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11 Weird Fashion And Beauty Trends From Around The World

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If you just don't get the Oliver Twist-esque street urchin look that defines hipster fashion, or the weird, two-tone hair (it's called ombre!) that so many celebrities have, you'll be downright mystified by these trends from around the globe.

1. Shippo, The Brain-Controlled Tail

All humans have tails. At least we do early on, about 3 to 4 weeks into our embryonic development. But they evolve no further than that ... until now. Japanese company Neurowear has recently unveiled the body-controlled Shippo (translation: tail). This fuzzy little backside duster tells the world if you’re happy or sad, bored or frisky. It does this via an EEG headset and a clip-on heart monitor that are wired to the fluffy appendage. Shippo also features geotagging and smart phone sharing capability, which allows devotees to find each other and engage in mutual tail wagging.

2. Bagel-Shaped Forehead Injections

Though it looks like Botox gone wild, it's saline, not botulinum toxin, that’s being injected into the foreheads of willing subjects. Part of a Japanese “body modification” art scene, the procedure takes about 2 hours and 400cc of saline, injected via a crochet-sized needle. The resulting forehead-sized blob is then manipulated with the fingers into a bagel-like shape, with an indentation pressed in the middle (the effect brings to mind Worf from Star Trek: TNG) . Fortunately, these injections aren’t permanent. They’re gone in about 16 hours, after the body absorbs the saline.

3. Yaeba Teeth

Maybe we’ve taken the ideal of perfectly straight, white teeth as far as it can go. That seems to be the message behind the trend of Yaeba, which means “double tooth” in Japanese. Many women are choosing dental crowns that elongate their canine teeth and give the effect of dental overcrowding (not to mention a vaguely vampire-ish vibe). Why? Because in Japanese culture, young women with these kind of crooked teeth are considered cute and innocent. One does have to wonder if it makes flossing more difficult.

4. Face-kinis

Walk along the beach in China’s coastal city of Qingdao, and you might think you’re in the middle of a Mexican wrestlers’ convention. But its just the locals wearing face-kinis—colorful protective masks that cover all but the nose, mouth and eyes. The reason? They’re trying to maintain their fair complexions. Apparently, in metro areas of China, having a tan gives one the undesirable look of a peasant farmer.

5. Pollution Masks

Another facial accessory from China. These masks started off with a more practical application, which is keeping the toxic fumes of polluted cities out of one’s lungs. But now they’ve also become mini-fashion statements, with designs from polka dots to patterns by Louis Vuitton.

6. Extraocular Implants

If the eyes are the windows of the souls, then consider these implants as window dressing. They are tiny pieces of metallic jewelry—hearts, stars, Euro signs—inserted beneath the cornea. The trend started in the Netherlands about ten years ago, and that’s still the only place where it’s legal for ophthalmologists to perform the procedure.

7. Mexican Pointy Boots

Wikimedia Commons
This trend reportedly began 3 years ago, when a mysterious man in northeastern Mexico named “Cesar of Huizache” started sporting extreme footwear—sequined boots with 3-to-4-foot foam extensions that curled at the tips. (Think elf shoes, as imagined by Tim Burton.) The fad spread among the younger generation, and has since become associated with dance competitions and fashion-conscious cliques of club kids.

8. Ear Pointing

Don’t we all aspire to be a little more like Mr. Spock? In what sounds like an extremely painful procedure, the top of the ear’s cartilage is sliced open, then sewn back together in a point. Arizona–based body modification artist Steve Haworth, who started performing the procedures about ten years ago, says, “There’s a lot of people out there who have an inner vision of themselves and they want to express that to the world around them. I’m very happy to be an artist that can provide that kind of work.” Highly illogical, Steve.

9. Bird Poop Facials

Proof that the trend towards all things organic can be taken too far? This technique was borrowed from geishas, who once used nightingale droppings as a natural exfoliant. Today, fancy salons from Tokyo to Hollywood combine the powdered bird poop with rice bran and ultraviolet light to sanitize the skin. Price? $180.

10. Mind-Controlled Cat Ears

Hello, Kitty! A few years ago, the same Japanese company that gave us the wagging Shippo tails introduced the “necomimi” (a combination of Japanese words for “cat” and “ear”). With a headband that supposedly responds to the wearer’s brain waves, the ears are triggered to mimic a feline’s—laying flat when the person is bored or tired, wriggling and turning when they’re amused or intrigued, and so on.

11. Nose Waxing

This salon trend has been growing in popularity over the past few years. So much so that there’s now a home version, called Nad’s Nose Wax. Just apply hot wax to applicator and put it up your nose, wait 90 seconds, then yank the applicator from nose. Ouch? You bet.

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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
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
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]