Original image

The Historic Roots of 7 Styles of Brew

Original image

You don't have to put too much thought into a beer to be able to enjoy it, but that doesn't mean a little bit of history can't make things more interesting. Here's a look at the religious, political, and historic roots of seven styles of brew.

1. Porter

The dark, delicious porters we enjoy today would probably be totally unfamiliar to the style's original drinkers, transportation porters in 18th-century London. After a long day of toting luggage and freight, these porters enjoyed a blend of beers that was known as "the three threads" that mixed together a stale, soured beer, a standard English ale, and a mild ale. The resulting concoction was thirst quenching, toasty, and even a little bit sour. Eventually, the popularity of this mixture led English brewers to brew their own beers in the style that the porters enjoyed, and porter has been evolving ever since.

2. Russian Imperial Stout

What do the big, bad boys of the stout world have to do with Russia's imperial days?

Catherine the Great apparently liked throwing one back. Although you wouldn't know it from the misleading name, the robust stout style originated in England, not Russia. In the mid-18th century, English brewers began producing a boozy, roasty stout for export to Catherine the Great's court; the higher alcohol content helped protect the brew from freezing during its long trip to the empress' table.

3. India Pale Ale

When British colonists set up shop in India during the 17th century, they latched onto a country rich with natural resources but short on places where you could buy a decent pint. Shipping in beer from London was no easy task, though, since the barrels would have to weather a long, hot journey around the Cape of Good Hope. By the time the English booze made it into colonial mugs, it was well past its prime.

In the late 18th century, though, London brewers hit on an idea of how to make a beer that could survive the long, balmy journey to India. They modified the traditional English pale ale recipe to include more malt "“ and thus more alcohol "“ and more hops. The extra booze coupled with the naturally preservative effects of the hops made for a sturdier beer that would arrive in India with its flavor more or less intact. By the 19th century, these hoppy export beers had become all the rage back home in England, so brewers began marketing their "India pale ales" to domestic drinkers.

4. Saison

Just because this refreshing style of beer has a French name "“ saison translates into "season" "“ doesn't mean it originated in France. (You might have picked up on this trend of misleading monikers by now.) Instead, saisons come to us from Wallonia, the southern region of Belgium where French is the dominant language. Belgian breweries traditionally made saisons in the winter months and then aged them until the summer months, when parched farm workers needed a beer that was thirst quenching and refreshing without being so boozy that it would knock the farmhands off their feet.

5. Bock

These potent, malty German lagers date back to the 14th century, where they were first brewed in the town of Einbeck. German monks would fast throughout Lent, but since it was Germany, beer wasn't off-limits during the fasts. To keep their strength up throughout their forty days of fasting, the monks would brew a particularly strong lager that would provide them with more nutrients than their typical beers.

6. Doppelbock

By the 17th century, German monks were looking for an even more filling beer for their fasting periods, so a group of Paulaner monks in Munich amped up the strength of the regular bocks and created the doppelbock as a more filling form of "liquid bread."

According to the German Beer Institute, the monks were originally concerned that their potent new creation might be so strong that it distracted from spiritual matters and just got the brothers soused. They allegedly shipped a cask of the brew to Rome so the pope could give it a try. The malty beer didn't do so well on the hot trip, though, and by the time the pope tasted it, the doppelbock had gone sour. His Holiness took one sip of the spoiled brew and gave it his approval on the grounds that it was so foul that no monk would enjoy drinking it enough to get tipsy. (On behalf of beer fans everywhere, let's lift a mug to the Holy Father!)

The Paulaner monks weren't just out to get buzzed, though; they were also serious about their monastic duties. To honor their religious ties, they named their brew "Salvator," or "savior." Other breweries picked up on the convention of ending their doppelbock names with "-ator," which is why you now see doppelbocks with names like Celebrator, Optimator, Kulminator, and Consecrator.

7. Pumpkin Ale

When the first English colonists came to North America, they brought an adventurous spirit and a love of beer, but they left the best ingredients back home. They showed early examples of American ingenuity when it came to brewing themselves some suds, though. No hops? No problem. Just substitute spruce tips. Short on barley? Just dig around for anything else that had fermentable sugars. Colonists brewed their own beers using molasses, maple syrup, and just about anything else they could get thirsty mitts on; eventually, they even began brewing a special ale with pumpkins. What was originally an improvisation designed to cover for a shortage of ingredients has now become one of our most beloved autumn seasonal beverages.

Original image
iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
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
Here's How to Change Your Name on Facebook
Original image

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]