CLOSE
Original image

14 Things You Didn't Know About The Scream

Original image

You’ve seen it on everything from socks to The Simpsons to cocktail napkins, but how much do you really know about Edvard Munch's The Scream?

1. The Scream isn't one piece, but four.

Munch created a quartet of executions of the familiar scene. In 1893, the Norwegian artist made a painted version as well as a crayon piece. Two years later, he created another pastel version. Then in 1910, he used tempera paints on board for his final Scream.

2. Munch also mass-produced the image.

Once his Scream caught on in the European art scene, Munch made a lithograph of the concept so that he could sell black-and-white prints at will. These prints got a second life of sorts in 1984, courtesy of Andy Warhol. In the wake of its Munch exhibition, the New York–based Galleri Bellman commissioned the pop art pioneer to recreate Munch's lithographs as a screen print. Warhol did the same for Munch's Madonna, The Brooch, and Self-Portrait with Skeleton's Arm.

3. The original name was not The Scream.

Munch's intended name for these variants was The Scream of Nature. He shared the rationale for this title in a poem he painted on the frame of the 1895 pastel, "I was walking along the road with two Friends / the Sun was setting – The Sky turned a bloody red / And I felt a whiff of Melancholy – I stood / Still, deathly tired – over the blue-black / Fjord and City hung Blood and Tongues of Fire / My Friends walked on – I remained behind / – shivering with Anxiety – I felt the great Scream in Nature – EM.”

4. The Scream might also be about suicide.

Munch scholar Sue Prideaux places the creation of the first Scream in a time when the Norwegian painter was broke, fresh off a failed love affair, and fearful of developing the mental illness that ran in his family. To Prideaux, it's no coincidence that the bridge depicted in The Scream was a popular spot for jumpers. Tellingly, it sat within earshot of a slaughterhouse and an insane asylum where Munch's schizophrenic sister resided.

5. THE screamer may have been based on a Peruvian mummy.

Around the time of The Scream's creation, the mummified figure of a Chachapoyas warrior was discovered near the Utcubamba River in Peru's Amazonas Region. With hands cemented in place on either side of a mouth open in an apparent shriek, the mummy bears a striking resemblance to Munch's screamer. Art historian Robert Rosenblum posited Munch found inspiration in the mummy while it was on display at an exhibition in Paris.

6. It inspired the mask of Wes Craven's Scream killer.

The director of the hit slasher franchise counts Munch's Scream as one of his favorite works of art, and has said, "It's a classic reference to just the pure horror of parts of the 20th century, or perhaps just human existence."

7. The Scream also influenced Doctor Who.

In the re-launched sci-fi series, the beloved Doctor faces off against universe threatening aliens known as the Silence. Executive producer Steven Moffat confessed the look of these terrifying creators was inspired in part by Munch's Scream.

8. Thieves left a mocking note when The Scream was first stolen.

On the same day the 1994 Winter Olympics opened in Lillehammer, bandits placed a ladder up to the window of the National Gallery in Oslo, slunk inside, and made off with The Scream. They were so pleased with the ease of this crime that they added insult to robbery, leaving a note that read, "Thanks for the poor security." Thankfully, the painting was recovered within three months.

9. Armed gunmen stole The Scream in 2004.

In a daring daylight heist, two masked men rushed into Oslo's Munch Museum and made off with The Scream and Madonna. By May of 2006, three men had been convicted for the theft. But despite the city of Oslo offering a 2 million krone (about $313,000 U.S.) reward, the paintings remained missing.

10. Two million M&M's were offered as a reward for its return…

In August 2006, Mars, Inc. became involved in the recovery efforts as a marketing ploy to promote the brand's new dark chocolate M&Ms. Along with an ad that featured the red M&M playing hopscotch within the iconic painting, Mars offered up the sweet reward.

11. …AND IT KIND OF WORKED.

Just a few days after the promotion started, a convict gave up the whereabouts of the missing paintings during a plea deal, asking for conjugal visits and the 2.2 tons of candy. However, Mars decided if anyone would get the prize, it should be the Norwegian authorities who collared the guy in the first place. The police decided it would be best if the cash value ($26,000) went to the Munch Museum.

12. Gambling men bet on The Scream being stolen again.

Specifically, London bookies were offering 20/1 odds that the only Scream to be in private hands would be snatched before it hit the auction block at a highly anticipated Sotheby's sale on May 2, 2012. Published estimates put the piece's value at $80 million. Ultimately, the second pastel Scream sold for $119.9 million, making it, at the time, "the world’s most expensive work of art ever to sell at auction."

13. We may be scientifically wired to respond to The Scream.

Studies performed by Harvard neurobiology professor Margaret Livingstone on macaque monkeys show that the brain is more likely to respond to faces that are exaggerated, like The Scream's distended mouth. Livingstone offers, "That's why I think a caricature of an emotion works so well. It's what our nerve cells are tuned to."

14. The Scream is in the public domain.

Well, more specifically, The Scream--and all other works by Munch--are in the public domain in nations that embrace the “life plus 70 years” copyright term. As Munch died in 1944, January 1, 2015 marked the issuing of his works into the public domain in countries like Brazil, Israel, Nigeria, Russia, Turkey, and those within the European Union. It was already public domain in the United States because it was created before 1923.

Original image
iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
technology
arrow
Man Buys Two Metric Tons of LEGO Bricks; Sorts Them Via Machine Learning
May 21, 2017
Original image
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!

Original image
Nick Briggs/Comic Relief
entertainment
arrow
What Happened to Jamie and Aurelia From Love Actually?
May 26, 2017
Original image
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]

SECTIONS
BIG QUESTIONS
BIG QUESTIONS
WEATHER WATCH
BE THE CHANGE
JOB SECRETS
QUIZZES
WORLD WAR 1
SMART SHOPPING
STONES, BONES, & WRECKS
#TBT
THE PRESIDENTS
WORDS
RETROBITUARIES