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From Foie Gras to Maple Bacon: 10 Bizarre Milkshake Flavors

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With record-breaking temperatures sprouting up everywhere this summer, there’s no better time to cool off with a nice refreshing milkshake. Of course, while some people are content with strawberry, chocolate or vanilla, others want more variety. Here are some of the weirdest milkshake flavors you’re likely to ever come across.

1. Foie Gras

Flip Burger of Georgia has some inventive and delicious shake flavors on their menu, including Krispy Kreme, Nutella & toasted marshmallow, and s’mores, but nothing compares to the weirdness of their foie gras milkshake. They're made with liquid nitrogen, so the presentation is as unforgettable as the drink itself. How good could a foie gras milkshake actually taste? The nutty, sweet shakes seem to be pretty popular with those brave enough to try them.

[Image courtesy of Yelp user Olivia W.]

2. Buffalo Chicken

The Buffalo Chicken Shake is a 30 Rock reference that most fans won’t even remember since it only appeared on a sign for a split second, but on the web, that’s all it takes to inspire someone to make a TV joke into a reality.

3. The McNuggetini

Is your McDonald’s chocolate milkshake too boring for your taste? Well, if you really want to class things up, try adding some vodka and serving the cocktail up in a BBQ-sauce rimmed martini glass garnished with a McNugget.

4. Caramel Popcorn

Admittedly, this popcorn-filled milkshake is one of the weirdest looking shakes you’ll ever see, but when you actually think about the flavor combination of sweet and salty, and the texture blends of smooth and soft with crunchy and chewy – it actually seems fantastic. According to the creator, it’s truly fabulous and, if you go by the recipe on the site, it’s actually one of the healthier options on this list.

5. Chocolate Avocado

To Westerners, an avocado milkshake sounds just plain bizarre, but it’s quite a popular drink flavor in Asia, and if you like the cool, rich, creamy flavor of avocado, you’ll probably like the way it tastes in a milkshake too. While I can personally vouch for avocado milkshakes, I’ll admit that I’ve never tried a chocolate avocado one, but given how good each is on its own, I can’t imagine that this would be a bad combination.

6. Sweet Potato, Candied Cashew and Bourbon

If the three flavors work as a Thanksgiving side dish, then there’s no reason they won’t go together in a milkshake. These are a popular treat at Chef Thomas Dunklin’s B&O American Brasserie in Baltimore, but for those who can’t make it out there to try their own, you can find the recipe here.

7. Maple Bacon

Slater’s 50/50 is a small burger chain in Southern California that is best known for their 50/50 burger, made from half ground beef and half bacon. If that’s not enough bacon for you, you can always top your burger with bacon and Baconnaise, enjoy your fries with bacon-infused ketchup, and then top it all off with a maple bacon shake and a bacon brownie.

8. Cap'n Crunch

When you spend the weekend in Vegas, it’s all too common to miss breakfast and come stumbling into a restaurant just in time for lunch. For those who are still dying to get their cereal fix though, you might want to consider Kerry’s Gourmet Burgers inside Harrah’s, where you can get a "Captain Crunch" milkshake. Personally though, I’m more inclined to try their banana split nachos, where fried flour tortillas fill in for chips and strawberry and pineapple syrup take the place of cheese sauce. Yum!

[Image courtesy of Yelp user Julia O.]

9. Strawberry Waffles

Don’t like Cap'n Crunch but still want to enjoy a delicious milkshake breakfast treat? Well, consider the strawberry waffle shake. Filled with Eggo and strawberry goodness, there’s no better liquid way to wake up in the morning.

10. Guinness, Chocolate and Espresso

Like your beer, chocolate and coffee dark? Then you’ll probably love the Shakin’ Jesse from Rudy’s Can’t Fail Café in the San Francisco Bay area. It combines Guinness Stout, chocolate ice cream and espresso into one smooth and frothy shake.
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Got any weird shake recipe ideas of your own? Feel free to share them in the comments. Personally, I’m curious what the aloe vera ice cream I made would taste like in a milkshake – the ice cream was pretty good, so I can’t imagine it would be any less tasty when blended with milk. If you’re inspired to try it out yourself, let me know how it turns out.

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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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Cs California, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0
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science
How Experts Say We Should Stop a 'Zombie' Infection: Kill It With Fire
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Cs California, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0

Scientists are known for being pretty cautious people. But sometimes, even the most careful of us need to burn some things to the ground. Immunologists have proposed a plan to burn large swaths of parkland in an attempt to wipe out disease, as The New York Times reports. They described the problem in the journal Microbiology and Molecular Biology Reviews.

Chronic wasting disease (CWD) is a gruesome infection that’s been destroying deer and elk herds across North America. Like bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE, better known as mad cow disease) and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, CWD is caused by damaged, contagious little proteins called prions. Although it's been half a century since CWD was first discovered, scientists are still scratching their heads about how it works, how it spreads, and if, like BSE, it could someday infect humans.

Paper co-author Mark Zabel, of the Prion Research Center at Colorado State University, says animals with CWD fade away slowly at first, losing weight and starting to act kind of spacey. But "they’re not hard to pick out at the end stage," he told The New York Times. "They have a vacant stare, they have a stumbling gait, their heads are drooping, their ears are down, you can see thick saliva dripping from their mouths. It’s like a true zombie disease."

CWD has already been spotted in 24 U.S. states. Some herds are already 50 percent infected, and that number is only growing.

Prion illnesses often travel from one infected individual to another, but CWD’s expansion was so rapid that scientists began to suspect it had more than one way of finding new animals to attack.

Sure enough, it did. As it turns out, the CWD prion doesn’t go down with its host-animal ship. Infected animals shed the prion in their urine, feces, and drool. Long after the sick deer has died, others can still contract CWD from the leaves they eat and the grass in which they stand.

As if that’s not bad enough, CWD has another trick up its sleeve: spontaneous generation. That is, it doesn’t take much damage to twist a healthy prion into a zombifying pathogen. The illness just pops up.

There are some treatments, including immersing infected tissue in an ozone bath. But that won't help when the problem is literally smeared across the landscape. "You cannot treat half of the continental United States with ozone," Zabel said.

And so, to combat this many-pronged assault on our wildlife, Zabel and his colleagues are getting aggressive. They recommend a controlled burn of infected areas of national parks in Colorado and Arkansas—a pilot study to determine if fire will be enough.

"If you eliminate the plants that have prions on the surface, that would be a huge step forward," he said. "I really don’t think it’s that crazy."

[h/t The New York Times]

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