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15 Behind-the-Scenes Facts About Lost

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There are countless untold tales and hilarious mishaps from behind the scenes of LOST, which debuted in 2004—and lucky for us, some of the former cast, crew, and creative team were kind enough to share a few tidbits from their experiences working on the show with mental_floss. Enjoy!

1. According to Executive Producer Carlton Cuse, there was a time during the filming of the show when it rained for 42 consecutive days on Oahu. “[The crew] had an incredibly hard time shooting because everything was so wet and the mud was thigh-deep," he says. "Producer Jean Higgins was scrambling to figure out how to put a shooting schedule together to get anything shot in that weather. They had a truckload full of wader boots that people had to put on to shoot in the mud, because you couldn’t go out there in regular gear.”

2. The day before filming at the under-construction Swan hatch for the Season 5 episode “Some Like it Hoth," the entire set was flooded due to heavy rain, in spite of drainage precautions they built into the location. “[There was] so much rain that the drainage area filled up and flooded back into the set," Production Designer Zack Grobler explains. "The construction and SFX crews rushed out and pumped water out, and they still managed to have the set ready for shooting the very next day.”

Zach Grobler

3. The Swan hatch drill and derrick featured in Season 5 of LOST were actually made of plastic, because everything had to collapse into the hole with Juliet in “The Incident, Part 2." "The production crew created the machinery using PVC pipes, plastic pumps, vacuum cleaner motors and various lightweight plastic pieces to make the parts resemble a drill," Grobler says. "The painters then did their magic to simulate real metal.” 

Zach Grobler

4. According to actor Eric Lange, who played DHARMA Initiative member Stuart Radzinsky, one of the jungles where they filmed LOST was located downhill from a pig farm. “After it rained, no one dared to touch the ground and sanitary wipes were passed around!” he says.

5. Grobler enlisted his wife Kristina and her sister—who both have degrees in physics—to help him create the equations on the chalkboard in the off-island Lamp Post station featured in the Season 5 episode “The Lie.” According to Grobler, the chalkboard “contains physics and mathematical formulae, which predict the position of the island by calculating magnetic anomalies around the globe—so that it may be predicted at which point the flight path of the plane might intersect with the position of the island. The calculations even take the Coriolis effect into account, which is caused by the earth’s rotation.” 

Zach Grobler

6. Were there more Dharma stations than what we saw on the show? Cuse says that “we definitely talked about other (Dharma) stations. We discussed a lot about the Dharma Institute’s relation to the Hanso Foundation, what the projects were, what their goals were. The metaphor for the show was always the iceberg; you have to construct the whole iceberg but only the top 20 percent is above the water line.”

7. Cuse, Damon Lindelof, and the writing staff contemplated many possible romantic pairings while creating the world of LOST—including Sawyer and Shannon for an on-island relationship!

8. When it comes to exactly which characters were in the LOST series finale church scene and why, Cuse admits that “there were a couple of people that we might have included in the church that just weren’t available when that scene was getting shot.” But he added that choosing and excluding certain characters for that scene was very strategic for the type of theorizing that fans lived for.

9. Everyone knows that they filmed two alternative deceased characters in Locke’s coffin—Sawyer and Desmond—for the Season 4 finale, “There’s No Place Like Home, Part 3,” in order to throw off potential spoiler seekers. But Cuse and Lindelof forgot to let Josh Holloway (Sawyer) and Henry Ian Cusick (Desmond) know that they were merely fake-out scenes, and that their characters were NOT going to be killed off! Holloway called them to ask about it, and then they called Cusick immediately to reassure him. “I think for two minutes, when Josh was told that he had to get in a coffin and play dead—he thought he had been killed. We’d never be so callous as to kill a character without telling them ahead of time!” Cuse recalls with a laugh.

10. Daniel Roebuck, who played Dr. Arzt, says that while filming his infamous death scene in the Season 1 finale, “the dynamite in my hand had an actual charge. They needed to know where the explosion would emanate from, so the stick was wired up my arm and down my leg. It went off with a pop!”

11. In the Season 3 episode “Expose,” Roebuck had to work with a live centipede. “It took two entomologists to keep the centipede from ripping off my face," he says. "They had to restrain it between takes!” 

12. The cast and crew filmed the “Dr. Linus” Season 6 flash-sideways high school teacher’s lounge scene with Arzt, Ben, and Locke on Halloween. Roebuck remembers it fondly because the entire crew was dressed up for the occasion.

13. “Dr. Arzt and Hurley formed a friendship beyond that island,” Roebuck says. Of the many actors that Roebuck had the opportunity to work with over six seasons of LOST, he truly bonded with Jorge Garcia—primarily due to their shared love of the horror and monster genres. Garcia is the narrator of Roebuck’s Monstermaniacs Shockumentary on his “Dr. Shocker’s Vault of Horror” documentary DVD.

14. When Jack Shephard mentioned that he had taken flying lessons in the pilot episode, many fans remembered his comment and speculated that it was a hint about a possible future plot point (i.e., flying the Ajira plane off of the island). But Cuse says that it was a “non sequitur” that they wrote into the script simply because Matthew Fox had taken up flying on his own.

15. According to Sterling Beaumon, who played the young Benjamin Linus, while filming the Season 5 episode “He’s Our You,” Matthew Fox and Jorge Garcia decided to surprise a family of four who had been standing on the edge of the road watching the action all day. “They were talking about how crazy it was that people stand there so long, and thought it would be fun to surprise the family by going out to see them," Beaumon says. "Of course they weren't supposed to because they were in their Dharma jumpsuits! The family first looked like they were in trouble, and then when Jorge and Matthew took pictures with them—they were so excited.”

Special thanks to Executive Producer Carlton Cuse, Production Designer Zach Grobler and his wife Kristina, and actors Eric Lange, Daniel Roebuck, and Sterling Beaumon!

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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
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
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]