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10 Chilly Facts About Cryolophosaurus

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Dinosaurs once inhabited every continent and today, we’ll be strapping on our snowshoes to take a closer look at Antarctica’s dashiest species: Cryolophosaurus ellioti.

1. Cryolophosaurus Rocked some Offbeat Headgear.

This thing really cut an unusual profile. Generally, in theropod (aka “meat-eating”) dinosaurs, head crests run parallel to the sides of the skull. Yet rebellious Cryolophosaurus defies this trend. Like a fanning peacock tail, its curved crest faces forward. 

2. Cryolophosaurus has Earned the Nickname “Elvisaurus” for its Presley-Esque Crest.

And, like a hunka hunka burning love, Cryolophosaurus probably used that dazzling ornament to attract the opposite sex.

3. One Unfortunate Cryolophosaurus May Have Choked to Death on a Rib.

Wedged inside the throat of one large Cryolophosaurus skeleton is what appears to be an herbivorous dinosaur’s rib. Did the big carnivore fatally gag on that bone? Perhaps. On the other hand, a few scientists have argued that this rib belonged to the Cryolophosaurus itself and was maneuvered into such an awkward position post mortem.

4. Dinosaur Fossils Didn’t Show Up in Antarctica Until the 1980s.   

The South Pole finally yielded some dinosaur bones when the remains of an armored grazer were discovered on James Ross Island in 1986. However, this poor creature wouldn’t be given its official scientific name—Antarctopelta oliveroi—until 2006. Cryolophosaurus, meanwhile, was unearthed in 1991 and named in 1994. 

5. A Few Other Antarctic Dinos Have Since Come to Light.

Add little Trinisaura, long-necked Glacialisaurus and an unnamed giant herbivore  to this small-but-growing list.

6. Cryolophosaurus was Conspicuously Large for Its Time

One hundred and ninety million years ago, Cryolophosaurus ranked among the world’s biggest predatory dinosaurs, with an estimated length of over 20 feet. Truly huge varieties—like North America’s Allosaurus —wouldn’t start evolving until several million years later.

7. When Cryolophosaurus Lived, Antarctica Looked Quite Different.

Antarctica used to be significantly closer to the equator and even boasted its own forests. Also, the continent’s weather patterns were milder than those it currently withstands.

8. Scavengers Apparently Nibbled on One Specimen.

Some Cryolophosaurus bones have been found with nibble-like markings, possibly indicating that their owner became something’s dinner after kicking the bucket.

9. Cryolophosaurus Can Likely Tell Us a Great Deal About Dinosaurian Evolution.

As a primitive theropod from a region of the globe in which—until fairly recently—dinosaur fossils had never turned up, Cryolophosaurus seems rather promising to several paleontologists. At present, we’ve only got some incomplete cranial and skeletal material to go by. But if and when additional remains start emerging, who knows what surprises this creature might have in store for us?

10. A Recurring Character on PBS’ Dinosaur Train is Known as “King Cryolophosaurus.”

Does this guy’s singing voice remind you of a certain rock star we mentioned earlier? If so, the resemblance is probably 100 percent coincidental…

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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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Why Your iPhone Doesn't Always Show You the 'Decline Call' Button
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When you get an incoming call to your iPhone, the options that light up your screen aren't always the same. Sometimes you have the option to decline a call, and sometimes you only see a slider that allows you to answer, without an option to send the caller straight to voicemail. Why the difference?

A while back, Business Insider tracked down the answer to this conundrum of modern communication, and the answer turns out to be fairly simple.

If you get a call while your phone is locked, you’ll see the "slide to answer" button. In order to decline the call, you have to double-tap the power button on the top of the phone.

If your phone is unlocked, however, the screen that appears during an incoming call is different. You’ll see the two buttons, "accept" or "decline."

Either way, you get the options to set a reminder to call that person back or to immediately send them a text message. ("Dad, stop calling me at work, it’s 9 a.m.!")

[h/t Business Insider]