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9 Animals That Can Live Longer Than You

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The average life expectancy in the United States these days is nearly 79 years. As animal species go, humans are pretty hearty, especially given all these fancy medicines we’ve developed. But we’re not the only ones who hope to live past 80 (or 90). Other birds and mammals and fish and microbes manage to live longer. Some a lot longer.

1. Giant tortoises

The Aldabra tortoise, found on a tiny atoll north of Madagascar, can easily live past 100 years, and it’s thought that the oldest in captivity died at age 250 (that’s the upper limit; other records point to an age of at least 150). Who knows how long the Aldabra might live, though. Accurate records of the species’ age haven’t been kept, partly because the tortoises being studied have outlived the scientists researching them.

2. The immortal jellyfish

Scientists discovered Turritopsis dohrnii back in 1883, but it wasn’t until more than a century had passed that they discovered it was technically capable of living forever. That’s right: When faced with stressors like starvation or injury, the jellyfish reverts to its youngest form. Its cells transform into other cells, and it transforms into a cyst. That blob then produces a bunch of baby jellyfish, or polyps, all of which are genetically identical to the original. This method of self-preservation has actually turned it into an annoying invasive species.

3. Ocean quahog

These large clams found in the North Atlantic look unremarkable. More people have probably tasted them than seen them, given that they’re a frequent chowder ingredient. But when their rings are analyzed, it becomes clear that quahogs are some of the longest-lived ocean dwellers. In fact, a clam nicknamed Ming harvested in 2006 turned out to be 507 years old. And given that Ming turned up in a random sample of 200 clams, its likely that many others are at least as old, if not older. And you may have eaten them.

4. Tuatara

Move aside, coelacanth. The tuatara, a reptile found in New Zealand, is also known as a living fossil. Its closest relatives are extinct, and it has a vestigial third eye on the top of its head. (Skin grows over it, but the “eye” can still detect light and dark.) They’re slow-growing, not maturing until the ages of 13-20. They can stop breathing for up to an hour, and they’re not slowed down by cold. Given all of this, one of the least remarkable things about tuataras is that they can live up to a century in the wild.

5. Parrots

With parrots, we skirt the edges of the human lifespan. Macaws, for example, can live some 60 years in the wild. But some have sailed past the 100-year mark, most notably Charlie, who was reportedly owned by Winston Churchill. Taught to spew obscenities against Hitler and the Nazis, Charlie was a fixture at a British garden center for years. As with giant tortoises, it can be difficult to substantiate birth dates for centenarian parrots—and researchers have cast doubt on Charlie’s provenance—so the exact details are murky.

6. Bowhead whale

The bowhead whale is second only in size to the blue whale—but it’s apparently No. 1 among mammals in terms of sheer lifespan. Scientists have discovered at least three of the whales are 135 to 172 years old, with a fourth clocking in at 211 years old. They figured this out by studying the creatures’ eye lenses, and by finding ivory and stone harpoon points buried in other whales. Those tips haven’t been used since the 1880s. These discoveries doubled the known lifespan for the creatures.

7. Koi

This beautiful, domesticated carp variety lives an average of 50 years. But depending on the quality of their care and genetic variables, koi have been known to live for more than a century. Hanako, a fish that died in 1977, was believed to be 226 years old. Scientists measured her age by examining the microscopic rings on her scales.

8. Flamingo

You’ll likely outlive most flamingos, but not all of them. In captivity, they usually live some 40 years, about 10 years longer than they survive in the wild. But Greater, a flamingo at the Adelaide Zoo in Australia, made it to age 83.The animal’s gender wasn’t known, but Greater managed to survive both World War II and a late-in-life attack from younger flamingos at the zoo. Sadly, complications from age led to the bird's demise.

9. Bacteria

Deep, deep in the ocean you can find some of the longest-lived creatures ever. These viruses, bacteria, and assorted fungi have such slow metabolisms that scientists hesitate to even call them "alive" in the conventional sense of the word (the term "zombie" came up). And yet some have likely existed for millions of years, only reproducing every 10 millennia.

All images courtesy of Thinkstock.

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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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Here's How to Change Your Name on Facebook
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Whether you want to change your legal name, adopt a new nickname, or simply reinvent your online persona, it's helpful to know the process of resetting your name on Facebook. The social media site isn't a fan of fake accounts, and as a result changing your name is a little more complicated than updating your profile picture or relationship status. Luckily, Daily Dot laid out the steps.

Start by going to the blue bar at the top of the page in desktop view and clicking the down arrow to the far right. From here, go to Settings. This should take you to the General Account Settings page. Find your name as it appears on your profile and click the Edit link to the right of it. Now, you can input your preferred first and last name, and if you’d like, your middle name.

The steps are similar in Facebook mobile. To find Settings, tap the More option in the bottom right corner. Go to Account Settings, then General, then hit your name to change it.

Whatever you type should adhere to Facebook's guidelines, which prohibit symbols, numbers, unusual capitalization, and honorifics like Mr., Ms., and Dr. Before landing on a name, make sure you’re ready to commit to it: Facebook won’t let you update it again for 60 days. If you aren’t happy with these restrictions, adding a secondary name or a name pronunciation might better suit your needs. You can do this by going to the Details About You heading under the About page of your profile.

[h/t Daily Dot]

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