Original image

Best of the worst foods ever

Original image

I say, if you're gonna break that diet, do it in style. No need to count calories here: you can be certain that any one of the following gastronomic monstrosities will exceed your daily recommended intake of calories (not to mention cholesterol, sodium and various kinds of radioactive waste). So without further ado, we present the gooiest, most absurdly extravagant bad-for-you feasts America has to offer (to which we owe a hearty thanks). Let's start with the most creative concoctions first:

The Luther Burger
Legend has it this Decatur, Georgia specialty was invented by Luther Vandross himself (that is, before he died from complications involving diabetes, hypertension and stroke in 2005). It's a bacon cheeseburger served between two halves of a Krispy Kreme donut.

The Hamdog
Half hamburger, half hotdog, this bad boy is a hot dog wrapped in a beef patty, then deep fried and covered with chili, cheese, onions and topped with a fried egg. And yes, you get fries with that.

Macaroni, Cheese, and Mini hot-dog Tiramisu
Created from Superbowl leftovers by the culinary wizards over at Stuff Magazine. Behold!

More heart-clogging fun after the jump.

In 'n' Out's 100x100
Part of In 'n' Out's not-so-secret "secret menu" is the build-it-as-high-as-you-want burger special -- you just ask for a double-double, plus x number of patties. At a cost of $97 -- and 19490 calories -- the 100x100 is truly the mother of all burgers.

Burger Mountain
Chef Christine Nunn was inspired by the pretentious-yet-mammoth burgers she found at Disney World, which inspired her to make her own, in honor of the fat-making mouse. Her creation is called "Burger Mountain," and is topped with tomato confit, mushroom duxelles, onion jam and bernaise sauce.

How about some animal fries to go with all that burger? Courtesy In 'n' Out, of course: this is fries with pickles, cheese spread and grilled onions.
animal fries.jpg

Hardee's Monster Thickburger
In honor of Mental_floss writer John Green's excellent second novel, An Abundance of Katherines, in which his characters eating nothing but Monster Thickburgers. I had thought this burger to be a fantabulation on John's part, too strange to be real, but no -- all 1,410 calories, 107 grams of fat, and 2740 mg of sodium are available at your local Hardee's. Weirder still, since Hardee's introduced the burger a few years back, its same-store sales have increased nearly 10 percent. (That's a lot of Thickburgers.)
monster thickburger.jpg

Original image
iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
Man Buys Two Metric Tons of LEGO Bricks; Sorts Them Via Machine Learning
May 21, 2017
Original image
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!

Original image
Name the Author Based on the Character
May 23, 2017
Original image