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The Original Flavors of 9 Popular Candies

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Candy is quite the industry these days. Everything comes in a million different flavors, limited editions, special colors, promotional movie tie-ins"¦ it can be a bit overwhelming. But back when it was a fledgling industry, you would have been hard-pressed to find wacky watermelon sour fizzy coated taffy. In fact, some of our favorite candies were quite different than how we know them today.

1. Ever wonder how the 3 Musketeers bar got its name? No, the creator wasn't a big Dumas fan "“ it's because the bar was originally split into three pieces with three different flavors "“ vanilla, chocolate and strawberry. When vanilla and strawberry flavoring became hard to come by during WWII, Mars decided to go all chocolate. Studies had shown it was the preferred flavor of the three anyway. [Join our Facebook campaign to bring back the original 3 Musketeers!]

2. You can obviously get M&Ms in just about any color of the rainbow today, but when they were first introduced in 1941, fans had to make do with just red, brown, yellow, green and violet. And I guess "fans" isn't really a fair word "“ the first M&Ms were actually given to soldiers in their rations because the chocolate was a good energy source, and the candy-coated shell kept the chocolate from melting all over. They came in a cardboard tube.

3. The Milky Way has a tale similar to 3 Musketeers' multiple flavors. Back when it was the first commercially distributed filled candy bar in 1923, the Milky Way came in chocolate and vanilla flavors. The vanilla version came covered in dark chocolate. They were sold separately for several years, then sold as a two-piece candy bar just like 3 Musketeers was sold as a three-piece candy bar. By 1936, the chocolate and vanilla pieces would bid each other adieu forever. In a marketing move that I don't quite understand, the Mars company continued to sell the vanilla and dark chocolate version under a new name "“ the Forever Yours bar. It was rebranded again as the Milky Way Dark, and these days you'll find it on shelves under the name "Milky Way Midnight." The name, by the way, doesn't come from the galaxy as many people suspect. It comes from the fact that the bar was inspired by the flavor of a milkshake.

Image credit: Jason Liebig, CollectingCandy.com

4. Originally known as "Opal Fruits," Starbursts came in just four flavors when they were first introduced: orange, lemon, lime and strawberry. When branding switched to Starburst in 1967, lemon and lime were squished into one flavor so "blackcurrant" chews could be added to the mix.

5. Jelly Bellies are known for their ridiculous palette of flavors now "“ there are 50 "official" flavors, nine "rookie" flavors, five Cold Stone Creamery-inspired flavors, and lines that include soda flavors, sour beans, "sport" beans, Harry Potter's Bertie Bott's Every Flavor Beans, and "smoothie blends." That's not even including all of the tastes they have retired over the years. But when Jelly Belly first launched, there were just eight to choose from: Very Cherry, Tangerine, Lemon, Green Apple, Grape Jelly, Licorice, A&W Root Beer, and A&W Cream Soda.

6. Although Life Savers just came in Pep-O-Mint when they were introduced in 1913, a variety of flavors soon followed: Wint-O-Green, Cl-O-ve, Lic-O-Riche, Cinn-O-Mon, Vi-O-let and Choc-O-Late. Malt-O-Milk showed up the following year and was a colossal flop. The familiar fruit flavors of today were developed in 1925: grape, orange, lemon and lime. Anise, Root Beer, Cola and Butter Rum came soon after but weren't as popular. Really? I'd buy Root Beer Life Savers. Yum. Cl-O-ve"¦ not so much.

7. PEZ actually gets its name from the first flavor it ever came in "“ Pfefferminz (that would be German for "peppermint.") They came in little cigarette lighter-like cases to conveniently dispense mints to smokers. It wasn't until the 1950s that PEZ decided to expand their market to kids, which is where the fruity flavors and fun dispensers came in. Santa, a robot, and a "Space Gun" were the first dispensers aimed at kids.

8. Tootsie Pops came in five basic flavors that I think are still the main ones today: Chocolate, Cherry, Orange, Grape and Raspberry. But according to Tootsie Roll Industries, there's a sixth flavor that alternates between Lemon Lime, Blue Raspberry, and Banana. You can vote on a new, permanent sixth flavor (the voting mysteriously includes pomegranate, which is not listed as a flavor that is currently one of the alternate sixths) and suggest new flavors on the Tootsie site. I suggested Cream Soda.

9. As you might suspect, mint was the first Mentos flavor. Actually, it was a "peppermint flavored caramel candy" which doesn't sound too appetizing to me. That was way back in 1932 "“ consumers didn't get to experience cinnamon Mentos (in the U.S.) or fruit-flavored Mentos (in Europe) until 40 years later. You can find just about any flavor of Mentos now if you're looking in the right countries "“ in your travels across the globe you're likely to come across raisin, lemon yogurt, cola, grape "˜n' cream, black licorice and red orange (among many, many others).

Would you have preferred any of these originals to what we have today? I'm not sure I would (although I am intrigued by the original 3 Musketeeers), but I also think candy companies sometimes try a little too hard to come up with the next crazy thing. That being said, I am on the hunt for the new Pretzel M&Ms.

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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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8 Common Dog Behaviors, Decoded
May 25, 2017
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Dogs are a lot more complicated than we give them credit for. As a result, sometimes things get lost in translation. We’ve yet to invent a dog-to-English translator, but there are certain behaviors you can learn to read in order to better understand what your dog is trying to tell you. The more tuned-in you are to your dog’s emotions, the better you’ll be able to respond—whether that means giving her some space or welcoming a wet, slobbery kiss. 

1. What you’ll see: Your dog is standing with his legs and body relaxed and tail low. His ears are up, but not pointed forward. His mouth is slightly open, he’s panting lightly, and his tongue is loose. His eyes? Soft or maybe slightly squinty from getting his smile on.

What it means: “Hey there, friend!” Your pup is in a calm, relaxed state. He’s open to mingling, which means you can feel comfortable letting friends say hi.

2. What you’ll see: Your dog is standing with her body leaning forward. Her ears are erect and angled forward—or have at least perked up if they’re floppy—and her mouth is closed. Her tail might be sticking out horizontally or sticking straight up and wagging slightly.

What it means: “Hark! Who goes there?!” Something caught your pup’s attention and now she’s on high alert, trying to discern whether or not the person, animal, or situation is a threat. She’ll likely stay on guard until she feels safe or becomes distracted.

3. What you’ll see: Your dog is standing, leaning slightly forward. His body and legs are tense, and his hackles—those hairs along his back and neck—are raised. His tail is stiff and twitching, not swooping playfully. His mouth is open, teeth are exposed, and he may be snarling, snapping, or barking excessively.

What it means: “Don’t mess with me!” This dog is asserting his social dominance and letting others know that he might attack if they don’t defer accordingly. A dog in this stance could be either offensively aggressive or defensively aggressive. If you encounter a dog in this state, play it safe and back away slowly without making eye contact.

4. What you’ll see: As another dog approaches, your dog lies down on his back with his tail tucked in between his legs. His paws are tucked in too, his ears are flat, and he isn’t making direct eye contact with the other dog standing over him.

What it means: “I come in peace!” Your pooch is displaying signs of submission to a more dominant dog, conveying total surrender to avoid physical confrontation. Other, less obvious, signs of submission include ears that are flattened back against the head, an avoidance of eye contact, a tongue flick, and bared teeth. Yup—a dog might bare his teeth while still being submissive, but they’ll likely be clenched together, the lips opened horizontally rather than curled up to show the front canines. A submissive dog will also slink backward or inward rather than forward, which would indicate more aggressive behavior.

5. What you’ll see: Your dog is crouching with her back hunched, tail tucked, and the corner of her mouth pulled back with lips slightly curled. Her shoulders, or hackles, are raised and her ears are flattened. She’s avoiding eye contact.

What it means: “I’m scared, but will fight you if I have to.” This dog’s fight or flight instincts have been activated. It’s best to keep your distance from a dog in this emotional state because she could attack if she feels cornered.

6. What you’ll see: You’re staring at your dog, holding eye contact. Your dog looks away from you, tentatively looks back, then looks away again. After some time, he licks his chops and yawns.

What it means: “I don’t know what’s going on and it’s weirding me out.” Your dog doesn’t know what to make of the situation, but rather than nipping or barking, he’ll stick to behaviors he knows are OK, like yawning, licking his chops, or shaking as if he’s wet. You’ll want to intervene by removing whatever it is causing him discomfort—such as an overly grabby child—and giving him some space to relax.

7. What you’ll see: Your dog has her front paws bent and lowered onto the ground with her rear in the air. Her body is relaxed, loose, and wiggly, and her tail is up and wagging from side to side. She might also let out a high-pitched or impatient bark.

What it means: “What’s the hold up? Let’s play!” This classic stance, known to dog trainers and behaviorists as “the play bow,” is a sign she’s ready to let the good times roll. Get ready for a round of fetch or tug of war, or for a good long outing at the dog park.

8. What you’ll see: You’ve just gotten home from work and your dog rushes over. He can’t stop wiggling his backside, and he may even lower himself into a giant stretch, like he’s doing yoga.

What it means: “OhmygoshImsohappytoseeyou I love you so much you’re my best friend foreverandeverandever!!!!” This one’s easy: Your pup is overjoyed his BFF is back. That big stretch is something dogs don’t pull out for just anyone; they save that for the people they truly love. Show him you feel the same way with a good belly rub and a handful of his favorite treats.

The best way to say “I love you” in dog? A monthly subscription to BarkBox. Your favorite pup will get a package filled with treats, toys, and other good stuff (and in return, you’ll probably get lots of sloppy kisses). Visit BarkBox to learn more.

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