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Robert Whyte

Meet 10 Beautiful Spiders

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Robert Whyte

Are you afraid of spiders? Don’t be; these are only pictures of spiders that stand out because of their strikingly beautiful appearance. Or at least, some species of spiders that you’d be lucky to ever see in the wild. They’re always prettier when you don’t have to separate them from a screaming family member in the bathroom.

Sequined Spiders

Photograph by Doug Beckers.

Some species of the spider genus called Thwaitesia are also referred to as mirror spiders, bling spiders, or sequined spiders because of the bright and sometimes reflective jewel tones of their abdomens. This one is from Australia.

Photograph by Flickr user Robert Whyte.

Thwaitesia nigronodosa are also found in Australia.

Photograph by Poyt448 Peter Woodard.

Another species of mirrored spider is Thwaitesia argentiopunctata. These colorful spiders are found in Australia. Honestly, not all Thwaitesia species are in Australia, just the most nicely photographed examples.

Ladybird Mimic Spider

Photograph by Flickr user Vijay Anand Ismavel.

The Ladybird Mimic Spider, or Paraplectana, adopted the red with black spots look of a common ladybug. Why? Possibly it’s because ladybugs taste pretty bad, and are unattractive to predators. They are found in the tropical regions of Africa and Asia.

Spiny Orb Weaver

Photograph by Thejasvi Munishankarappa.

Spiders of the genus Gasteracantha are orb weavers. Gasteracantha dalyi are native to India and have two long curved “horns.” Those spines are not really horns, but the spider’s spinnerets. Scary looking, but still beautiful in its own way.

Ogre-Faced Spider

Photograph by Flickr user Robert Whyte.

This is the face of an ogre-faced spider, or Deinopis subrufa. Look at those beautiful blue eyes! This species is a net-casting spider, meaning it throws its web to catch prey. It lives in eastern Australia and Tasmania.

Jumping Spiders

Photograph by Flickr user Thomas Shahan.

The genus Phidippus are jumping spiders, mostly found in North America. One of the prettiest is Phidippus workmani, found in the United States. How could you resist those lovely eyes -all four of them?

Photograph by Flickr user Thomas Shahan.

Phidippus putnami is also quite beautiful, with colors that resemble a flower.

Peacock Spiders

Photograph by Flickr user Jurgen Otto.

Maratus splendens is not the only species of peacock spider, but its taxonomic name is particularly descriptive. It is certainly splendid! This species is only found near Sydney, Australia. The male of the species has a colorful flap that it raises to attract females.

Photograph by Flickr Jurgen Otto.

Maratus volens, on the other hand, is found in Queensland, New South Wales, Western Australia, and Tasmania. Maratus spiders are a type of jumping spider. The female is a dull brown, which is just fine with the family.

See also: 5 Terrifyingly Huge Spiders, 9 Spiders and the Stars They Were Named For, and The Creepiest Spider Videos You'll Ever See.

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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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