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14 Breathtakingly Beautiful Museums in Africa

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Wikimedia Commons

We’ve featured museums from Europe, North America, South America and Asia, so our exploration of the most stunning museums from around the world now takes us to Africa. Here are 13 absolutely lovely locations.

1. Rova of Antananarivo: Antananarivo, Madagascar

Photos courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

The Rova of Antananarivo is closed for renovations right now, but it has served as a museum since the French colonized the country in 1896. Before that, the massive structure served as a home to the country’s royalty ever since 1610. In 1995, a fire caused massive damage to numerous structures on the property and the 1,466 undamaged pieces of the museum’s collection had to be moved to the Andafiavaratra Palace that was once home to the nation’s Prime Minister.

After the renovations are completed, the Rova of Antananarivo will resume its role as the area’s primary history museum.

2. Iziko South African Museum: Cape Town, South Africa

Photos Courtesy of Wikipedia user Discott

This museum was open to the public in 1825, making it the country's first. It moved into its current location in 1897, and the museum offers exhibits on a variety of subjects including zoology, paleontology, and archaeology.

3. Children’s Civilization and Creativity Center: Cairo, Egypt

Photos Courtesy of WIkipedia user Mallarch

Cairo’s children’s museum was opened to the public in 2012. A trip to the museum begins with a look at the Nile and how the famous river has changed throughout the millennia. Through the journey, children learn about dinosaurs, early man, modern animals, and Egyptian history. There is also an area that focuses on the future of science and outer space. Outside, the museum hosts a garden filled with living birds, butterflies, and fish, along with an outdoor excavation area.

4. Red Castle Museum: Tripoli, Libya


Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Also known as the Archaeological Museum of Tripoli, the Red Castle Museum is named after the historic building in which it's located. Part of the castle was converted into the museum in 1919, and by 1948 the museum extended into the rest of the structure. Its collection spans 5,000 years, up until and including the mid-20th century.

5. CP Nel Museum: Oudtshoorn, South Africa


Photo Courtesy of South African Tourism

Originally a school hall constructed in 1913 by Johannes Egbertus Vixseboxse, the CP Nel Museum features some of the finest stone masonry in the entire country and was named a national monument in 1981. The primary focus of the museum is on ostriches and the important role their farming plays in the local community, although the region's general history is covered as well.

6. Royal Jewelry Museum: Alexandria, Egypt

Photo Courtesy of Roland Unger

While it remains closed to the public since the revolution of 2011, the Royal Jewelry Museum remains a lovely attraction in Alexandria even if only viewed from the outside. The building is the former palace of Princess Fatma Al-Zahra, which was secured by the Egyptian government after the country’s revolution of 1952. The museum opened in 1986 to display the jewelry of the last royal family of Egypt, along with their extensive collection of art and sculptures. It contains over 11,000 displays, including 2,753 loose precious stones.

7. Alexandria National Museum: Alexandria, Egypt

Photo Courtesy of David Stanley

Located in a former Italian-style mansion that once served as the home of the US Consulate, the Alexandria National Museum was officially opened in 2003. It houses over 1,800 artifacts from Alexandria and Egyptian history ranging from jewelry and weapons to statues and glassware.

8. Museum of Modern Art of Algiers: Algiers, Algeria

Photo Courtesy of Wikipedia user Rvince

The exterior of this museum is nice (it was originally built as a department store in 1909), but it’s not what makes this one of the most stunning museums in Africa. The interior of the five-story museum though was renovated in a stunning neo-Moorish style before officially opening in 2007.

9. Melrose House: Pretoria, South Africa

Photo Courtesy of Wikipedia user Stephantom

This beautiful 1886 home features stained glass windows, paintings, carpets, and ornate ceilings. Originally built as a home by George Jesse Heys, the building gained fame during the Second Boer War when it was requisitioned for use as the headquarters of the British forces in 1900.

10. Museum of Marrakech: Marrakech, Morocco

Photo Courtesy of Wikipedia user Donarreiskoffer

Located in the Dar Menebhi Palace, the Museum of Marrakech displays modern and traditional Moroccan art, books, coins, and pottery. The building itself is certainly part of the display though, offering a unique look at classical Andalusian architecture including a central courtyard adorned with fountains.

11. Mapungubwe Museum: Pretoria, South Africa

Photo Courtesy of Andrew Hall

Mapungubwe is an excavation site where archeologists have found a wide variety of artifacts dating back to the Iron Age. Since the site’s discovery in 1933, the University of Pretoria had housed these artifacts, before moving them in June of 2000 into the museum, which was was once the Old Arts Faculty Building.

12. Blue Penny Museum: Port Louis, Mauritius


Photo Courtesy of Wikipedia User Sputnik Tilt

After obtaining two million dollars worth of Blue Penny and Red Penny stamps in 1993, the Mauritius Commercial Bank opened a museum to put these special pieces on display. While that may not mean much to most people, to stamp collectors, the Blue Penny and Red Penny stamps are some of the most notable collector items in the world. Originally issued in Mauritius in 1867, these stamps can be seen on display to the public in a handful of locations.

The lovely museum building was built specifically for this purpose and was opened to the public in 2001.

13. House of Slaves: Gorée Island, Senegal


Photo courtesy of Robin Elaine

A beautiful location with a tragic history, the House of Slaves is a museum and memorial dedicated to the Atlantic slave trade. The 1776 home is located on Gorée Island and some believe it served as a major trading port for slaves captured from Africa. It's argued that up to 15 million people were filed through the “Door of No Return” and shipped off as slaves.

Those of you who live in Africa or have visited museums there, feel free to contribute your own favorite museums from the continent in the comments!

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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
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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
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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]

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