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Hangover Cures from Around the World

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In the new issue of mental_floss, we reported why bacon is a miracle drug when it comes to dealing with the morning after:

Cure Your Hangovers—with Bacon!

Ah, bacon. For years, we've devoured it in all its crispy glory without worrying about the side effects. But now, scientists at Newcastle University's Centre for Life have given us a new reason to gorge on the stuff. They say that when it comes to hangovers, bacon is a miracle drug. In fact, the study found that bacon is most effective when united with bread in sandwich form. The protein in bacon supplies the body with amino acids, which the brain needs to restore the neurotransmitters damaged by alcohol. Meanwhile, the bread's carbohydrates give the body energy to get up and go. Now, if only sausage could delete all of those text messages you sent last night.

Of course, that doesn't do much for the vegetarian boozehounds in our audience. But fear not, the wonderful blog blurtit has assembled quite a few of the hangover cures in the world. Here are a few hangover cures that I have no intention of trying:

*Jackrabbit Tea- A Wild West morning-after beverage made from rabbit droppings and hot water. Like Blurtit says, "There is no medical reason why water and pre-chewed plant matter would help with a hangover, and it certainly won't help with your morning breath."

*Soot and Warm Milk- 19th century chimney sweeps used this charcoal based "cure all" to soothe their stomachs.

*Pickle Juice- Apparently, the high levels of electrolytes and minerals are supposed to help cut through the headache. I'm guessing they mean dill pickles, not kimchi or Bedekar's lime pickle, but I'd be equally unwilling to try any of them.

*Tsar Nicholas II's lemon wedge- Probably the tastiest (and certainly the most blue-blooded option) on the list, the shooting Tsar used to coat a lemon slice with sugar and ground coffee and then chomp down.

In any case, the site also lists plenty of meaty options from various cultures (ground swallow beak and myrrh, deep-fried canary) and even a few traditions you can embrace before drinking (like rubbing lemon wedges under your arms per the Puerto Ricans, or placing a voodoo curse on the beverages New Orleans' style). Or, I guess you could just drink in moderation. So, do you have a favorite/fail-safe hangover cure you'd like to share with the world? Drop it in the comments!

Link via The Presurfer.

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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
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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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Nick Briggs/Comic Relief
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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]

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