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Mental Floss Trivia Show

116 Amazing Facts for People Who Like Amazing Facts

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Mental Floss Trivia Show

1. Between 1912 and 1948, art competitions were a part of the Olympics. Medals were awarded for architecture, music, painting, and sculpture.

2. The first webcam watched a coffee pot. It allowed researchers at Cambridge to monitor the coffee situation without leaving their desks.

3. The entire state of Wyoming only has two escalators.

4. The ampersand symbol is formed from the letters in et—the Latin word for "and."

5. Ravens in captivity can learn to talk better than parrots.

6. The actor who was inside R2-D2 hated the guy who played C-3PO, calling him "the rudest man I've ever met."

7. It's a myth that no two snowflakes are exactly the same. In 1988, a scientist found two identical snow crystals. They came from a storm in Wisconsin.

8. When Disneyland opened in 1955, "Tomorrowland" was designed to look like a year in the distant future: 1986.

9. Before George W. Bush took office, some Clinton staffers canvassed the White House offices and removed the W key from over 60 keyboards.

10. When the last official Blockbuster Video closed in November 2013, the final rental was the apocalyptic comedy This Is the End.

11. The German word kummerspeck means excess weight gained from emotional overeating. Literally, grief bacon.

12. The collective noun for a group of pugs is a grumble.

13. In 1939, Hitler's nephew wrote an article called "Why I Hate My Uncle." He came to the U.S., served in the Navy, and settled on Long Island.

14. According to an analysis by FiveThirtyEight, 44 percent of Bob Ross's paintings contain at least one "happy little cloud."

15. On an April day in 1930, the BBC reported, "There is no news." Instead they played piano music.

16. Johnny Cash's "A Boy Named Sue" was penned by beloved children's author Shel Silverstein.

17. Ben & Jerry learned how to make ice cream by taking a $5 correspondence course offered by Penn State. (They decided to split one course.)

18. The word "PEZ" comes from the German word for peppermint—PfeffErminZ.

19. In the 1970s, Mattel sold a doll called "Growing Up Skipper." Her breasts grew when her arm was turned.

20. Before Sally Ride became the first American woman in space, a reporter asked, "Do you weep when things go wrong on the job?"

21. In the 1980s, Pablo Escobar's Medellin Cartel was spending $2,500 a month on rubber bands just to hold all their cash.

22. The inventor of the AK-47 has said he wishes he'd invented something to help farmers instead — "for example a lawnmower."

23. The Vatican Bank is the world's only bank that allows ATM users to perform transactions in Latin.

24. The duffel bag gets its name from the town of Duffel, Belgium, where the cloth used in the bags was originally sold.

25. James Avery ("Uncle Phil" on The Fresh Prince of Bel Air) was the voice of Shredder on the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon.

26. At Fatburger, you can order a "Hypocrite"—a veggie burger topped with crispy strips of bacon.

27. When asked who owned the patent on the polio vaccine, Jonas Salk said, "Well, the people. There is no patent. Could you patent the sun?"

28. The Q in Q-tips stands for quality.

29. Editor Bennett Cerf challenged Dr. Seuss to write a book using no more than 50 different words. The result? Green Eggs and Ham.

30. The act of stretching and yawning is called pandiculation.

31. Sea cucumbers eat with their feet.

32. A murder suspect was convicted after the broken-off leg of a grasshopper in his pants cuff turned out to be a perfect match for an insect found near the victim's body.

33. After an online vote in 2011, Toyota announced that the official plural of Prius was Prii.

34. In his book, Dick Cheney says his yellow lab Dave was banned from Camp David for attacking President Bush's dog Barney.

35. Lyme disease is named after the town of Lyme, Connecticut, where several cases were identified in 1975.

36. Reno is farther west than Los Angeles.

37. William Faulkner refused a dinner invitation from JFK's White House. "Why that’s a hundred miles away," he said. "That’s a long way to go just to eat."

38. In 1907, an ad campaign for Kellogg's Corn Flakes offered a free box of cereal to any woman who would wink at her grocer.

39. Why did the FBI call Ted Kaczynski "The Unabomber"? Because his early mail bombs were sent to universities (UN) & airlines (A).

40. Obsessive nose picking is called rhinotillexomania.

41. "Silver Bells" was called "Tinkle Bells" until co-composer Jay Livingston’s wife told him "tinkle" had another meaning.

42. Michael Jackson's 1988 autobiography Moonwalk was edited by Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis.

43. How did Curious George get to America? He was captured in Africa by The Man With the Yellow Hat — with his yellow hat.

44. In the early stage version of The Wizard of Oz, Dorothy’s faithful companion Toto was replaced by a cow named Imogene.

45. Tobias Fünke's "nevernude" condition on Arrested Development is real. It's called "gymnophobia" — the fear of nude bodies.

46. Hawaiian Punch was originally developed as a tropical flavored ice cream topping.

47. Andy's evil neighbor Sid from Toy Story returns briefly as the garbage man in Toy Story 3.

48. Jacuzzi is a brand name. You can also buy Jacuzzi toilets and mattresses.

49. During a 2004 episode of Sesame Street, Cookie Monster said that before he started eating cookies, his name was Sid.

50. Roger Ebert and Oprah Winfrey went on a couple dates in the mid-1980s. It was Roger who convinced her to syndicate her talk show.

51. Fredric Baur invented the Pringles can. When he passed away in 2008, his ashes were buried in one.

52. When he appeared on Wait Wait...Don't Tell Me!, Bill Clinton correctly answered three questions about My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic.

53. The archerfish knocks its insect prey out of over-hanging branches with a stream of spit.

54. There really was a Captain Morgan. He was a Welsh pirate who later became the lieutenant governor of Jamaica.

55. In 1961, Martha Stewart was selected as one of Glamour magazine;s "Ten Best-Dressed College Girls."

56. At the 1905 wedding of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, President Teddy Roosevelt gave away the bride.

57. Sorry, parents. According to NASA's FAQ page, "There are no plans at this time to send children into space."

58. God and Jesus are the only characters on The Simpsons with a full set of fingers and toes.

59. The sum of all the numbers on a roulette wheel is 666.

60. Only one McDonald's in the world has turquoise arches. Government officials in Sedona, Arizona, thought the yellow would look bad with the natural red rock of the city.

61. Brenda Lee was only 13 when she recorded "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree."

62. Dolly Parton once entered a Dolly Parton look-a-like contest—and lost.

63. During the Coolidge presidency, the First Family had a pet raccoon named Rebecca who liked to play in the White House bathtub.

64. After OutKast sang "Shake it like a Polaroid picture," Polaroid released this statement: "Shaking or waving can actually damage the image."

65. In Peanuts in 1968, Snoopy trained to become a champion arm-wrestler. In the end, he was disqualified for not having thumbs.

66. In France, the Ashton Kutcher/Natalie Portman movie No Strings Attached was called Sex Friends.

67. The famous "Heisman pose" is based on Ed Smith, a former NYU running back who modeled for the trophy’s sculptor in 1934.

68. For $45, the U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing will sell you a 5-lb bag with $10,000 worth of shredded U.S. currency.

69. Before going with Blue Devils, Duke considered the nicknames Blue Eagles, Royal Blazes, Blue Warriors and Polar Bears.

70. At an NOAA conference in 1972, Roxcy Bolton proposed naming hurricanes after Senators instead of women. She also preferred "him-i-canes."

71. For one day in 1998, Topeka, Kansas, renamed itself "ToPikachu" to mark Pokemon's U.S. debut.

72. Before settling on the Seven Dwarfs we know today, Disney also considered Chesty, Tubby, Burpy, Deafy, Hickey, Wheezy, and Awful.

73. The Dictionary of American Slang defines "happy cabbage" as money to be spent "on entertainment or other self-satisfying things."

74. Herbert Hoover was Stanford's football team manager. At the first Stanford-Cal game in 1892, he forgot to bring the ball.

75. The unkempt Shaggy of Scooby-Doo fame has a rather proper real name—Norville Rogers.

76. If you open your eyes in a pitch-black room, the color you'll see is called 'eigengrau.'

77. In 1965, a Senate subcommittee predicted that by 2000, Americans would only be working 20 hours a week with seven weeks vacation.

78. There are roughly 70 ingredients in the McRib.

79. A baby can cost new parents 750 hours of sleep in the first year.

80. Winston Churchill's mother was born in Brooklyn.

81. Brazil couldn't afford to send its athletes to the 1932 Olympics in Los Angeles. So they loaded their ship with coffee and sold it along the way.

82. Before Stephen Hillenburg created SpongeBob SquarePants, he taught marine biology.

83. New Mexico State's first graduating class in 1893 had only one student—and he was shot and killed before graduation.

84. George Washington insisted his continental army be permitted a quart of beer as part of their daily rations.

85. When Canada's Northwest Territories considered renaming itself in the 1990s, one name that gained support was "Bob."

86. President Nixon was speaking at Disney World when he famously declared, "I am not a crook."

87. In a study by the Smell & Taste Research Foundation, the scent women found most arousing was Good & Plenty candy mixed with cucumber.

88. In 1958, Larry King smashed into John F. Kennedy's car. JFK said he’d forget the whole thing if King promised to vote for him when he ran for president.

89. Before she wrote The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins was a writer for Clarissa Explains it All.

90. The male giraffe determines a female's fertility by tasting her urine. If it passes the test, the courtship continues.

91. Hell-o? Hell no! In 1997, Kleberg County in Texas designated "Heaven-o" as its official new phone greeting.

92. Jim Cummings is the voice of Winnie the Pooh. He calls sick kids in hospitals and chats with them in character.

93. In 1994, two men broke into the National Gallery in Oslo and stole a version of Edvard Munch's The Scream. They left a postcard that read: "Thanks for the poor security."

94. In 1979, Japan offered new British PM Margaret Thatcher 20 "karate ladies" for protection at an economic summit. She declined.

95. The Pittsburgh Penguins made Mister Rogers an honorary captain in 1991.

96. In a 1917 letter to Winston Churchill, Admiral John Fisher used the phrase "O.M.G."

97. Truman Show Delusion is a mental condition marked by a patient's belief that he or she is the star of an imaginary reality show.

98. During the first Super Bowl in 1967, NBC was still in commercial when the second half kicked off. Officials asked the Packers to kick off again.

99. Sea otters hold hands when they sleep so they don't drift apart.

100. Until 1954, stop signs were yellow.

101. Mardi Gras float riders are required by law to wear masks.

102. Garbage trucks in Taipei play Beethoven's "Fur Elise" to let people know it's time to bring the trash out.

103. Asperger syndrome is named for Austrian pediatrician Hans Asperger, who described it in 1944. He called his patients "Little Professors."

104. The term "lawn mullet" refers to a neatly manicured front yard with an unmowed mess in the back.

105. Mark Twain invented a board game called Mark Twain's Memory Builder: A Game for Acquiring and Retaining All Sorts of Facts and Dates.

106. In 1991, Wayne Allwine, the voice of Mickey Mouse, married Russi Taylor—the voice of Minnie.

107. Furbies were banned from the National Security Agency's Maryland headquarters in 1999. It was feared the toys might repeat national security secrets.

108. In the 1880s, a baboon worked as a signalman for nine years on a South African railroad. He was paid in brandy and never made a mistake.

109. Carly Simon's dad is the Simon of Simon and Schuster. He co-founded the company.

110. When the mummy of Ramses II was sent to France in the mid-1970s, it was issued a passport. Ramses' occupation? "King (deceased)."

111. The giant inflatable rat that shows up at union protests has a name—Scabby.

112. When the computer mouse was invented, it was called the "X-Y Position Indicator for a Display System."

113. As part of David Hasselhoff's divorce settlement, he kept possession of the nickname "Hoff" and the catchphrase "Don't Hassle the Hoff."

114. "Jay" used to be slang for "foolish person." So when a pedestrian ignored street signs, he was referred to as a "jaywalker."

115. Duncan Hines was a real person. He was a popular restaurant critic who also wrote a book of hotel recommendations.

116. The only number whose letters are in alphabetical order is 40 (f-o-r-t-y).

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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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© Nintendo
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fun
Nintendo Will Release an $80 Mini SNES in September
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© Nintendo

Retro gamers rejoice: Nintendo just announced that it will be launching a revamped version of its beloved Super Nintendo Classic console, which will allow kids and grown-ups alike to play classic 16-bit games in high-definition.

The new SNES Classic Edition, a miniature version of the original console, comes with an HDMI cable to make it compatible with modern televisions. It also comes pre-loaded with a roster of 21 games, including Super Mario Kart, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, Donkey Kong Country, and Star Fox 2, an unreleased sequel to the 1993 original.

“While many people from around the world consider the Super NES to be one of the greatest video game systems ever made, many of our younger fans never had a chance to play it,” Doug Bowser, Nintendo's senior vice president of sales and marketing, said in a statement. “With the Super NES Classic Edition, new fans will be introduced to some of the best Nintendo games of all time, while longtime fans can relive some of their favorite retro classics with family and friends.”

The SNES Classic Edition will go on sale on September 29 and retail for $79.99. Nintendo reportedly only plans to manufacture the console “until the end of calendar year 2017,” which means that the competition to get your hands on one will likely be stiff, as anyone who tried to purchase an NES Classic last year will well remember.

In November 2016, Nintendo released a miniature version of its original NES system, which sold out pretty much instantly. After selling 2.3 million units, Nintendo discontinued the NES Classic in April. In a statement to Polygon, the company has pledged to “produce significantly more units of Super NES Classic Edition than we did of NES Classic Edition.”

Nintendo has not yet released information about where gamers will be able to buy the new console, but you may want to start planning to get in line soon.

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