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'Mother' Robot Builds Better, Faster Robot Offspring

In case artificially intelligent robots weren’t terrifying enough, scientists at the University of Cambridge have designed a machine capable of building hundreds of its own robot “children.” The mother robot assembles its offspring by gluing together pieces containing small motors and then observes how they perform, making note of which designs move the fastest and the farthest. It then uses the data it collects to incorporate superior traits into subsequent generations.

Scientist based their technology off the concept of natural selection. Each of the robot children have features, or “genes,” that the mother can select or delete for optimal performance. But while evolution is driven by the interacting forces of nature, these machines are bred according to the whims of a singular robot overlord.

The only human intervention needed is the command to initiate the robot's movement. Beyond that, the mother machine functions independently. After generating 500 robots, the experiment was proven successful with the final generation of offspring moving twice as fast as the first batch.

Researchers suggest the technology could be put to use in auto plants where robots would scrutinize and design better generations of vehicles. We'll take that over self-generating robot armies any day. 

[h/t: VOA]

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26 Facts About LEGO Bricks

Since it first added plastic, interlocking bricks to its lineup, the Danish toy company LEGO (from the words Leg Godt for “play well”) has inspired builders of all ages to bring their most imaginative designs to life. Sets have ranged in size from scenes that can be assembled in a few minutes to 5000-piece behemoths depicting famous landmarks. And tinkerers aren’t limited to the sets they find in stores. One of the largest LEGO creations was a life-sized home in the UK that required 3.2 million tiny bricks to construct.

In this episode of the List Show, John Green lays out 26 playful facts about one of the world’s most beloved toy brands. To hear about the LEGO black market, the vault containing every LEGO set ever released, and more, check out the video above then subscribe to our YouTube channel to stay up-to-date with the latest flossy content.

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Of Buckeyes and Butternuts: 29 States With Weird Nicknames for Their Residents
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Tracing a word’s origin and evolution can yield fascinating historical insights—and the weird nicknames used in some states to describe their residents are no exception. In the Mental Floss video above, host John Green explains the probable etymologies of 29 monikers that describe inhabitants of certain states across the country.

Some of these nicknames, like “Hoosiers” and “Arkies” (which denote residents of Indiana and Arkansas, respectively) may have slightly offensive connotations, while others—including "Buckeyes," "Jayhawks," "Butternuts," and "Tar Heels"—evoke the military histories of Ohio, Kansas, Tennessee, and North Carolina. And a few, like “Muskrats” and “Sourdoughs,” are even inspired by early foods eaten in Delaware and Alaska. ("Goober-grabber" sounds goofier, but it at least refers to peanuts, which are a common crop in Georgia, as well as North Carolina and Arkansas.)

Learn more fascinating facts about states' nicknames for their residents by watching the video above.

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