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Salisbury Steak, Bananas Foster & 8 Other Foods Named After People

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Have you ever been eating or drinking something and wondered where the name came from? Some items are pretty well known "“ a Shirley Temple was named after the actress, obviously, and an Arnold Palmer was named after the golfer. But how about that TV dinner staple, the Salisbury steak? We'll fill you in.

1. The Oh Henry! Candy Bar

There are at least three stories behind the name; I'll let you pick your favorite. The first claims the candy was named after a boy who frequented the Williamson Candy Company quite often to flirt with the girls who worked there. Therefore, "Oh Henry!" would be kind of an exasperated, coy exclamation. Story #2 is that Henry was a young man who was often called to do odd jobs around the Williamson Company, which would make "Oh Henry!" a call for help. Finally, consider that the bar was invented by one Tom Henry. Makes more sense to me that the bar was probably named after him, although I like the flirting story the best.

2. Salisbury Steak

Dr. James H. Salisbury thought that fruits and veggies were bad for humans and caused heart disease, tumors, mental illness, tuberculosis and all kinds of horrible ailments. He invented the Salisbury steak (which is really just hamburger steak) to convince people to change their diet to mostly meat.

3. Bananas Foster

Bananas Foster calls New Orleans home. Famed restaurant Brennan's created the delicious dish for Richard Foster, a friend of owner Owen Brennan and also the chairman of the New Orleans Crime Commission.

4. Beef Wellington

Beef Wellington was named after Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington. Wellington boots ("Wellies") were also named after him. The story is either that it was his favorite dish, or that chefs could dump whatever crap they wanted to in a bowl and cover it with pastry and he would eat it. I'm more inclined to believe the latter "“ other accounts of the Duke say that he had no interest in creature comforts whatsoever and would repeatedly eat "cold meat" and bread for breakfast.

5. Clementines

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Those little, delicious, juicy, orange-like fruits were named after a French monk who was living in North Africa. Père Clément Rodier either found or created the hybrid of the Mandarin and Seville oranges to create Clementines.

6. Eggs Benedict

Here's another one with multiple stories. Story #1: In 1894, a stockbroker by the last name of Benedict visited the Waldorf hotel in New York with a hangover one morning. He asked for toast, bacon and poached eggs with Hollandaise sauce on the side, believing it to be the perfect remedy to his drink-induced illness. The Waldorf decided to keep it on the menu, but changed a few ingredients a bit. Story #2: The head chef at Delmonico's created the dish for socialite Mrs. LeGrand Benedict in 1893. I like the hangover story best.

7. Crepes Suzette

In 1896, Edward VII, Prince of Wales, was eating at the Café de Paris in Monte Carlo. He ordered a special dessert and was pleased when the waiter brought out a flaming dish. When the dessert was dedicated to him, the Prince declined and asked if the dish could be named after his dining companion, Suzette. Some sources dispute this story, though, so take it with an ounce of Grand Marnier.

8. Kaiser Rolls

Kaiser rolls have been around for a long time "“ they were created sometime around 1487, when a Viennese baker stamped the image of either Frederick III or Franz Josef on it.

9. Reuben Sandwiches

Reuben sandwiches are soooo good. Definitely one of my favorites, so I have to thank Reuben Kulakofsky for (maybe) making it happen. Rumor has it he created it for his poker buddies at an Omaha hotel in the early 1920s. The dispute on this origin comes from Arnold Reuben, a New York restauranteer who said he created the sandwich in 1914 for an actress. The earliest known Reuben reference is from a 1937 men from the Cornhusker Hotel in Lincoln, Neb., so I'd say Kulakofsky has a stronger claim.

10. The Cobb Salad

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The Cobb salad was invented by Hollywood Brown Derby owner Robert Cobb when he was asked to make a late-night snack for Sid Grauman of Grauman's Chinese Theater. He found some leftovers, chopped up the ingredients very finely and served it up. It became a hit across the town and the Cobb salad legend grew.

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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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Stephen Missal
crime
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New Evidence Emerges in Norway’s Most Famous Unsolved Murder Case
May 22, 2017
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A 2016 sketch by a forensic artist of the Isdal Woman
Stephen Missal

For almost 50 years, Norwegian investigators have been baffled by the case of the “Isdal Woman,” whose burned corpse was found in a valley outside the city of Bergen in 1970. Most of her face and hair had been burned off and the labels in her clothes had been removed. The police investigation eventually led to a pair of suitcases stuffed with wigs and the discovery that the woman had stayed at numerous hotels around Norway under different aliases. Still, the police eventually ruled it a suicide.

Almost five decades later, the Norwegian public broadcaster NRK has launched a new investigation into the case, working with police to help track down her identity. And it is already yielding results. The BBC reports that forensic analysis of the woman’s teeth show that she was from a region along the French-German border.

In 1970, hikers discovered the Isdal Woman’s body, burned and lying on a remote slope surrounded by an umbrella, melted plastic bottles, what may have been a passport cover, and more. Her clothes and possessions were scraped clean of any kind of identifying marks or labels. Later, the police found that she left two suitcases at the Bergen train station, containing sunglasses with her fingerprints on the lenses, a hairbrush, a prescription bottle of eczema cream, several wigs, and glasses with clear lenses. Again, all labels and other identifying marks had been removed, even from the prescription cream. A notepad found inside was filled with handwritten letters that looked like a code. A shopping bag led police to a shoe store, where, finally, an employee remembered selling rubber boots just like the ones found on the woman’s body.

Eventually, the police discovered that she had stayed in different hotels all over the country under different names, which would have required passports under several different aliases. This strongly suggests that she was a spy. Though she was both burned alive and had a stomach full of undigested sleeping pills, the police eventually ruled the death a suicide, unable to track down any evidence that they could tie to her murder.

But some of the forensic data that can help solve her case still exists. The Isdal Woman’s jaw was preserved in a forensic archive, allowing researchers from the University of Canberra in Australia to use isotopic analysis to figure out where she came from, based on the chemical traces left on her teeth while she was growing up. It’s the first time this technique has been used in a Norwegian criminal investigation.

The isotopic analysis was so effective that the researchers can tell that she probably grew up in eastern or central Europe, then moved west toward France during her adolescence, possibly just before or during World War II. Previous studies of her handwriting have indicated that she learned to write in France or in another French-speaking country.

Narrowing down the woman’s origins to such a specific region could help find someone who knew her, or reports of missing women who matched her description. The case is still a long way from solved, but the search is now much narrower than it had been in the mystery's long history.

[h/t BBC]

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