I left a carton of eggs out for a few days and they spoiled. I cracked one of them open and what I thought was a duckling came out of it. It ended up not being a duckling - it was actually an opossum - and I kept it as a pet.
Elaborately decorated eggs predate Easter by thousands of years
If you wanted to make an impression on a high-ranking Bronze or Iron Age chieftain, mere jewelry or gems wouldn’t cut it. Instead, you’d present them with an egg—an elaborately carved and embellished ostrich eggshell, to be exact. Such oologic offerings have been found inside the tombs of Mediterranean and Middle Eastern elites who lived from about 2500 to 500 B.C.E., equally thrilling and perplexing archaeologists. Who made them, and how did they wind up in the hands of ancient nobility?
To crack the case, a team of archaeologists and museum curators took a closer look at decorated eggshells in the collection of the British Museum, which includes five prized eggs in outstanding condition. The intact eggs were all discovered in a burial site known as the Isis Tomb in Vulci, Italy, that was uncovered in 1839 by Napoleon Bonaparte’s brother, Prince Lucien. The tomb dates to about 600 B.C.E. and was filled with other luxury items, including gold jewelry and bronze dinnerware. All five of the ostrich eggs were painted, and four were engraved with repeating geometric patterns (as seen above), animal motifs, and chariots and soldiers. Read more.
I’ve been experimenting with image-generating neural networks, which look at a bunch of images and via trial and error gradually learn to produce more like them. Or at least “like them” according to the neural net’s own interpretation of realistic, which is usually missing a lot.
Last time I used runwayml to finetune Nvidia’s StyleGAN2 neural net on Great British Bakeoff screenshots. This turned it from a neural net that produced fairly-convincing human faces to one that produced horrible abstract versions of the baking show, with smears of bread and flesh and bunting everywhere. Its results were such a mess because it was trying to do so much - it couldn’t handle all the variety in the baking show.
So, this time I decided to try training StyleGAN2 again, but this time with a much much simpler set of images. I dyed 30 easter eggs, set them on a wooden floor, and then panned over them with my phone’s camera. I extracted 1,928 frames from the resulting video, started training StyleGAN2, and after 3000 iterations it was producing these:
These are at least recognizably eggs, even if they look like they have somehow caused the universe to warp around them and are just barely managing to linger within this dimension.
It’s worth remembering that I didn’t give the neural net any instructions on what eggs were or what were the allowable colors and shapes. It just had to figure out why the faces it was generating at first were unacceptable, and what should change about them to make them more egglike. Unsurprisingly, the intermediate stages were somewhat startling.
It’s interesting to see what the neural net failed at. I had included several speckled eggs in the training data, yet none of the eggs turned out speckled. It did attempt to do a couple of the striped eggs, but they came out with weird color gradients that I have no idea how you’d accomplish in real life. If you look closely, you can see that some are strongly textured to the point of being oddly furry. Based on their underlying math, image-generating neural nets tend to be better at small-scale texture than at big stuff.
Some of the neural net’s eggs were nothing like the eggs I had dyed. Pleasingly pearlescent, they had multiple layers of colors showing through, and an often plasterlike texture. There’s an apparent depth to them, as if they were cloud layers on gas giants. Or maybe the blush on a fruit. These are mistakes, but strangely appealing ones. I wonder what kind of animal would hatch from these.
It is seriously easy to try this yourself - you don’t need a fancy computer, or any coding skills. Got several hundred pictures of something? Use runwayml.com to generate your own monstrosities.
Bonus material: there were far too many amazing eggs to fit in this post, but if you enter your email here, I’ll send them to you.
And for reference, I’m working on the tenth egg rn, listing’ll go up once i have enough to fill a carton for picture posting, I don’t know how much completed cross stitches usually go for but I can’t see folks forking over more than $25 CAD for each one so I’ll probably go with that
What if hawks has an even grosser kink ,,,, yall can unfollow right now cause even this shit was like woah for me.
What if ,,, eggs. Small little gelatin ones. He loves putting them inside you, fantasizing that you’ve had his clutch, and watching you bear down to expel those cute little eggs out. He’d coo at you for doing such a good job laying his young, coaxing you and coaching you to push out one at a time. It’s his favorite pass time after his rut; all those breeding sessions can finally blossom into reality with those eggs, since you were so adamant about being on the pill. Lay on the bed in his lap with your legs spread open, squat down on the floor, etc. Yeah.