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Bugs and Private Snafu via Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

11 Mischievous Facts About Bugs Bunny

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Bugs and Private Snafu via Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Bugs Bunny, one of the most iconic cartoon characters of all time, has been around for three quarters of a century. Warner Bros. began featuring smart-talking rabbits in its cartoons as early as the 1930s, but it wasn't until 1940 that the rogue we know and love began to take shape on the screen. Here are 11 facts about the impish rabbit, who debuted 75 years ago this week. 

1. He first appeared as an extra in a Porky Pig cartoon. 

The then-unnamed rabbit was created in 1938 for a cartoon in which Porky Pig went hunting, but the actual character wouldn't appear until years later. 

2. Bugs Bunny might not exist if not for a time crunch. 

Merrie Melodies - A Wild Hare (1940) by Cartoonzof2006

In 1938, Warner Brothers wanted to make a cartoon as quickly as possible. The previous year, they had released Porky’s Duck Hunt, which introduced Daffy Duck. Faced with the deadline, Bob Clampett decided to reuse some of the jokes that he had left over from Duck Hunt. And someone suggested that they “dress the duck in a rabbit suit.” The result was Porky’s Hare Hunt.

Over the next few years, they tinkered with the character until it wound up with Tex Avery, Bob Givens, and Mel Blanc, who together would create Bugs Bunny. He showed up in a 1940 short called A Wild Hare.

3. His voice was originally designed to mimic Daffy Duck’s. 

During his inception, Bugs director I. Freling decided the rabbit’s voice would be similar to Daffy’s, since the duck was already a popular character. The voice actor who played Bugs, Mel Blanc, also provided the voice for Daffy Duck, as well as most other Looney Tunes favorites like Tweety Bird, Speedy Gonzales, and Marvin the Martian. 

4. His mannerisms were partially inspired by Clark Gable. 

Bugs’ nonchalant, carrot-eating manner was inspired by a scene in It Happened One Night, when the fast-talking Clark Gable snacks on carrots while leaning on a fence. The character also took inspiration from Groucho Marx.

5. The creators were worried he would seem like a bully. 

“It was very important that he be provoked, because otherwise he’d be a bully,” director Chuck Jones said in an interview in 1998. “We didn’t want that. We wanted him to be a nice person.”

6. He does occasionally lose to Elmer Fudd.  

What's Opera Doc by MistyIsland1

Notably, Bugs loses the battle in his constant war with bumbling hunter Elmer Fudd in What’s Opera, Doc, the 1957 short that parodies Wagner’s operas. 

7. He made cameos in World War II military propaganda.  

Bugs Bunny shows up in several Private Snafu shorts, instructional cartoons designed to educate U.S. military troops about things like proper sanitation and not leaking American secrets. The films were classified information, and even workers who put together the animations at Warner Bros. were not allowed to see the finished product. 

8. Bugs shows up on Seinfeld

When the Seinfeld gang goes to the opera in the fourth season of the show, Jerry sings part of the theme song from The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour. “All your knowledge of high culture comes from Bugs Bunny cartoons,” Elaine tells him. 

9. Psychologists use him to study false memories.

In several psychological studies about false beliefs, scientists have shown people fake advertisements for Disney World featuring Bugs Bunny. A significant portion of subjects then claimed to remember going to Disney and meeting Bugs, even though a Warner Bros. character would never be on display at a Disney theme park. 

10. The man who voiced him wasn't allergic to carrots. 

The story that Mel Blanc was allergic to carrots dates back at least to 1945, when animators told the New York Times that Mel Blanc would chew a carrot and spit it out, otherwise he’d get sick. But both his autobiographyThat's Not All, Folks!—and Chuck McKibben, operations manager at Mel Blanc Studios, give a different story: McKibben told The Straight Dope that Blanc wasn’t allergic to carrots—he just chewed one and spat it out so that he could keep recording his lines (although McKibben does point out that Mel didn’t like “anything healthy”).

11. Bugs Bunny has saved lives. 

In 1961, Blanc got in a serious car accident that left him in a coma for weeks. Eventually, a doctor tried to get the unresponsive patient to talk by asking him, “Bugs Bunny, how are you doing today?” Blanc responded in Bugs’ voice, “What’s up, Doc?” Later, the doctor would say of the incident,“It seemed like Bugs Bunny was trying to save his life.”

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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
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technology
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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iStock
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Health
200 Health Experts Call for Ban on Two Antibacterial Chemicals
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iStock

In September 2016, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a ban on antibacterial soap and body wash. But a large collective of scientists and medical professionals says the agency should have done more to stop the spread of harmful chemicals into our bodies and environment, most notably the antimicrobials triclosan and triclocarban. They published their recommendations in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.

The 2016 report from the FDA concluded that 19 of the most commonly used antimicrobial ingredients are no more effective than ordinary soap and water, and forbade their use in soap and body wash.

"Customers may think added antimicrobials are a way to reduce infections, but in most products there is no evidence that they do," Ted Schettler, science director of the Science and Environmental Health Network, said in a statement.

Studies have shown that these chemicals may actually do more harm than good. They don't keep us from getting sick, but they can contribute to the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, also known as superbugs. Triclosan and triclocarban can also damage our hormones and immune systems.

And while they may no longer be appearing on our bathroom sinks or shower shelves, they're still all around us. They've leached into the environment from years of use. They're also still being added to a staggering array of consumer products, as companies create "antibacterial" clothing, toys, yoga mats, paint, food storage containers, electronics, doorknobs, and countertops.

The authors of the new consensus statement say it's time for that to stop.

"We must develop better alternatives and prevent unneeded exposures to antimicrobial chemicals," Rolf Haden of the University of Arizona said in the statement. Haden researches where mass-produced chemicals wind up in the environment.

The statement notes that many manufacturers have simply replaced the banned chemicals with others. "I was happy that the FDA finally acted to remove these chemicals from soaps," said Arlene Blum, executive director of the Green Science Policy Institute. "But I was dismayed to discover at my local drugstore that most products now contain substitutes that may be worse."

Blum, Haden, Schettler, and their colleagues "urge scientists, governments, chemical and product manufacturers, purchasing organizations, retailers, and consumers" to avoid antimicrobial chemicals outside of medical settings. "Where antimicrobials are necessary," they write, we should "use safer alternatives that are not persistent and pose no risk to humans or ecosystems."

They recommend that manufacturers label any products containing antimicrobial chemicals so that consumers can avoid them, and they call for further research into the impacts of these compounds on us and our planet.

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