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23 Music Videos Starring Pre-Fame Celebrities

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Though some of the songs may be forgettable, these 23 pre-fame actors at least made the videos memorable.

1. Zooey Deschanel

When Zooey Deschanel was just 18, she starred in The Offspring’s “She’s Got Issues.” Still pretty adorkable, in a 1990s-Delia’s-catalog kind of a way.

2. Aaron Paul

He appeared in Korn’s 2002 video for “Thoughtless.”

3. Christina Hendricks

Mad Men’s Christina Hendricks was in Everclear’s “One Hit Wonder” when she was about 22.

4. Zach Galifianakis

He appeared in Fiona Apple’s “Not About Love” video. The Between Two Ferns comedian was making the rounds on the comedy circuit—in fact, Apple knew him because they frequently performed at L.A’s Club Largo together—but he wasn’t known like he is now.

5. and 6. Eva Mendes and Seann William Scott

This Aerosmith video for “Hole in My Soul” is a two-fer: Eva Mendes as the Weird Science-like dream girl, and Seann William Scott playing a rather Stifler-like character a couple of years before he actually played Stifler in American Pie.

7. Angelina Jolie

Michael Bay directed this video for Meat Loaf’s “Rock And Roll Dreams Come True” in 1993, which features a young Angelina Jolie.

8. Katy Perry

Here’s Katy Perry in the Gym Class Heroes video for “Cupid’s Chokehold.” She was dating Travie McCoy at the time.

9. Minka Kelly

That’s a blonde Minka Kelly in Puddle of Mudd's "She Hates Me" video in 2002.

10. Adam Savage

Here’s a rather unexpected one: Adam Savage of Mythbusters fame was in Billy Joel’s “You’re Only Human” video. Fun fact: He was also Mr. Whipple’s stockboy in one of the Charmin commercials. 

11. Courteney Cox

Everyone knows that Courteney Cox was in Bruce Springsteen’s “Dancing in the Dark,” but it wasn’t as spontaneous as it would appear to be in the music video. She was actually cast by director Brian De Palma specifically for that purpose.

12. Matthew McConaughey

He played the title character in Trisha Yearwood’s “Walkaway Joe.” This was 1992, so at the time, McConaughey’s hero was Matthew McConaughey in The Wedding Planner.

13. Ke$ha

She appeared in Katy Perry’s “I Kissed a Girl.” This wasn’t so random—the two of them were friends. What is kind of random, though: Back in 2005, Ke$ha and her mother “hosted” Nicole Richie and Paris Hilton for an episode of The Simple Life

14. Channing Tatum

This cameo in Ricky Martin's "She Bangs" isn't just blink-and-you’ll-miss-it—you can have your eyes wide open and still not realize you're looking at Channing Tatum, so I took a screenshot for you. It was Tatum’s first professional dancing job. He made $400 for a five-day shoot.

15. Josh Holloway

You already know that Alicia Silverstone was Aerosmith’s video muse in the 1990s, but take another look at the dude who steals her purse—it’s Josh Holloway from Lost!

16. RuPaul

She was in the B52s’ “Love Shack” video. Skip to 2:05 if you don’t want to sit through the whole earwig of a song.

17. Djimon Hounsou

He appeared in Paula Adbul’s “Straight Up.”

18. Wentworth Miller

He's starred in two Mariah Carey videos: "It’s Like That" and "We Belong Together." Both of them were directed by Brett Ratner, who also directed the first episode of Miller’s breakout series: Prison Break.

19. Jeremy Sisto

He was the boy in Twisted Sister’s “We’re Not Gonna Take It.”

20. Jenna Elfman

Check out a brunette Jenna Elfman in Depeche Mode’s “Halo” in 1990. She was also in Anthrax’s “Black Lodge."

21. Matt LeBlanc

He's in the last 20 seconds of Tom Petty’s “Into the Great Wide Open.” Johnny Depp is the star of the video, of course, but this was a few years after 21 Jump Street.

22. Jennifer Connelly

You can spot her in this Mad Max-esque video for Duran Duran’s “Union of the Snake,” three years before Labyrinth.

23. Jennifer Lopez

Here she is as a dancer in Janet Jackson’s “That’s the Way Love Goes” video, around the same time that J. Lo was a fly girl on In Living Color.

BONUS: Elijah Wood

As a child actor, Elijah Wood had already been in a couple of movies (Radio Flyer, The Good Son, North) before he starred in the Cranberries’ “Ridiculous Thoughts” in 1995. But we're including it anyway.

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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
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technology
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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Health
200 Health Experts Call for Ban on Two Antibacterial Chemicals
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iStock

In September 2016, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a ban on antibacterial soap and body wash. But a large collective of scientists and medical professionals says the agency should have done more to stop the spread of harmful chemicals into our bodies and environment, most notably the antimicrobials triclosan and triclocarban. They published their recommendations in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.

The 2016 report from the FDA concluded that 19 of the most commonly used antimicrobial ingredients are no more effective than ordinary soap and water, and forbade their use in soap and body wash.

"Customers may think added antimicrobials are a way to reduce infections, but in most products there is no evidence that they do," Ted Schettler, science director of the Science and Environmental Health Network, said in a statement.

Studies have shown that these chemicals may actually do more harm than good. They don't keep us from getting sick, but they can contribute to the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, also known as superbugs. Triclosan and triclocarban can also damage our hormones and immune systems.

And while they may no longer be appearing on our bathroom sinks or shower shelves, they're still all around us. They've leached into the environment from years of use. They're also still being added to a staggering array of consumer products, as companies create "antibacterial" clothing, toys, yoga mats, paint, food storage containers, electronics, doorknobs, and countertops.

The authors of the new consensus statement say it's time for that to stop.

"We must develop better alternatives and prevent unneeded exposures to antimicrobial chemicals," Rolf Haden of the University of Arizona said in the statement. Haden researches where mass-produced chemicals wind up in the environment.

The statement notes that many manufacturers have simply replaced the banned chemicals with others. "I was happy that the FDA finally acted to remove these chemicals from soaps," said Arlene Blum, executive director of the Green Science Policy Institute. "But I was dismayed to discover at my local drugstore that most products now contain substitutes that may be worse."

Blum, Haden, Schettler, and their colleagues "urge scientists, governments, chemical and product manufacturers, purchasing organizations, retailers, and consumers" to avoid antimicrobial chemicals outside of medical settings. "Where antimicrobials are necessary," they write, we should "use safer alternatives that are not persistent and pose no risk to humans or ecosystems."

They recommend that manufacturers label any products containing antimicrobial chemicals so that consumers can avoid them, and they call for further research into the impacts of these compounds on us and our planet.

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