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US Marine Corps // Public Domain

Manly Ways to Prepare Turkey

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US Marine Corps // Public Domain

Although a roast turkey is most impressive on the Thanksgiving table, its usually the simplest part of preparing the meal. The basic recipe is to put it in a the oven and wait a few hours. Women do it this way because they need time to prepare the dressing, gravy, pies, and other side dishes, plus straighten the house, round up more chairs, and make sure the kids are clean before company arrives. On the other hand, a man will put in the extra effort to try something new and different in order to show off his culinary skills.

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Cooking a Turkey the Scientific Wayexplains (in a thoroughly geeky manner) the important parts of the cooking process. Once you understand the most important concepts, you can depart from the basic recipe.

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You can improve almost any food by wrapping it in bacon. It's the American way. Bacon-Wrapped Turkey is becoming quite popular. Here's the recipe, with a video.

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Cajun Deep-Fried Turkey has become so popular in the past few years that KFC will cook one for you. But the manly thing to do is fire up the fryer and do it yourself, while trying to not get burned. Here is the recipe, and instructionsfor deep-frying.

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Deep frying is particularly dangerous, because of the size of the cooker and the huge amounts of hot oil needed, not to mention the size of the turkey. Cooking must be done outside. Here is a list of safety precautions, and an impressive video of what couldhappen.

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Beer Can Turkeyis a natural extension of the Beer Can Chicken recipe. The bird is propped up on a mostly full can of beer, and cooked so that the liquid from the can moistens and steams the bird from the inside. You will want to measure your cooker vertically before trying this.

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A Turducken is a turkey stuffed with a duck that is in turn stuffed with a chicken. This is a very involved and time-consuming recipe, as the birds need to be deboned. The cooking time is around nine hours. But the result is soimpressive to guests. Bonus: Use sausage stuffing for a fourth meat. Yes, you can add some bacon if you like.

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What could be more manly than Bourbon Whiskey Turkey? As to the step that says to discard the marinade, don't be tempted to treat it as a cocktail, since raw poultry may have introduced unsavory microorganisms, despite the alcohol content. You can also inject the whiskey marinade. No, inject it into the turkey! If you're wondering what kind of bourbon to use, Wild Turkey would be fitting.

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The most manly turkey of all is the one you bagged in the wild. Wild turkeys are usually older and always leaner than farm turkeys, so recipes recommend that you marinate it, parboil it, or bake it in a cooking bag to keep it as moist as possible. Deep-fryingis also recommended. Always remember, you lose manly points if you ask someone else to clean your kill.

If you want to be super manly, shoot a wild turkey, marinate it in whiskey, steam it with beer, stuff it with other animals, wrap it in bacon, and deep-fry it. Even if your manly turkey preparation turns into a disaster, there is a bright side. Your story will become a part of the family's holiday tradition. Every year, you will hear, "remember that time you tried to cook the turkey and..."

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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
technology
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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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iStock
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Scientists Think They Know How Whales Got So Big
May 24, 2017
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iStock

It can be difficult to understand how enormous the blue whale—the largest animal to ever exist—really is. The mammal can measure up to 105 feet long, have a tongue that can weigh as much as an elephant, and have a massive, golf cart–sized heart powering a 200-ton frame. But while the blue whale might currently be the Andre the Giant of the sea, it wasn’t always so imposing.

For the majority of the 30 million years that baleen whales (the blue whale is one) have occupied the Earth, the mammals usually topped off at roughly 30 feet in length. It wasn’t until about 3 million years ago that the clade of whales experienced an evolutionary growth spurt, tripling in size. And scientists haven’t had any concrete idea why, Wired reports.

A study published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B might help change that. Researchers examined fossil records and studied phylogenetic models (evolutionary relationships) among baleen whales, and found some evidence that climate change may have been the catalyst for turning the large animals into behemoths.

As the ice ages wore on and oceans were receiving nutrient-rich runoff, the whales encountered an increasing number of krill—the small, shrimp-like creatures that provided a food source—resulting from upwelling waters. The more they ate, the more they grew, and their bodies adapted over time. Their mouths grew larger and their fat stores increased, helping them to fuel longer migrations to additional food-enriched areas. Today blue whales eat up to four tons of krill every day.

If climate change set the ancestors of the blue whale on the path to its enormous size today, the study invites the question of what it might do to them in the future. Changes in ocean currents or temperature could alter the amount of available nutrients to whales, cutting off their food supply. With demand for whale oil in the 1900s having already dented their numbers, scientists are hoping that further shifts in their oceanic ecosystem won’t relegate them to history.

[h/t Wired]

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