Original image
Cake Central user Pam1976

15 Delightful and Delicious Muppets Cakes

Original image
Cake Central user Pam1976

Muppets Most Wanted is finally out! That’s something worth celebrating—and any good celebration needs cake. While you might not actually feel like getting up and baking a cake shaped like Kermit and Miss Piggy, you can still sit back and enjoy these fantastic Muppet cakes.

1. The Cupcake Tower

It’s one thing to make a few cupcakes with Muppets. It’s another to make a whole tower of cupcakes with the world’s most famous puppets all over them. And Cupcake Occasions shows just how impressive a tower of Muppet cupcakes can be.

2. The Gang’s All Here

Sugar Lab’s Muppets cake is a truly delightful take on the subject, featuring a few of the most famous characters on the show doing their thing—the band rocking out, the Great Gonzo blasting off, Fozzie telling a presumably terrible joke, and Statler and Waldorf judging the whole fiasco from above.

3. Exploding With Awesome

Here’s another cake featuring the whole cast—and even balloons!—but this time in a drastically different situation. How could anyone not be cheerful after receiving this cake by Cake Central user Pam1976?

4. Down Home In the Swamp

It looks like someone’s ready to make the Rainbow Connection, and this swampy cake by Iced Delights is a perfect way for anyone to celebrate a ninth birthday.

5. A Birthday At Kermie’s

Looking at Muppet cakes on the web, you’ll soon find that Miss Piggy seems to be the most difficult character to accurately portray, but Cake Central user sherryd75 does an amazing job of duplicating her likeness in this adorable cake.

6. Party Like Animal

Similarly, it’s difficult to capture Animal’s delightfully fluffy fur in nothing but frosting, but he looks simply fantastic in this wonderful cake by Cake Central user shelbell2482.

7. Rock Out With Your Muppet Out

There are a lot of Animal cakes out there, which is hardly surprising given that he’s certainly the most hard-rocking of all the Muppets. This delightful cake by Cake Central user kreativekortney not only shows the rocker, but it also depicts his instrument of choice—which also happens to be a major trigger word for him.

8. Meep

Beaker is always running around the lab frantically, but now he has a good reason to be worried—the whole world wants to eat this delicious version of the lab assistant as created by Cake Central user Say It With Cake.

9. Statler and Waldorf

If these guys could talk, they’d say how horrible this cake is. But just like their critique of The Muppet Show, they’d be pretty much dead wrong—because Bakkerbos did a terrifically fantastic job on this sweet treat, even if the subject matter is a little sour.

10. Make Your Own

Baker Lauren Kitchen has a special class to teach aspiring cake makers how to make their own customized cake Muppets. There are many great examples of cakes made in her classes, but this one Cake Central user Crafty Cake Girl made of her daughter is particularly impressive.

11. Toys Galore

What child wouldn’t want to receive a whole toy chest full of Muppet toys on their birthday? Delicious Cake Design’s edible version may not last as long as a real toy chest, but it’s certainly just as sweet.

12. Heads Up

This adorable cake might not be as massive or advanced as many of the others on this list, but the buttercream frosting treat by Cake Central user cvmillers certainly deserves some attention for its clever design.

13. Go Go Gonzo

Similarly, Cake Central user Mary Lou’s Number One Muppet cake might not be a beautiful fondant masterpiece, but for those who appreciate the simple joy of one Weirdo’s love for a chicken, it’s utterly wonderful.

14. Your Love Keeps Lifting Me

One of the most popular sources for Muppet cake inspiration comes from Threadless, where there is a great selection of Muppet tees available for purchase. Lauren Babis’ take on this tee is truly terrific; it turns the whole thing into a seemingly impossible 3D masterpiece that really captures the spirit of the design.

15. Epic Adventure

Similarly, KupKake Tree’s version of this tee design turns a cute concept into a true work of art and confectionary engineering worthy of the name “Epic Adventure.”

Original image
iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
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
Live Smarter
Working Nights Could Keep Your Body from Healing
Original image

The world we know today relies on millions of people getting up at sundown to go put in a shift on the highway, at the factory, or in the hospital. But the human body was not designed for nocturnal living. Scientists writing in the journal Occupational & Environmental Medicine say working nights could even prevent our bodies from healing damaged DNA.

It’s not as though anybody’s arguing that working in the dark and sleeping during the day is good for us. Previous studies have linked night work and rotating shifts to increased risks for heart disease, diabetes, weight gain, and car accidents. In 2007, the World Health Organization declared night work “probably or possibly carcinogenic.”

So while we know that flipping our natural sleep/wake schedule on its head can be harmful, we don’t completely know why. Some scientists, including the authors of the current paper, think hormones have something to do with it. They’ve been exploring the physiological effects of shift work on the body for years.

For one previous study, they measured workers’ levels of 8-OH-dG, which is a chemical byproduct of the DNA repair process. (All day long, we bruise and ding our DNA. At night, it should fix itself.) They found that people who slept at night had higher levels of 8-OH-dG in their urine than day sleepers, which suggests that their bodies were healing more damage.

The researchers wondered if the differing 8-OH-dG levels could be somehow related to the hormone melatonin, which helps regulate our body clocks. They went back to the archived urine from the first study and identified 50 workers whose melatonin levels differed drastically between night-sleeping and day-sleeping days. They then tested those workers’ samples for 8-OH-dG.

The difference between the two sleeping periods was dramatic. During sleep on the day before working a night shift, workers produced only 20 percent as much 8-OH-dG as they did when sleeping at night.

"This likely reflects a reduced capacity to repair oxidative DNA damage due to insufficient levels of melatonin,” the authors write, “and may result in cells harbouring higher levels of DNA damage."

DNA damage is considered one of the most fundamental causes of cancer.

Lead author Parveen Bhatti says it’s possible that taking melatonin supplements could help, but it’s still too soon to tell. This was a very small study, the participants were all white, and the researchers didn't control for lifestyle-related variables like what the workers ate.

“In the meantime,” Bhatti told Mental Floss, “shift workers should remain vigilant about following current health guidelines, such as not smoking, eating a balanced diet and getting plenty of sleep and exercise.”