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12 Simpsons Easter Eggs You Might Have Missed

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Even Simpsons obsessives who watch each episode repeatedly might not know everything about the beloved animated series. Here are 12 hidden gems from Springfield.

1. There's a Full, Hidden McBain Movie

Throughout the series, intermittent clips of action star Rainier Wolfcastle's character McBain pop up when the Simpsons are watching TV. Turns out, these clips can be pieced together to form an entire McBain movie with a structured narrative. Check it out above.

2. Principal Skinner is Jean Valjean from Les Miserables

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Here's a highbrow Simpsons theory: In an episode from season five, Principal Skinner reveals that his POW number in Vietnam was 24601, the same number as Les Miserables character Jean Valjean. Four years later in the season nine episode "The Principal and the Pauper," it is revealed that Skinner was a former criminal who stole another man's identity and became a respectable member of society, echoing Valjean's story.

3. Extremely Complex Math Jokes Are Hidden Throughout the Show

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The Simpsons is written by math whizzes, and they hide all sorts of complicated math jokes for eagle-eyed and egg-headed viewers, including a split-second moment in season ten's "The Wizard of Evergreen Terrace" when Homer (nearly) successfully disproves Fermat's last theorem.

4. In the Opening Credits, Maggie's Scanner Price Isn't Random

whatculture.com

In the original opening credits, when Maggie is swiped on the register, the till reads $847.63. This amount comes from a survey which said that $847.63 is the cost of raising a baby in America per month.

5. Holy Hands

God and Jesus are the only Simpsons characters to have five fingers on each hand. Everyone else has four (of course).

6. The reoccurring "A113"

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At various points in the series, "A113" has been used as the inmate/mugshot numbers for Krusty, Sideshow Bob, and Bart. The number itself is a reference to a room at the California Institute of the Arts and it has been used by many Cal Art alumni in other animated shows and Disney/Pixar movies.

7. Professor Frink's Hidden Boast

eeggs.com

In the episode "Treehouse of Horror VI," Homer goes into a three-dimensional world. At one point, located behind him is a string of hexidecimal numbers: 46 72 69 6E 6B 20 72 75 6C 65 73 21. When converted to ASCII, these numbers read, "Frink rules!" in reference to Professor Frink.

8. Danny Elfman's Storefront

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The name of The Simpsons' theme song composer Danny Elfman is hidden on a storefront in the opening credits (as his theme begins to play).

9. Matt Groening Signs Homer

babysimpson.co.uk

Homer's hair and ear form an "M" and a "G," which is a reference to Simpsons' creator Matt Groening. The Simpsons make note of this in a season 16 episode.

10. Krusty the Clown and Homer Simpson Have Nearly Identical Character Models

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Ever notice that Homer looks like Krusty, sans makeup and hair? You are not alone. Dan Castellaneta (who voices both Krusty and Homer) said that they considered a plotline in which Krusty was going to use Homer as a disguise.

Also, some armchair psychiatrists theorize that Homer and Krusty's similarities are meant to be a central component of Bart's character. He doesn't respect Homer, but he idolizes a man who looks just like him. Deep.

11. Paul McCartney's Hidden Lentil Soup Recipe

In the season five episode "Lisa the Vegetarian," Paul McCartney says, "In fact, if you play ‘Maybe I’m Amazed’ backwards, you’ll find a recipe for a ripping lentil soup.” The joke doesn't end there—if you play the version of "Maybe I'm Amazed" that's featured in the closing credits backwards, you can hear Paul quietly recite a recipe for lentil soup in the background.

12. The Simpsons' Secret Cameos

Wikipedia

Seasons two and three featured cameos from superstars Dustin Hoffman and Michael Jackson. But the men weren't credited for their appearances for contractual reasons. The Simpsons later referenced these incidents in a season four episode. In "Itchy & Scratchy: The Movie," Lisa talks about the new Itchy & Scratchy movie saying, "It was the greatest movie I've ever seen in my life! And you wouldn't believe the celebrities who did cameos. Dustin Hoffman, Michael Jackson ... of course they didn't use their real names, but you could tell it was them."

Corrections: As commenters have correctly pointed out, an original version of this article had incorrect season numbers for "Stark Raving Dad," "Lisa's Substitute," and "Itchy & Scratchy: The Movie." D'oh!

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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
technology
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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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Scientists Think They Know How Whales Got So Big
May 24, 2017
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It can be difficult to understand how enormous the blue whale—the largest animal to ever exist—really is. The mammal can measure up to 105 feet long, have a tongue that can weigh as much as an elephant, and have a massive, golf cart–sized heart powering a 200-ton frame. But while the blue whale might currently be the Andre the Giant of the sea, it wasn’t always so imposing.

For the majority of the 30 million years that baleen whales (the blue whale is one) have occupied the Earth, the mammals usually topped off at roughly 30 feet in length. It wasn’t until about 3 million years ago that the clade of whales experienced an evolutionary growth spurt, tripling in size. And scientists haven’t had any concrete idea why, Wired reports.

A study published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B might help change that. Researchers examined fossil records and studied phylogenetic models (evolutionary relationships) among baleen whales, and found some evidence that climate change may have been the catalyst for turning the large animals into behemoths.

As the ice ages wore on and oceans were receiving nutrient-rich runoff, the whales encountered an increasing number of krill—the small, shrimp-like creatures that provided a food source—resulting from upwelling waters. The more they ate, the more they grew, and their bodies adapted over time. Their mouths grew larger and their fat stores increased, helping them to fuel longer migrations to additional food-enriched areas. Today blue whales eat up to four tons of krill every day.

If climate change set the ancestors of the blue whale on the path to its enormous size today, the study invites the question of what it might do to them in the future. Changes in ocean currents or temperature could alter the amount of available nutrients to whales, cutting off their food supply. With demand for whale oil in the 1900s having already dented their numbers, scientists are hoping that further shifts in their oceanic ecosystem won’t relegate them to history.

[h/t Wired]

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