41 Things You Might Not Know About Dogs

This week John Green talks puppies! Don't miss an episode of mental_floss on YouTube—subscribe here.

Here's a transcript courtesy of Nerdfighteria:

Did you know that the Doberman Pinscher came about in the 1800s because a German guy named Louis Doberman decided that he needed some extra protection for his job? He was, it rather goes without saying, a tax collector. And that's the first of many facts about dogs I'm going to share with you today. Let's get started.

2. So Snoop Dogg got that name from his mom, who compared him to Snoopy, Meredith, I told you facts about dogs not facts about Snoop Dogg.

OK, actual dogs.

3. In 1942, William Randolph first wrote an elegy that was published in Time Magazine. It was for his toy Dachshund. Rest in peace Helen.

4. Pablo Picasso also had a Dachshund. His name was Lump and he made frequent appearances in Picasso's work

5. Speaking of which, Dachshund means "badger dog" in German, they were bred to help with hunting. They have a long body that was used to like get badgers and other animals from burrows.

5. Onto presidential dogs, Warren G. Harding's Airedale Laddie Boy had his own seat at cabinet meetings. He was also pretty famous. The New York Times ran many stories about him which had lines like 'Laddie Boy a News Boy' and 'Laddie Boy Gets Playmate' and 'we're running out of things to write about Laddie Boy'. Maybe instead you could have covered Harding's disastrous presidency.

7. FDR's Scottish Terrier Fala was an honorary private in the army. Speaking of Fala at a campaign dinner in 1944, Roosevelt went on a rant about how the republicans made up a story that he had left his dog in the Aleutian Islands and sent a navy destroyer to go pick him up and it cost tax payers 20 million dollars and Roosevelt referred to the story as libelous statements about my dog.

8. The Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev once gave a dog to JFK's daughter Caroline. The dog was named Pushinka, Russian for Fluffy. Pushinka's mom was none other than Strelka, one of the first animals to orbit the Earth.

9. While George H.W. Bush was in office, his dog Milly had a litter of puppies at the White House and one of those puppies, Spot, would later move back into the White House when George W. Bush took office.

10. The Beatles were also dog lovers. In fact Paul McCartney once said "If you ever play Sgt. Pepper, watch your dog." The band put in a dog whistle sound during the song 'A Day in the Life' so you won't hear it, but your dog might.

11. The golden retriever that played Comet for a full six seasons on the great American television program Full House also played Buddy in Air Bud, one of the greatest movies ever made.

12. Terry the Cairn Terrier, who was Toto in The Wizard of Oz, got paid 125 dollars a week. Compare that with the 100 dollars a week that the Munchkins earned. Judy Garland got paid 500 dollars a week.

13. Moose, the Jack Russell terrier from Frasier, received more fan mail than any of the other actors. I bet Kelsey Grammar hated that!

14. At the height of Rin Tin Tin's fame for his work in silent films, a chef prepared him a daily steak lunch and while he ate, classical musicians played to aid his digestion. Cover Alex's ears, Mark, I do not want her to know about that.

15. Poodles have a reputation for being spoiled, but their haircuts are actually functional. So they were bred as hunting dogs to retrieve birds who fell in water and their coats were mostly shaved for swimming, except for strategic areas left for warmth. They do have famously warm coats. You are a very bad person, Cruella DeVil. Why did we put you next to Lincoln? He's an American hero. I'm moving you! You're going next to the troll face and Napoleon!

16. Speaking of dogs with jobs, not to be confused with the Disney channel program Dog with a Blog, Corgis were prized for the herding abilities. Despite their strange body type, they herded cattle, sheep, and even ducks and geese.

17. Pekingese dogs were bred to be the Emperor's body guards in ancient China. And miniature Pekingese were named Sleeve Pekingese for how they were carried; in the large sleeves of the robes worn by members of the Chinese imperial household.

18. Belgian Malinois Shepherd Dogs have historically been police dogs, sniffing out explosives, narcotics, and so on. But more recently, they've been trained to smell prostate cancer.

19. Dogs can also be trained to sniff out bootleg DVDs. Plus some are used to track down smuggled phones in prisons. Watch out Orange is the New Black people!

20. So how is that possible? Well because dogs have a sense of smell that is between 10 thousand and 100 thousand times more acute than a human sense of smell.

21. Moving on to seeing eye dogs, the idea originated in Switzerland to help blind veterans. Seeing eye dogs are also trained to go to the bathroom on command.

22. For the record, Jack Russell terriers were in fact bred by a man named John, aka Jack, Russell.

23. Which isn't that weird when you consider how many things dogs actually have in common with people. Like dogs who bark continuously can also get laryngitis or -

24. They can be left of right-handed or pawed.

25. They also have different blood types and -

26. Dogs even process voices much the same way that humans do, which allows them to detect emotions.

27. But studies indicate they actually don't feel guilt, so all those sad looks you know so well from dog shaming blogs are just a response to the owner's displeasure.

28. They do, however, experience envy if they feel another dog is being better rewarded for the same trick. Also a thing with humans. Like remember with Kim got the Bentley and all the other Kardashian sisters were super jealous because they were like "we are also professionally vapid!"

29. In the 1800s a dog powered device was invented. A dog would walk on a treadmill that ran an appliance like a washing machine or a butter churner.

30. Here's a crazy fact! The smaller a dog is, the more likely it is to have dreams.

31. Also, big dogs have shorter life expectancies because they age faster.

32. A Chinese study found that people who own dogs get better sleep at night and are sick less often but they're also more likely to have to clean up vomit regularly. That wasn't actually part of the study, it's just a fact that I happen to know. Anyway, dog owners are also less likely to suffer from depression than non pet owners.

33. Some dog-owners take that affection pretty far. Like an estimated 1 million dogs in the US have been named primary beneficiary in their owner's wills.

34. Speaking of which, in 1991, German countess Carlotta Liebenstein, left around 106 million dollars to her German Shepherd Gunther the Third. Most of that went to his heir, Gunther the Fourth, so in 2000, Gunther the Fourth bought an 8-bedroom mansion in Miami that once belonged to Madonna.

35. Dogs are capable of understanding up to 250 words and gestures and the average dog is as intelligent as a two-year-old child so I hope Gunther the Fourth bought himself some Baby Einstein videos with all that sweet will money.

36. In 2010, a Border Collie named Chaser made news because researchers from Waffer College had taught her to recognize 1,022 words including many commands as well as hundreds of toy names. That reminds me of my dog, Willie, who knows the word "treat."

37. Most pregnant Boston Terriers and Bulldogs have to deliver via cesarean section. In fact, up to 92 percent of Boston Terrier deliveries these days are c-sections. So that's probably how you came into the world, Blue 3, although hopefully not with that bone in your mouth. (6:42)

38. In the 1860s, two stray dogs named Bummer and Lazarus roamed the streets of San Francisco and they became a fixture in local newspapers. They were allowed to keep roaming in spite of the city's anti-stray dog rules. It also didn't hurt that they were experts at ratting.

39. The Norwegian Lundehund has six toes on each foot. By the way, they were bred to hunt puffins in Norway, which is how they got that name. "Lunde" is the Norwegian word for "puffin" and "hund" of course means dog.

40. According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the tallest dog is a Great Dane named Zeus. He's 44 inches tall and reaches seven-foot-four when he's standing on his hind legs.

41. Finally, I return to my salon to tell you that in 2003, Ozzy Osbourne saw the family Pomeranian, Pip, being attacked by a coyote in the garden. He heard the dog screaming and then physically wrestled with the coyote, rescuing Pip from its mouth and engaging in the most aerobic exercise Ozzy Osbourne has seen since at least 1978.

[Images and footage provided by Shutterstock.]

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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
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]