Original image
Getty Images

25 Fun Facts About Godzilla

Original image
Getty Images

Look out, Tokyo! On Friday, Godzilla’s set to rise from the depths and end a ten-year cinematic hiatus in an all-new movie (alongside Breaking Bad’s Bryan Cranston). To celebrate, we’ve listed a few things you might not know about the world’s greatest city-stomper.

1. His Original Name, Gojira, was the nickname of a tough-guy worker at Japan's Toho Studios.

A blend of the English word gorilla and the Japanese word kujira (which means whale), the name caught the ear of character co-creator Eiji Tsuburaya, who borrowed it for the title of his 1954 black-and-white creature feature. The film was a massive hit, and executives at Japan’s Toho Studios hoped to give it an American release, but worried about the title’s marketability abroad. Thus, "Gojira” became “Godzilla” in the U.S.

2. Godzilla’s Classic Roar Was Produced by Rubbing a Leather Glove Over a Bass Violin String.

As you can hear in the video above, it’s changed quite a bit over the years.

3. In Early Storyboards, the Monster Was Depicted as a Giant, Mutated Octopus.

Producer Tomoyuki Tanaka went with a dinosaur-like design instead.

4. A 1992 Nike Ad Featured Godzilla Playing Basketball Against Charles Barkley.

The commercial, which was filmed over the course of eight days, was also adapted into a comic book.

5. He Also Helped Sell Dr Pepper in 1985

That wasn't their first collaboration: The soft drink was featured in the 1984 film The Return of Godzilla.

6. Japanese Baseball Star Hideki Matsui Was Nicknamed “Godzilla” For His Monstrous Batting Prowess .

Matsui helped the Yankees bring home a championship in 2009 and was named World Series MVP for his efforts. However, the undisputed highlight of his professional career came seven years earlier, when Matsui made a very brief cameo in the film Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla.

7. A Church in the City of Zillah, Washington Decided to Have Fun with an Obvious Homonym.

Wikimedia Commons

The Church of God-Zillah was founded decades before the radioactive monster’s conception, but that didn’t stop the congregation from tipping its hat to the odd coincidence: just behind the church, a steel wireframe dinosaur statue can be seen clutching a cross and sign. “I’m not really sure the denomination likes being affiliated with a big lizard … but so far they’ve been pretty cool,” said Reverend Gary Conner.

8. George Takei Got His Start in Acting by Dubbing Over Japanese Monster Movies.

Listen for his rich baritone in the English-language version of Godzilla’s second film—Godzilla Raids Again (first released in Japan in 1955). Previously, the Star Trek legend had broken into the film industry by doing similar work on Rodananother Toho monster flick.

9. During an Action Sequence in Godzilla vs. Mothra (1964), the Godzilla Suit Accidentally Caught Fire.

Amazingly, this footage made the final cut (fast-forward to the 1:03 mark in this clip to see it for yourself).

10. A Godzilla Suit Was Stolen Then Lost, And Scared The Dickens Out Of An Elderly Woman.

In 1992, one of the monster’s costumes (worth a whopping $39,000) was taken from a Toho garage, only to be found washed up on the shores of Lake Okutama (near Tokyo), where it inadvertently terrified an older lady who’d gone out for a stroll.

11. Batman vs Godzilla—Starring Adam West—Was Discussed, But Never Produced

“Holy radiation burns, Batman!” Sadly, this idea never saw the light of day, so one can only imagine what sort of quirky exclamations Burt Ward’s Robin might have come up with. 

12. However, He Did Fight The Avengers.

Wikimedia Commons

Marvel ran a 24-issue series featuring the big G from 1977 to 1979, in which he also squared off against the Fantastic Four.

13. The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1996) Contains A Brilliant Godzilla Homage

During the climax, an irate T. rex terrorizes San Diego. At one point in the carnage, a few Japanese tourists can be seen running for their lives, one of whom shouts in Japanese, “I left Japan to get away from this!”

14. Godzilla vs the Sea Monster (1966) Was Originally Supposed to be a King Kong Movie.

Toho had already produced two (extremely) low-budget King Kong pictures and hoped that this one, which pitted the ape against a giant lobster, would be their third. However, after losing the necessary rights for Kong’s likeness, the project was simply converted into Godzilla’s seventh film.

15. The 1998 American Godzilla Reboot Starred The Simpsons' Hank Azaria, Harry Shearer, and Nancy Cartwright.

Simpsons Wikia

For over two decades, the trio have voiced dozens of Springfield’s most recognizable residents. Among these are Bart Simpson (Cartwright), Ned Flanders (Shearer), and Moe Szyslak (Azaria).

16. Godzilla vs King Ghidorah (1992) Unwittingly Caused an International Controversy

Though beloved by fans, the film was condemned as “anti-American” by some Western viewers. A scene of particular contention took place during the Pacific theater of World War II and showed a troop of U.S. soldiers being massacred at the hands of a giant dinosaur as their Japanese adversaries look on in relief.

17. Godzilla (and His Reptilian Offspring) Once Promoted Good Parenting.

The PSA was created by The Ad Council in 2008.

18. Two of the Creature's Earlier Films Were Used as Fodder on Mystery Science Theater 3000

Godzilla vs the Sea Monster and Godzilla vs Megalon were riffed by TV’s favorite hecklers in 1991. Check out a delightful reel above.

19. Big Shocker: Scientists Say that Godzilla Could Never Actually Exist.

What a buzzkill. Paleontologist Mike P. Taylor claims that the limb cartilage in a Godzilla-sized animal would be crushed “like over-ripe watermelons” by its own body weight.

20. An Actual Dinosaur Was Named After the Monster.

Wikimedia Commons

Discovered in northeastern New Mexico, Gojirasaurus quayi was roughly 18 feet long and lived some 210 million years ago during the Triassic period.

21. Patrick Stewart Presented Godzilla with an MTV Lifetime Achievement Award in 1996.

“We’ve all heard about his temper, about the people he stepped on on his way to the top,” Stewart said during the ceremony. “In this world of stars and superstars, it would be no exaggeration to say [that] he is the biggest.”

22. The monster has Also Earned a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Godzilla’s induction came in 2004 to commemorate his 50th birthday.

23. A 20-Foot-Tall Godzilla Statue Is On Display in Tokyo

Tokyo Night

Can you imagine Troy building a monument to honor wooden horses? In any event, Tokyo’s Godzilla statue stalks the city’s Yūrakuchō neighborhood.

24. There’s a Three-Story Godzilla That Doubles as a Slide in Kurihama Flower Park.


Kids can slide down his tail, but might have misgivings about the entry point (as will some adults).

25. He’s Been Referenced in Countless Cartoons, From Futurama to South Park to Animaniacs.

We’d be remiss if this list didn’t also acknowledge Reptar, a leek-green Godzilla look-alike adored by Tommy Pickles and company on Nickelodeon’s Rugrats series. The babies watch a Reptar movie in one episode, complete with badly-dubbed Japanese characters.

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
Cs California, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0
How Experts Say We Should Stop a 'Zombie' Infection: Kill It With Fire
Original image
Cs California, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0

Scientists are known for being pretty cautious people. But sometimes, even the most careful of us need to burn some things to the ground. Immunologists have proposed a plan to burn large swaths of parkland in an attempt to wipe out disease, as The New York Times reports. They described the problem in the journal Microbiology and Molecular Biology Reviews.

Chronic wasting disease (CWD) is a gruesome infection that’s been destroying deer and elk herds across North America. Like bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE, better known as mad cow disease) and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, CWD is caused by damaged, contagious little proteins called prions. Although it's been half a century since CWD was first discovered, scientists are still scratching their heads about how it works, how it spreads, and if, like BSE, it could someday infect humans.

Paper co-author Mark Zabel, of the Prion Research Center at Colorado State University, says animals with CWD fade away slowly at first, losing weight and starting to act kind of spacey. But "they’re not hard to pick out at the end stage," he told The New York Times. "They have a vacant stare, they have a stumbling gait, their heads are drooping, their ears are down, you can see thick saliva dripping from their mouths. It’s like a true zombie disease."

CWD has already been spotted in 24 U.S. states. Some herds are already 50 percent infected, and that number is only growing.

Prion illnesses often travel from one infected individual to another, but CWD’s expansion was so rapid that scientists began to suspect it had more than one way of finding new animals to attack.

Sure enough, it did. As it turns out, the CWD prion doesn’t go down with its host-animal ship. Infected animals shed the prion in their urine, feces, and drool. Long after the sick deer has died, others can still contract CWD from the leaves they eat and the grass in which they stand.

As if that’s not bad enough, CWD has another trick up its sleeve: spontaneous generation. That is, it doesn’t take much damage to twist a healthy prion into a zombifying pathogen. The illness just pops up.

There are some treatments, including immersing infected tissue in an ozone bath. But that won't help when the problem is literally smeared across the landscape. "You cannot treat half of the continental United States with ozone," Zabel said.

And so, to combat this many-pronged assault on our wildlife, Zabel and his colleagues are getting aggressive. They recommend a controlled burn of infected areas of national parks in Colorado and Arkansas—a pilot study to determine if fire will be enough.

"If you eliminate the plants that have prions on the surface, that would be a huge step forward," he said. "I really don’t think it’s that crazy."

[h/t The New York Times]