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11 Bizarre Old Contraptions That Promised to Improve Your Looks

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1. Nose Harness

"You have a beautiful face... But your nose?" If you were alive in the early 20th century and you didn't like your nose, the good news is that you didn't have to resort to expensive and painful rhinoplasty. The bad news is that your other option involved this painful-looking and unsightly Trados Nose-Shaper. Model 22 was pretty popular in 1918, if the number of ads is any indication, but "Face Specialist" M. Trilety didn't stop there. By 1928, Trilety was a "Pioneering Noseshaping Specialist" who offered quick, painless and permanent nose correction with Model 25:

Weird Universe / Amazon

2. Dimple Stamper

Modern Mechanix

Isabella Gilbert must have spent a significant portion of her life distressed over her lack of dimples, because in 1936 she invented this spring-loaded contraption that promised to "make a fine set" by pressing a pair of knobs into the cheeks. This seems like a commitment you would have to take seriously, since real dimples don't just show up for a night out on the town.

3. Giant Stationary Hairdryer

GuardianRetronaut

Short hair was all the rage in the Twenties, but even a bob needs a good blowout. The first portable handheld hairdryer was invented in 1920, but that didn't stop some intrepid soul from building this massive industrial-strength version sometime soon after. Given that it stands on six legs and appears to be rather heavy, we can probably assume that this model didn't grab much of the hairdryer market.

4. Dr. Lecter's Mask

Google patents

Anyone with "facial defects" in 1912 was fortunate to have Lillian Bender, who invented this super-comfy device which promised "removal of wrinkles and sagging flesh" by way of a fully adjustable rubber mask. Bender thoughtfully included an opening for the mouth, which was probably helpful since the elastic collar was tied corset-style around the throat.

5. Vibrators. Vibrators Everywhere.

Targeted vibration worked so well for hysteria that it was soon prescribed for curing everything from cellulite to cankles.

Vintage Ad Browser

In 1910, the White Cross Electric Vibrator was advertised as a combination hip slimmer, dandruff buster and cure for "back lameness."

Vintage Ad Browser

In the 1920s, its successor took the claims one step further and promised that the Venus-Adonis Electric Normalizer would do all that and improve "elimination."

Vintage Ad Browser

By 1950 the Electric Spot-Reducer offered a 10-day guarantee that the user would lose pounds and inches "without risking health," which is at least half true.

Superfan

Following soon after, a "multiple electric vibrator" for the scalp hit the market, promising to stimulate circulation in the "scalp and brain cells" in addition to removing dandruff and loose hair. The 480 vibrating pins were euphemistically called "artificial fingers," probably because they look sort of terrifying.

6. Electrified Masks

Modern Mechanix

Remember Linda Evans' Rejuvenique mask? This was its grandma. In 1933, Dr. Joseph Brueck introduced "an electric face moulding mask" that contained a "battery of heating coils" to warm the face and melt away wrinkles and lines. If that seems uncomfortable and claustrophobic, no worries: "While milady is being made beautiful, she breathes through a tube set between the lips of the mask, and views the world through eyes cut where eyes should be."

7. Self-Service Chin Straps

Vintage Ad Browser

Problematic double chin got you down? Cheer up: Ads for the Professor Mack's Chin Reducer and Beautifier from the 1890s say the device can eliminate and efface double chins, all while reducing "enlarged glands," assuming you pull the cords hard enough.

8. Asphyxia Hoods

Pressure Points

If your skin lacked that youthful glow sometime in the 1940s, the best available solution was to sit a spell under the Glamour Bonnet. The vacuum helmet reduced "atmospheric pressure around the beauty seeker's head," which inventor Mrs. D. M. Ackerman believed would help stimulate circulation and improve the complexion. And while a vacuum hose stole all of your oxygen, you could read through the handy plastic window.

9. Magnetic Binding

Collector's Weekly

You'd be hard-pressed to find someone who can tell you how magnets work, but one thing is for certain: they can cure just about anything. OK, it's not true, but no one mentioned that to Thomson, Langdon & Co., manufacturers of the Wilsonia Magnetic Corset, which advertised itself as both a remedy for indigestion, paralysis and nervousness and the key to a teensy tiny waist.

10. Miracle-Gro for Hair

History.com

Women weren't the only ones to benefit from high-tech beauty aids in the early 1900s. A slew of baldness-reversing devices flooded the market, all promising improved hair growth and slower hair loss. One such instrument was Merke Institutes' Thermocap, which was meant to stimulate dormant hair with heat and blue lights.

Live Auctioneers

Taking that approach one step further, the hair and scalp device shown here stimulated the scalp by sending an arc of sparks from the blown glass attachments to the head. Seems legit.

11. Pinpointed Flaw Detection

Wired

No collection of crazy-looking beauty contraptions would be complete without a nod to Maksymilian Faktorowicz, purveyor of fine cosmetics since he opened up shop as Max Factor in 1909. In addition to his excellent lipstick and eyeliners, Factor is also famous for developing the Beauty Micrometer in 1932, an instrument designed to detect a woman's facial flaws so they can be corrected with makeup "by an experienced operator" before filming. The ad describes it as looking like a baseball mask, but that's only because Hellraiser hadn't been filmed yet.

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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
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Man Buys Two Metric Tons of LEGO Bricks; Sorts Them Via Machine Learning
May 21, 2017
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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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Nick Briggs/Comic Relief
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What Happened to Jamie and Aurelia From Love Actually?
May 26, 2017
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Nick Briggs/Comic Relief

Fans of the romantic-comedy Love Actually recently got a bonus reunion in the form of Red Nose Day Actually, a short charity special that gave audiences a peek at where their favorite characters ended up almost 15 years later.

One of the most improbable pairings from the original film was between Jamie (Colin Firth) and Aurelia (Lúcia Moniz), who fell in love despite almost no shared vocabulary. Jamie is English, and Aurelia is Portuguese, and they know just enough of each other’s native tongues for Jamie to propose and Aurelia to accept.

A decade and a half on, they have both improved their knowledge of each other’s languages—if not perfectly, in Jamie’s case. But apparently, their love is much stronger than his grasp on Portuguese grammar, because they’ve got three bilingual kids and another on the way. (And still enjoy having important romantic moments in the car.)

In 2015, Love Actually script editor Emma Freud revealed via Twitter what happened between Karen and Harry (Emma Thompson and Alan Rickman, who passed away last year). Most of the other couples get happy endings in the short—even if Hugh Grant's character hasn't gotten any better at dancing.

[h/t TV Guide]

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