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11 Animals that are Super Small at Birth

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Baby blue whales are a ton of fun—literally. The giant newborns typically tip the scales at a jaw-dropping three tons at birth. (If you want to visualize how that stacks up to a full-grown whale, it’s about the same size as an adult whale’s tongue.)

Whale babies easily dwarf their competition in the big baby world, but that doesn’t mean they're any more charming or special than even the smallest of newborns. Pound for pound (or ounce for ounce, as the case may be), the animal kingdom’s littlest newbies are still pretty wonderful in their own way.

1. Kangaroos

The marsupial birthing process is positively insane, but it’s also one of the most miraculous in the wild world. Baby kangaroos—you know them as joeys—only gestate in their mother’s womb for about a month. After that period, they are technically born, yet they emerge blind, hairless, and only about an inch in length before crawling into their mother’s pouch (called a marsupium) where they finish developing and growing for up to 400 days. After that time, they pop out of the pouch and look like what we’d expect a joey to look like, all furry and cute, even though they first entered the world looking like a piece of bubble gum.

2. Honey possum

Elsewhere in the marsupial world, the honey possum is believed to be the smallest mammal at birth. Baby honey possums only weigh about 0.005 grams when they are born, eventually completing their gestation inside their mother’s pouch to reach a hefty 2.5 grams by the time they’re ready to venture out on their own.

3. Pygmy seahorse

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The pygmy seahorse remains pregnant for approximately 11 days, after which the offspring are born by way of the male contorting his body in order to eject the tiny babies—each between 7 and 12 millimeters in size—from his pouch, sending them on to embark on their own adult lives. But poor papa doesn’t get much time to recover from his postpartum depression; it is not uncommon for the female to gift the male with another clutch of eggs as soon as 30 minutes after he’s expelled a brood.

4. Pygmy mouse lemur

Photo courtesy of Joachim S Muller, used under Creative Commons license

Another pygmy baby, the pygmy mouse lemur, also barely makes a dent on the birthing scales. Already the world’s smallest primate, pygmy mouse lemurs only grow to weigh about an ounce when they are adults, so it should come as no surprise that they are born only weighing about .45 gram.

5. Pygmy marmoset

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Pygmy marmosets are the world’s smallest monkey species, so their young are also quite wee. At birth, pygmy marmosets weigh about 15 grams each, and are typically born in pairs (though it’s possible for triplets or just a single birth to occur).

6. Etruscan shrew

The Etruscan shrew has the distinction of being the world’s smallest mammal by mass only (if we’re measuring by skull size, the bumblebee bat is the smallest). Adult Etruscan shrews only grow to about 4 centimeters in length (this doesn’t include their tiny tails, which can be as long as 3 centimeters). Baby shrews gestate for about four weeks, and are born in litters that can be as small as two cubs and as large as six. When they enter the world, they only weigh about 0.2 grams, and they can grow to be as large as 2.5 grams in maturity.

7. Bee hummingbird

Photo courtesy of Carol Foil, under Creatve Commons liscense

The bee hummingbird is the smallest bird in the world, so its young are appropriately tiny. As adults, they weigh somewhere around 2 grams (about the same as a penny), and babies hatch from eggs roughly the size of coffee beans.

8. Brazilian gold frog

Photo courtesy of Farrukh, under Creative Commons liscense

The Brazilian gold frog is the second smallest frog in the Southern Hemisphere, with adults clocking in at 9.8 millimeters in body length (not counting splayed-out legs). At hatching, baby gold frogs weigh a fraction of their adult counterparts, though a precise amount is currently unknown.

9. Pudu

Although the southern pudu is the more distinct of the pudu pair, it’s the northern pudu that clocks in as the world’s smallest deer. As adults, they stand about 13 inches tall, and rarely weigh more than 13 pounds. Baby northern pudus usually weigh in the 23 to 35 ounce range, and it’s extremely rare that infant pudus that weigh less than 21 ounces live.

10. Paedocypris carp

Maurice Kottelat/Woman's Day 

Believed to be the world’s smallest fish species, the Paedocypris carp only grows to about 7.9 millimeters. Much like the tiny gold frog, it’s nearly impossible to guess how big the little carps are when they hatch, but they’re expected to also be the smallest fish babies on the planet.

11. Pink fairy armadillo

Photo courtesy of Cliff, under Creative Commons license

The pink fairy armadillo, an Argentinean native, is the smallest kind of armadillo, special not just for its tiny size but also its puffy fur. Adult pink fairies are about 4.5 inches long (not including their tails), and they are all prodigious diggers. Baby pink fairies are born weighing about 3 or so grams before growing into a chipmunk-like size.

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Man Buys Two Metric Tons of LEGO Bricks; Sorts Them Via Machine Learning
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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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Nintendo Will Release an $80 Mini SNES in September
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© Nintendo

Retro gamers rejoice: Nintendo just announced that it will be launching a revamped version of its beloved Super Nintendo Classic console, which will allow kids and grown-ups alike to play classic 16-bit games in high-definition.

The new SNES Classic Edition, a miniature version of the original console, comes with an HDMI cable to make it compatible with modern televisions. It also comes pre-loaded with a roster of 21 games, including Super Mario Kart, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, Donkey Kong Country, and Star Fox 2, an unreleased sequel to the 1993 original.

“While many people from around the world consider the Super NES to be one of the greatest video game systems ever made, many of our younger fans never had a chance to play it,” Doug Bowser, Nintendo's senior vice president of sales and marketing, said in a statement. “With the Super NES Classic Edition, new fans will be introduced to some of the best Nintendo games of all time, while longtime fans can relive some of their favorite retro classics with family and friends.”

The SNES Classic Edition will go on sale on September 29 and retail for $79.99. Nintendo reportedly only plans to manufacture the console “until the end of calendar year 2017,” which means that the competition to get your hands on one will likely be stiff, as anyone who tried to purchase an NES Classic last year will well remember.

In November 2016, Nintendo released a miniature version of its original NES system, which sold out pretty much instantly. After selling 2.3 million units, Nintendo discontinued the NES Classic in April. In a statement to Polygon, the company has pledged to “produce significantly more units of Super NES Classic Edition than we did of NES Classic Edition.”

Nintendo has not yet released information about where gamers will be able to buy the new console, but you may want to start planning to get in line soon.

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