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6 Times the World Was Supposed to End in the Past Decade

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According members of the eBible Fellowship, a Pennsylvania-based online religious sect, the world will end on October 7, 2015 (that's today, for those who don't have a calendar handy). This prediction is tied in part to last month's super blood moon, which, they say, started a chain of events that would culminate in the apocalypse.

The Guardian reports that Chris McCann, the eBible Fellowship's leader, insists that the world will be "annihilated" today, though he's leaving some wiggle room. "There’s a strong likelihood that this will happen,” he said, “which means there’s an unlikely possibility that it will not.” This is prudent given the resounding 100 percent failure rate of past doomsday predictors. Here are six examples of supposed ends of the world, all of which were forecasted to occur sometime over last 10 years.

1. SEPTEMBER 12, 2006

Yisrayl Hawkins, leader of the Texas-based religious sect The House of Yahweh, told his followers to prepare for the end of the world on September 12, 2006. Nuclear war would wipe out the majority of humanity, he said, but the members of his church would survive. This info was all explained in his newsletter (archived titles include “If You Don't Believe Me Now, You Will Believe Me Soon!…” and “Amazing Prophecies Showing The Exact Date When Nuclear War Will Start And Where").

Did the world end?: No. Hawkins amended his math to push the date further into the future, and, as recently as this month, he released a newsletter assuring for this generation nuclear wars and “the worst trouble ever.” [PDF]

2. APRIL 29, 2007

Pat Robertson pictured not explicitly predicting the end of days, but endorsing Rudy Giuliani for president.

In his conspiracy-laden 1990 book The New Millennium, university CEO/TV mogul/Southern Baptist minister Pat Robertson insisted that the world would come to an end on April 29, 2007. His reasoning was that this date marked 40 years after the Six-Day War and the reunification of Jerusalem, fulfilling a biblical prophesy.

Did the world end?: No, making Robertson 0-2 in his apocalyptic predictions; in 1980 he guaranteed that the world would end by the end of 1982 (it didn’t, in case you were curious).

3. MAY 21, 2011 AND OCTOBER 21, 2011

Camping's believers in early May, 2011.

Using biblical mathematics of his own invention, evangelical radio host Harold Camping calculated that the rapture would occur on May 21, 2011, and the apocalypse world would follow five months later in October. The following, from a profile in SF Gate, explains his reasoning:

The number 5…equals "atonement." Ten is "completeness." Seventeen means "heaven."

Camping patiently explained how he reached his conclusion for May 21, 2011.

"Christ hung on the cross April 1, 33 A.D.," he began. "Now go to April 1 of 2011 A.D., and that's 1,978 years."

Camping then multiplied 1,978 by 365.2422 days - the number of days in each solar year, not to be confused with a calendar year.

Next, Camping noted that April 1 to May 21 encompasses 51 days. Add 51 to the sum of previous multiplication total, and it equals 722,500.

Camping realized that (5 x 10 x 17) x (5 x 10 x 17) = 722,500.

Or put into words: (Atonement x Completeness x Heaven), squared.

Camping heavily publicized this prophesy via his radio program, insisting that earthquakes and other natural disasters would wreak havoc, leaving the world ravaged as true believers ascended to heaven. After getting the word out, all he had to do was wait.

Did the World End?: No. Camping locked himself in his California home during the predicted date. After it came and went, he emerged, bewildered, to talk to gathered members of the press. "It has been a really tough weekend," he said. He would have to recalculate and get back to them.

4. JUNE 30, 2012

Jose De Jesus Miranda giving a speech.

Jose De Jesus Miranda, leader of a Miami-based religious sect, said he was visited by and became Jesus Christ in 1973. (He later insisted he was also the Apostle Paul and both Jesus and the Anti-Christ, all at once.) Miranda had a multi-national following, and in 2012 he told these believers that the end of the world would happen that June.

He erected billboards in Toronto, advertising this prediction along with the “number of wisdom,” 666, which some of his followers tattooed on their bodies. Like Camping, he preached a math that pointed to the reckoning: “The Earth's rotation has accelerated to a speed of 66,666 mph," "Jose Luis De Jesus (Latitude 66.6°) curiously turns 66 [in 2012],” etc.

Miranda claimed that a reversal of the Earth’s poles would cause the “tectonic plates to heat up,” which would lead to natural disasters. In addition, all the world’s economies would fail. He told his followers that at the time of this apocalyptic “transformation,” they would be able to “fly and walk through walls.”

Did the world end?: No.

5. DECEMBER 21, 2012

Sparked by vague references in ancient texts and the conclusion of the 5,126-year-long Mesoamerican Long Count calendar, December 21, 2012 became a popular date to highlight as the end of the world.

Readings of ancient Mayan texts originally made in the 1950s and ‘60s by astrologers and anthropologists hinted at predictions of a significant event or “Armageddon” in 2012. As that date neared, cultural interest in the mysterious prophesies grew, helped largely by the Internet. Other upcoming events were interpreted as "signs" working in chorus with the Mayan prediction—these included the sun reaching its solar maximum and the distant star Betelgeuse appearing primed to go supernova.

Various cults around the world tied their end of days prophesies to this date, making it a very popular RSVP.

Did the World End?: No, and the movie about it didn’t even warrant a sequel.

6. FALL OF 2015

The most recent "super blood moon."

Between October 8, 2014 and September 27, 2015, there were four consecutive total lunar eclipses. In astronomy, this is called a “tetrad,” and it is a somewhat normal occurrence—there have been five since 1949. Some people, however, claimed otherwise, and insisted the eclipses portended the second coming.

Because these red “blood moons” would occur during Jewish holidays, a few outspoken religious authors tied them to their interpretations of Bible passages (“The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and terrible [or “notable,” as recorded in the New Testament] day of the Lord”).

Three books published before the tetrad garnered some attention: Blood Moons: Decoding the Imminent Heavenly Signs by Mark Biltz, who thought the eclipses signaled the end of times; Blood Moons Rising: Bible Prophecy, Israel, and the Four Blood Moons by Mark Hitchcock; and Four Blood Moons: Something Is About to Change by San Antonio megachurch pastor John Hagee. Hagee’s book used some of Blitz’s reasoning to predict the eponymous “change,” and it climbed to number 4 on the New York Times best-seller list (category: advice/how to).

Did the World End?: No, but the eclipses sure were pretty.

All photos via Getty Images.

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Man Buys Two Metric Tons of LEGO Bricks; Sorts Them Via Machine Learning
May 21, 2017
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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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8 Common Dog Behaviors, Decoded
May 25, 2017
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Dogs are a lot more complicated than we give them credit for. As a result, sometimes things get lost in translation. We’ve yet to invent a dog-to-English translator, but there are certain behaviors you can learn to read in order to better understand what your dog is trying to tell you. The more tuned-in you are to your dog’s emotions, the better you’ll be able to respond—whether that means giving her some space or welcoming a wet, slobbery kiss. 

1. What you’ll see: Your dog is standing with his legs and body relaxed and tail low. His ears are up, but not pointed forward. His mouth is slightly open, he’s panting lightly, and his tongue is loose. His eyes? Soft or maybe slightly squinty from getting his smile on.

What it means: “Hey there, friend!” Your pup is in a calm, relaxed state. He’s open to mingling, which means you can feel comfortable letting friends say hi.

2. What you’ll see: Your dog is standing with her body leaning forward. Her ears are erect and angled forward—or have at least perked up if they’re floppy—and her mouth is closed. Her tail might be sticking out horizontally or sticking straight up and wagging slightly.

What it means: “Hark! Who goes there?!” Something caught your pup’s attention and now she’s on high alert, trying to discern whether or not the person, animal, or situation is a threat. She’ll likely stay on guard until she feels safe or becomes distracted.

3. What you’ll see: Your dog is standing, leaning slightly forward. His body and legs are tense, and his hackles—those hairs along his back and neck—are raised. His tail is stiff and twitching, not swooping playfully. His mouth is open, teeth are exposed, and he may be snarling, snapping, or barking excessively.

What it means: “Don’t mess with me!” This dog is asserting his social dominance and letting others know that he might attack if they don’t defer accordingly. A dog in this stance could be either offensively aggressive or defensively aggressive. If you encounter a dog in this state, play it safe and back away slowly without making eye contact.

4. What you’ll see: As another dog approaches, your dog lies down on his back with his tail tucked in between his legs. His paws are tucked in too, his ears are flat, and he isn’t making direct eye contact with the other dog standing over him.

What it means: “I come in peace!” Your pooch is displaying signs of submission to a more dominant dog, conveying total surrender to avoid physical confrontation. Other, less obvious, signs of submission include ears that are flattened back against the head, an avoidance of eye contact, a tongue flick, and bared teeth. Yup—a dog might bare his teeth while still being submissive, but they’ll likely be clenched together, the lips opened horizontally rather than curled up to show the front canines. A submissive dog will also slink backward or inward rather than forward, which would indicate more aggressive behavior.

5. What you’ll see: Your dog is crouching with her back hunched, tail tucked, and the corner of her mouth pulled back with lips slightly curled. Her shoulders, or hackles, are raised and her ears are flattened. She’s avoiding eye contact.

What it means: “I’m scared, but will fight you if I have to.” This dog’s fight or flight instincts have been activated. It’s best to keep your distance from a dog in this emotional state because she could attack if she feels cornered.

6. What you’ll see: You’re staring at your dog, holding eye contact. Your dog looks away from you, tentatively looks back, then looks away again. After some time, he licks his chops and yawns.

What it means: “I don’t know what’s going on and it’s weirding me out.” Your dog doesn’t know what to make of the situation, but rather than nipping or barking, he’ll stick to behaviors he knows are OK, like yawning, licking his chops, or shaking as if he’s wet. You’ll want to intervene by removing whatever it is causing him discomfort—such as an overly grabby child—and giving him some space to relax.

7. What you’ll see: Your dog has her front paws bent and lowered onto the ground with her rear in the air. Her body is relaxed, loose, and wiggly, and her tail is up and wagging from side to side. She might also let out a high-pitched or impatient bark.

What it means: “What’s the hold up? Let’s play!” This classic stance, known to dog trainers and behaviorists as “the play bow,” is a sign she’s ready to let the good times roll. Get ready for a round of fetch or tug of war, or for a good long outing at the dog park.

8. What you’ll see: You’ve just gotten home from work and your dog rushes over. He can’t stop wiggling his backside, and he may even lower himself into a giant stretch, like he’s doing yoga.

What it means: “OhmygoshImsohappytoseeyou I love you so much you’re my best friend foreverandeverandever!!!!” This one’s easy: Your pup is overjoyed his BFF is back. That big stretch is something dogs don’t pull out for just anyone; they save that for the people they truly love. Show him you feel the same way with a good belly rub and a handful of his favorite treats.

The best way to say “I love you” in dog? A monthly subscription to BarkBox. Your favorite pup will get a package filled with treats, toys, and other good stuff (and in return, you’ll probably get lots of sloppy kisses). Visit BarkBox to learn more.

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