxiety. Wallace’s research reveals that this dream is “common to people who have accepted a promotion, gone off to a new job, or who are coming into public view.”

4. Test-taking

Lawrence has observed that only perfectionists tend to have recurring stressful test-taking dreams. She alleges that the dream reminds a person to stay alert. Loewenberg believes that in adults, these dreams draw parallels between school and a job. Because both places see a lot of pressure-filled situations, Loewenberg associates this dream with work stress.

5. Dying

Lawrence’s interpretation is that this dream “reveals the wish to terminate something in life: a relationship, a job, a career path, or even the past.” Grant’s dictionary emphasizes that this dream is not necessarily a nightmare. Rather, he repeatedly states that it is a dream meant to encourage a person to embark on a new endeavor or fresh start.

6. Meeting a celebrity

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Wallace names this as one of the dreams his clients have the most. He believes the actual celebrity is relevant and may reveal what talents the dreamer values. In Dream on It, Loewenberg writes that celebrities are a symbol of a personal need for recognition.

7. Being chased

Despite the nightmarish feel of this dream, Wallace considers it a positive sign. He believes that this dream is supposed to encourage the dreamer to finally face a problem that has been hanging over his or her head. Loewenberg encounters this dream more often in women than men.

8. Partner is cheating

Most of these authorities agree that this dream should not be taken as clairvoyance. According to Loewenberg, “The cheating dream happens when your mate is spending too much time and attention on something that does not involve you.” Similarly, Lawrence notes a lack of trust in a romantic relationship tends to spark this dream.

9. Showing up late to something 

This dream might be a sign that someone is overwhelmed and doing too much, according to Wallace. On a related note, Grant interprets this lateness as a warning: “Don’t make promises you can’t keep.”

10. Flying

Wallace claims that the dream encourages a person to let go of current issues and allow things to ”fall naturally into place.” Similarly, flying is a sign that there is an out of control situation in real life, according to Grant.

See Also: 6 Surprising Things That Can Influence Your Dreams

11. Being pregnant

Grant understands this dream as a sign that the dreamer is having problems. Lawrence views it as a need, either to start a creative project or become a parent. Or the dream may be representative of a new idea that has recently come to the person, as Loewenberg believes.

12. Driving an out-of-control vehicle

The interpretations of this dream are just as cliché as expected. For example, Wallace writes, “You may feel that you don’t have enough control on your road to success.” Grant warns that this is a sign that a current bad habit may become a long-term problem.

All images courtesy of Thinkstock unless otherwise noted.

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Man Buys Two Metric Tons of LEGO Bricks; Sorts Them Via Machine Learning
May 21, 2017
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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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8 Common Dog Behaviors, Decoded
May 25, 2017
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Dogs are a lot more complicated than we give them credit for. As a result, sometimes things get lost in translation. We’ve yet to invent a dog-to-English translator, but there are certain behaviors you can learn to read in order to better understand what your dog is trying to tell you. The more tuned-in you are to your dog’s emotions, the better you’ll be able to respond—whether that means giving her some space or welcoming a wet, slobbery kiss. 

1. What you’ll see: Your dog is standing with his legs and body relaxed and tail low. His ears are up, but not pointed forward. His mouth is slightly open, he’s panting lightly, and his tongue is loose. His eyes? Soft or maybe slightly squinty from getting his smile on.

What it means: “Hey there, friend!” Your pup is in a calm, relaxed state. He’s open to mingling, which means you can feel comfortable letting friends say hi.

2. What you’ll see: Your dog is standing with her body leaning forward. Her ears are erect and angled forward—or have at least perked up if they’re floppy—and her mouth is closed. Her tail might be sticking out horizontally or sticking straight up and wagging slightly.

What it means: “Hark! Who goes there?!” Something caught your pup’s attention and now she’s on high alert, trying to discern whether or not the person, animal, or situation is a threat. She’ll likely stay on guard until she feels safe or becomes distracted.

3. What you’ll see: Your dog is standing, leaning slightly forward. His body and legs are tense, and his hackles—those hairs along his back and neck—are raised. His tail is stiff and twitching, not swooping playfully. His mouth is open, teeth are exposed, and he may be snarling, snapping, or barking excessively.

What it means: “Don’t mess with me!” This dog is asserting his social dominance and letting others know that he might attack if they don’t defer accordingly. A dog in this stance could be either offensively aggressive or defensively aggressive. If you encounter a dog in this state, play it safe and back away slowly without making eye contact.

4. What you’ll see: As another dog approaches, your dog lies down on his back with his tail tucked in between his legs. His paws are tucked in too, his ears are flat, and he isn’t making direct eye contact with the other dog standing over him.

What it means: “I come in peace!” Your pooch is displaying signs of submission to a more dominant dog, conveying total surrender to avoid physical confrontation. Other, less obvious, signs of submission include ears that are flattened back against the head, an avoidance of eye contact, a tongue flick, and bared teeth. Yup—a dog might bare his teeth while still being submissive, but they’ll likely be clenched together, the lips opened horizontally rather than curled up to show the front canines. A submissive dog will also slink backward or inward rather than forward, which would indicate more aggressive behavior.

5. What you’ll see: Your dog is crouching with her back hunched, tail tucked, and the corner of her mouth pulled back with lips slightly curled. Her shoulders, or hackles, are raised and her ears are flattened. She’s avoiding eye contact.

What it means: “I’m scared, but will fight you if I have to.” This dog’s fight or flight instincts have been activated. It’s best to keep your distance from a dog in this emotional state because she could attack if she feels cornered.

6. What you’ll see: You’re staring at your dog, holding eye contact. Your dog looks away from you, tentatively looks back, then looks away again. After some time, he licks his chops and yawns.

What it means: “I don’t know what’s going on and it’s weirding me out.” Your dog doesn’t know what to make of the situation, but rather than nipping or barking, he’ll stick to behaviors he knows are OK, like yawning, licking his chops, or shaking as if he’s wet. You’ll want to intervene by removing whatever it is causing him discomfort—such as an overly grabby child—and giving him some space to relax.

7. What you’ll see: Your dog has her front paws bent and lowered onto the ground with her rear in the air. Her body is relaxed, loose, and wiggly, and her tail is up and wagging from side to side. She might also let out a high-pitched or impatient bark.

What it means: “What’s the hold up? Let’s play!” This classic stance, known to dog trainers and behaviorists as “the play bow,” is a sign she’s ready to let the good times roll. Get ready for a round of fetch or tug of war, or for a good long outing at the dog park.

8. What you’ll see: You’ve just gotten home from work and your dog rushes over. He can’t stop wiggling his backside, and he may even lower himself into a giant stretch, like he’s doing yoga.

What it means: “OhmygoshImsohappytoseeyou I love you so much you’re my best friend foreverandeverandever!!!!” This one’s easy: Your pup is overjoyed his BFF is back. That big stretch is something dogs don’t pull out for just anyone; they save that for the people they truly love. Show him you feel the same way with a good belly rub and a handful of his favorite treats.

The best way to say “I love you” in dog? A monthly subscription to BarkBox. Your favorite pup will get a package filled with treats, toys, and other good stuff (and in return, you’ll probably get lots of sloppy kisses). Visit BarkBox to learn more.

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