CLOSE
Original image

6 Other Types of Eyeglasses

Original image

1. Pince-nez

When you see a pair of pince-nez, which, in French, literally means "to pinch the nose," you probably think of President Teddy Roosevelt. He was famous for wearing a C-bridge type of pince-nez. However, pince-nez first appeared in Europe in the 15th century. But they didn't become fashionable in the U.S. until the end of the 19th century and were already waning in popularity by the time Teddy Roosevelt became president. Pince-nez were worn by both men and women, but the ones made for women were usually rimless and suspended on fine gold chains. Pince-nez came in three main styles: hard bridge, C-bridge, and spring bridge, which were considered "sporty." The hard bridge, which had to be fitted to the width of your nose, were actually used through the 1950s.

2. Monocle

Although the monocle was used as far back as 1720 by antiques connoisseur Philipp Von Stosch to examine treasures, the simplest form of monocles were not found in England until the 1830s. These consisted of a corrective lens in a wire frame, but were improved in the 1890s by adding a raised "gallery" which held the lens slightly off the eye to keep eyelashes from knocking against it. The final improvement came in the early 20th century when frameless monocles were custom fit to the shape of an individual eye. Although monocles are most often associated with the upper crust, gentlemen in the 19th century and upper-class German officers during World War I, Vision Express Eyewear in England debuted a new line of monocles at the end of 2009 in its London shops. The retailer says that it had many requests for monocles—yes, fashion is a circular as, well, as a monocle.

3. Quizzing glasses

Quizzing glasses, or quizzers as they're sometimes called, are similar to monocles, however, you hold them up to your eye by a handle, much like opera glasses (see No. 6). The lenses came in three variety of shapes: round, oval, or oblong. Quizzers, like other early eyeglasses, were often elaborate and intricate. The outer rims were often faceted, pinkbeck, decorated with turqoise, or even encrusted with diamonds. The loop, which attached to a chain so that you wouldn't lose the glasses, were works of art as well. Some interesting examples of loop designs include a dolphin swallowing its own head, a Roman harp, and back-to-back Chinese dragons.

4. Scissor-glasses

Scissor-glasses, or binocles-ciseaux in French, originated around the second half of the 18th century. They were primarily used to correct distance vision and were invented to replaced the single lens quizzing glasses, which were believed to tire the eye. Scissor-glasses were often very ornate, yet delicate, made of gold or vermeil with precious stones. Consisting of two arms on a fixed base, the glasses usually had a loop on the bottom so that they could be worn around the neck on a ribbon or gold chain. In post-revolutionary France these were an important and tres chic accessory. George Washington, the Marquis de Lafayette and Napoleon were all known to have used binocles-ciseaux.

5. Lorgnette

The lorgnette is believed to have developed from the scissor glasses by an Englishman named George Adams. With two lenses on a lateral handle, it quickly became popular with fashionable ladies in the 18th century and continued to be popular through the end of the 19th century. The word lorgnette derives from the Middle French word lorgne. which means "to squint." These glasses were, like scissor glasses, considered more jewelry than corrective eye-wear. The lorgnette was also a popular accessory for masquerade balls. This design led to modern opera glasses.

6. Opera glasses

An adaptation of the lorgnette, opera glasses also used a handle to hold the glasses in front of the eyes. Also known as "theatre binoculars" or Galilean binoculars, opera glasses differ from binoculars as they are more compact, and are able to focus easily indoors and at short distances. Opera glasses became popular in the 1820s when theater owners wanted to give patrons in cheaper seats the same advantage of front row seats. Although, they were more often used to scope out other operagoers than watch the performance. You may recall that President Lincoln had a pair of these on him at the Ford theater that fated night. They are estimated to be worth around $4.25 million! Like the opera itself, the opera glasses are most often elegant, intricate, and elaborate.

Original image
iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
arrow
technology
Man Buys Two Metric Tons of LEGO Bricks; Sorts Them Via Machine Learning
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
iStock
arrow
Health
200 Health Experts Call for Ban on Two Antibacterial Chemicals
Original image
iStock

In September 2016, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a ban on antibacterial soap and body wash. But a large collective of scientists and medical professionals says the agency should have done more to stop the spread of harmful chemicals into our bodies and environment, most notably the antimicrobials triclosan and triclocarban. They published their recommendations in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.

The 2016 report from the FDA concluded that 19 of the most commonly used antimicrobial ingredients are no more effective than ordinary soap and water, and forbade their use in soap and body wash.

"Customers may think added antimicrobials are a way to reduce infections, but in most products there is no evidence that they do," Ted Schettler, science director of the Science and Environmental Health Network, said in a statement.

Studies have shown that these chemicals may actually do more harm than good. They don't keep us from getting sick, but they can contribute to the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, also known as superbugs. Triclosan and triclocarban can also damage our hormones and immune systems.

And while they may no longer be appearing on our bathroom sinks or shower shelves, they're still all around us. They've leached into the environment from years of use. They're also still being added to a staggering array of consumer products, as companies create "antibacterial" clothing, toys, yoga mats, paint, food storage containers, electronics, doorknobs, and countertops.

The authors of the new consensus statement say it's time for that to stop.

"We must develop better alternatives and prevent unneeded exposures to antimicrobial chemicals," Rolf Haden of the University of Arizona said in the statement. Haden researches where mass-produced chemicals wind up in the environment.

The statement notes that many manufacturers have simply replaced the banned chemicals with others. "I was happy that the FDA finally acted to remove these chemicals from soaps," said Arlene Blum, executive director of the Green Science Policy Institute. "But I was dismayed to discover at my local drugstore that most products now contain substitutes that may be worse."

Blum, Haden, Schettler, and their colleagues "urge scientists, governments, chemical and product manufacturers, purchasing organizations, retailers, and consumers" to avoid antimicrobial chemicals outside of medical settings. "Where antimicrobials are necessary," they write, we should "use safer alternatives that are not persistent and pose no risk to humans or ecosystems."

They recommend that manufacturers label any products containing antimicrobial chemicals so that consumers can avoid them, and they call for further research into the impacts of these compounds on us and our planet.

SECTIONS
BIG QUESTIONS
arrow
BIG QUESTIONS
WEATHER WATCH
BE THE CHANGE
JOB SECRETS
QUIZZES
WORLD WAR 1
SMART SHOPPING
STONES, BONES, & WRECKS
#TBT
THE PRESIDENTS
WORDS
RETROBITUARIES