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16 Characters From Other Languages That Make Great Emoticons

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In the old days we had to make do with primitive sideways grins, frowns, and winks. Now we can draw from a huge stock of full-color, properly-oriented emojis for nearly any concept we might want to express. But where’s the fun in that when there’s such a big world of old school symbols and scripts to exploit? There’s an art to creating emoticons from simple characters. Here are 16 characters you can borrow from the writing systems of other languages to up your emoticon game.

1. ツ (Japanese katakana TU)

¯\_(ツ)_/¯ (beats me!)

You may have seen this friendly shrug emoticon around and wondered how to get that sly grin effect. It’s the syllable “tu” from the Japanese katakana syllable writing system.

2. and 3. ٩ ۶ (Persian/Urdu Arabic 9 and 6)

٩◔̯◔۶ (throwing my hands up)

To get raised arms tilted in opposite directions, the 9 and 6 from the Arabic script used for Persian and Urdu do nicely. They also give a cute little “balled fists” look.

4. ٥ (Persian/Urdu Arabic 5)

(˘_˘٥) (sad)

The Persian/Urdu Arabic 5 makes a fat little lonely tear.

5. ಥ (Kannada THA)

(ಥ﹏ಥ) (crying)

Another way to get to the tears is through Kannada, a language of India, which has a script particularly rich in emoticon possibilities. The letter for “tha” looks like an eye, complete with eyebrow, that has a tear coming out of it. Aww.

6. ಠ (Kannada TTHA)

(ಠ_ಠ) (disapproval)

The “look of disapproval” emoticon uses the Kannada “ttha” (pronounced like “tha” but with the tongue in retroflex position, touching the roof of the mouth).

7. 益 (Chinese “profit, benefit, advantage”)

(ノಠ益ಠ)ノ彡┻━┻ (flipping the table in rage)

Here the disapproving Kannada eyes take on an angry look in combination with the teeth-baring Chinese character for “profit.” This complex emoticon also uses Japanese katakana, the Chinese “hair” radical, and Unicode box-drawing characters.

8. ლ (Georgian LAS)

(-‸ლ) (facepalm)

The Georgian “las” can be a fist clenched in rage, an animal paw, or a palm wearily covering the face.

9. ω (Greek lower case OMEGA)

ヾ(・ω・*)ノ (happy kitty)

Perfect for animal snouts, the lower case omega makes good kitty and puppy emoticons.

10. ౪ (Telugu 4)

/(◉౪◉)\ (happy bunny)

For toothy animals like bunnies and hamsters there’s the 4 from the script of Telugu, a language of India. Can also look like a tongue sticking out below a snout.

11. ง (Thai NGO NGU)

(ง'̀-'́)ง (put your dukes up)

A pair of these Thai velar nasal consonants make a nice “put your dukes up.”

12. 旦 (Chinese “dawn, morning, day”)

(^-^)旦 (have a drink)

The Chinese character for “day” looks like a half full glass. Or half empty, depending. A good way to raise a glass to someone, or tell them you’re going out for drinks.

13. ξ (Greek lower case XI)

ξξ(∵◕◡◕∵)ξξ (freckles and curls)

The Greek lower case xi can stand in for lovely, curly locks.

14. Ӝ (Cyrillic ZHE, with diaeresis)

ƸӜƷ (butterfly)

The Cyrillic zhe with diaeresis above it already looks like a butterfly. Add an ezh, from the international phonetic alphabet, and a reversed ezh and it’s got magnificent wings.

15. and 16. ᕙᕗ (Canadian Aboriginal Syllabics FA and FO)

ᕙ(⇀‸↼‶)ᕗ (Oooo, I’m so mad!)

In the Eastern Cree version of this syllabic writing system developed for North American languages, there is a “fa” and a “fo” that serve well for raised, clenched fists of frustration.

Different operating systems and programs handle these symbols in different ways, so there’s no one simple explanation for how to generate them (and depending on how you are viewing this, some symbols may show up as empty boxes), but if you want to try some out, you can go here and cut and paste.

‶٩(◕◡◕ )  (Bye bye!)

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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
technology
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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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Animals
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Scientists Think They Know How Whales Got So Big
May 24, 2017
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It can be difficult to understand how enormous the blue whale—the largest animal to ever exist—really is. The mammal can measure up to 105 feet long, have a tongue that can weigh as much as an elephant, and have a massive, golf cart–sized heart powering a 200-ton frame. But while the blue whale might currently be the Andre the Giant of the sea, it wasn’t always so imposing.

For the majority of the 30 million years that baleen whales (the blue whale is one) have occupied the Earth, the mammals usually topped off at roughly 30 feet in length. It wasn’t until about 3 million years ago that the clade of whales experienced an evolutionary growth spurt, tripling in size. And scientists haven’t had any concrete idea why, Wired reports.

A study published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B might help change that. Researchers examined fossil records and studied phylogenetic models (evolutionary relationships) among baleen whales, and found some evidence that climate change may have been the catalyst for turning the large animals into behemoths.

As the ice ages wore on and oceans were receiving nutrient-rich runoff, the whales encountered an increasing number of krill—the small, shrimp-like creatures that provided a food source—resulting from upwelling waters. The more they ate, the more they grew, and their bodies adapted over time. Their mouths grew larger and their fat stores increased, helping them to fuel longer migrations to additional food-enriched areas. Today blue whales eat up to four tons of krill every day.

If climate change set the ancestors of the blue whale on the path to its enormous size today, the study invites the question of what it might do to them in the future. Changes in ocean currents or temperature could alter the amount of available nutrients to whales, cutting off their food supply. With demand for whale oil in the 1900s having already dented their numbers, scientists are hoping that further shifts in their oceanic ecosystem won’t relegate them to history.

[h/t Wired]

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