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Jeff and Susan Snow

9 Remarkable Ultrasound Images

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Jeff and Susan Snow

It has become commonplace for pregnant women to undergo ultrasonography, or medical sonography, to check the physical health and progress of their unborn baby. A side benefit of sonography is the ability to detect the baby’s sex before birth. And the images, called sonograms or ultrasounds, become a child’s first baby picture. These are often shared with family, friends, and the internet, even if the baby is hard to decipher by untrained eyes. Sometimes those mysterious images invite pareidolia, which is our human tendency to see familiar shapes among the unfamiliar. Here are some examples of the strange things seen in obstetric ultrasound images.

1. Ducky

BosskHogg did not identify the parents who showed him this ultrasound image, but it was apparently taken pretty early. They referred to the child as “Ducky” until they settled on a name for the boy he turned out to be.

2. Emperor Palpatine

There is a tendency for evil beings to lurk in the shadows of a sonogram. Just ask redditor oodelay, who posted this vision of Emperor Palpatine from Star Wars.

3. Another Emperor

DeviantART member Hearte42 shared this early image of his son, shrouded in darkness, which gave him a definite resemblance to the evil Emperor of the Star Wars universe.

4. Baby and Cats

Everyone who sees this ultrasound has to make the same joke: that it's a CAT scan instead of a sonogram. The large photobombing cat is on the right, with a smaller kitten head to its left. After seeing those, it’s hard to see the baby at all.

5. Woodpecker

When redditor AliceAsya was pregnant a couple of years ago, the doctor surprised her with an image that indicated she should expect a woodpecker. 

6. Demon

Friends of redditor AsianAnnie shared their baby's ultrasound, and everyone in their circle bit their tongues about the apparent demon staring at her unborn child. If the demon is not obvious to you, this sequence should make it clear—and possibly leave you with nightmares. A commenter who actually performs ultrasounds explained that images like this are caused by the folds of the placenta, which can look like anything.

7. Scissors

CarpetFibers shared this cringeworthy ultrasound from a friend showing a pair of scissors. Let's hope that they got a clearer view of the baby later on in the pregnancy. 

8. Charlie Brown

Redditor rlgianni sent her mother an ultrasound image and it came back with an addition showing who she would be giving birth to. Is this child doomed to kick a football that's being pulled away from him like Charlie Brown?

9. Rock On!

In some cases, it’s not pareidolia but the baby itself who gives us a surprise on an ultrasound image. Jeff and Susan Snow, who are both musicians, shared this ultrasound of their son Harrison giving a prenatal “rock on!” gesture. Now four years old, little Harrison Snow has been battling health issues that affect his breathing since soon after his birth. You can follow his story here.

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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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