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6 Insane Moments of Foreshadowing in Futurama

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Futurama is renowned for its hidden Easter eggs, some that even diehard fans couldn't have picked up on upon first viewing. That's because these little secrets foreshadow events and characters that wouldn't happen or appear until seasons later.

1. Leela's Parents in the Crowd

NY Mag

Leela's mutant parents can be seen standing in a crowd in the season two episode "I Second That Emotion." At this point in the series, Leela's origins were still a mystery. The audience wouldn't learn the truth until the season four episode "Leela's Homeworld," when those same parents are formally introduced.

2. Nibbler's Shadow in the Pilot

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Nibbler's shadow can be seen underneath Fry's chair in the first episode, "Space Pilot 3000." Even though the character hadn't been introduced yet, Nibbler's presence in the pilot is explained years later in the season 4 episode ""The Why of Fry," when it is revealed that the critter pushed him into a cryogenic tank. In DVD commentary for the pilot, Matt Groening explains, "What we tried to do is we tried to lay in a lot of little secrets in this episode that would pay off later."

3. Killer Wasps and the Old Planet Express Crew

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Speaking of the first episode, Professor Farnsworth retrieves Fry, Leela, and Bender's new career chips from a package labeled "Contents of Space Wasp's Stomach," implying the old crew was killed by space wasps. This foreshadows the season four episode "The Sting," in which we find out that this did in fact happen to the old crew as the new Planet Express gang are almost killed by giant space bees.

4. The Mysterious Number 9 Man

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A man wearing a tunic that says "Number 9" appears in the background many times throughout the series. (Here he is in " Bender's Big Score," again in "My Three Suns," in "How Hermes Requisitioned His Groove Back," and also in random crowd shots.) He first showed up in the pilot, but wouldn't play a pivotal role until the 2010 Futurama movie, Into the Wild Green Yonder, a full eleven years (and one series cancellation) after his initial appearance. In the movie, it's revealed that the Number 9 Man is the leader of the "Legion of Mad Fellows," a group of telepaths.

5. Futurama itself was predicted by The Simpsons

The creation of Futurama itself was foreshadowed in the 1993 episode of The Simpsons, "The Front." In the episode, a writer resembling Futurama co-creator David X. Cohen exclaims, "I'm gonna do what I've always dreamed of. I'm gonna write that sitcom about the sassy robot." Futurama (and sassy robot Bender) wouldn't premier on Fox for another six years.

6. The Omission of Fry's Grandfather is for a reason

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In "The Luck of the Fryrish," Fry's father tells Fry's brother Yancy that his name (Yancy) has been passed down for generations, from his father's grandfather, to his grandfather, to him, then down to Yancy. He leaves out his own father (Yancy and Fry's grandfather) implying he was named something other than Yancy. This is because in the next-season episode "Roswell that Ends Well," it's revealed that Fry becomes his own grandfather.

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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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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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