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Dietribes: It's Peanut Butter Time

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To start, a rhyme I remember from childhood: "A peanut sat on the railroad track, his heart was all a-flutter. The 5:15 came roaring by ... Choo choo! Peanut butter."

Unless you suffer from Arachibutyrophobia (the fear of getting peanut butter stuck to roof of your mouth), read on to learn more about the yummy, creamy (sometimes crunchy) goodness that is peanut butter, a relatively high-fat food that also contains significant amounts of protein and carbohydrates.

"¢ Fancy whipping up your own jar of the stuff? It takes 772 peanuts to make a 16.3 oz jar. Nearly half of the United States' peanut crop is devoted to peanut butter production, and another 20% is used specifically for manufacturing candy.

"¢ Ah, the ubiquitous childhood favorite (unless you suffer from a peanut allergy, of course), the peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Did you know 96% of people put the peanut butter on first?

"¢ C.H. Sumner was the first to introduce peanut butter to the world at the Universal Exposition of 1904 in St. Louis. He sold $705.11 of the treat at his concession stand, and Krema Products Company in Columbus, Ohio, began selling peanut butter in 1908. It remains the oldest peanut butter company still in operation today.

"¢ There are many other uses for peanut butter besides as a spread. It can also be the basis for a simple outdoor bird feeder (coat a pine cone once with peanut butter, then again with birdseed), effective bait for mouse traps, and can help take gum out of hair. Also, you might find peanut butter being used to make ... beer?

hershey_elvis_cup.jpg"¢ Peanut butter and banana is a favored pairing, such as Elvis' personal preference for the pair in a sandwich ... fried, of course. In 2007, Reese's came out with a special edition formulated peanut butter and banana crème cup for Elvis' 30th anniversary. And of course, another famous example of peanut butter and bananas here.

"¢ This all brings us to one of the most important influences on my formative years—The Peanut Butter Solution, a 1985 Canadian movie that is, trust me, amazing. Premise: boy gets so scared his hair falls out (obviously). Toupees won't do, so luckily he's visited by the ghost of his late grandmother who tells him to put peanut butter on his scalp. His hair grows quickly and to alarmingly lengths, and has a mind of its own. Basically a hairy monster attached to his head. See for yourself...

"¢ No article about peanuts or peanut butter would be complete without the mention of Jimmy Carter, former President who grew up on a peanut farm. I've been lucky enough to visit the boyhood farm and the quaint town of Plains, Georgia (where President Carter and his wife Rosalyn still live part-time), but for those of you who haven't had the pleasure, here is a sight to see. Also, the peanut butter ice cream is to die for.

You guys have been great at sharing yummy recipes, so how about some dealing with peanut butter? Or maybe we should just talk about The Peanut Butter Solution, and other strange movies we saw growing up.

Hungry for more? Venture into the Dietribes archive.

"˜Dietribes' appears every Wednesday. Food photos taken by Johanna Beyenbach. You might remember that name from our post about her colorful diet.

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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
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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Here's How to Change Your Name on Facebook
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Whether you want to change your legal name, adopt a new nickname, or simply reinvent your online persona, it's helpful to know the process of resetting your name on Facebook. The social media site isn't a fan of fake accounts, and as a result changing your name is a little more complicated than updating your profile picture or relationship status. Luckily, Daily Dot laid out the steps.

Start by going to the blue bar at the top of the page in desktop view and clicking the down arrow to the far right. From here, go to Settings. This should take you to the General Account Settings page. Find your name as it appears on your profile and click the Edit link to the right of it. Now, you can input your preferred first and last name, and if you’d like, your middle name.

The steps are similar in Facebook mobile. To find Settings, tap the More option in the bottom right corner. Go to Account Settings, then General, then hit your name to change it.

Whatever you type should adhere to Facebook's guidelines, which prohibit symbols, numbers, unusual capitalization, and honorifics like Mr., Ms., and Dr. Before landing on a name, make sure you’re ready to commit to it: Facebook won’t let you update it again for 60 days. If you aren’t happy with these restrictions, adding a secondary name or a name pronunciation might better suit your needs. You can do this by going to the Details About You heading under the About page of your profile.

[h/t Daily Dot]