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Dietribes: Grapefruit

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• Grapefruit, like all citrus fruit, is a Hesperidum: a large modified berry with a thick rind. If you see grapefruit growing on a tree, you will notice that they grow in clusters that resemble the shape of large yellow grapes, likely giving it its name. As for origins, most botanists agree that the grapefruit is a cross between a Pummelo and a sweet orange.

• In 1929, A. E. Henninger spotted something new – a limb of red grapefruit growing on a pink grapefruit tree. Before then, grapefruit in Texas and elsewhere were either white or pink inside. Five years later, his “Ruby Red” received the first U.S. patent awarded to a grapefruit.

• Grapefruit is harvested by hand and eaten by spoon. And somewhere in between, the waste from grapefruit packing plants has long been converted into molasses for cattle.

• Grapefruit peel is candied and is an important source of pectin for the preservation of other fruits. Naringin, extracted from the inner peel, is used as a bitter in "tonic" beverages, bitter chocolate, ice cream and ices. It may also cause the liver to break down fat while increasing insulin sensitivity, a process that naturally occurs during long periods of fasting, giving rise to the idea of a Grapefruit diet.
 
• Ladies, want to look younger? All you need is citrus. According to the Smell and Taste Institute of Chicago, banana, lavender and other odors made no difference when it comes to men's perception of female age. But the smell of grapefruit caused men to believe that women were, on average, about six years younger than they are. However, the reverse is not true - women were not fooled by the scent on men.
 

• Now, men, here is one for you - Bruce Willis has a cologne: "Straight down the line, masculine and unconventional. The fragrance of action heroes: strong sandalwood and spicy pepper mixed together with earthy vetiver and revitalising grapefruit. Bruce Willis’ first fragrance – now a legend." Erm … ok! The point is, it has grapefruit in it.

• Though grapefruit extract can help to heal stomach ulcers, research suggests eating actual grapefruit every day could raise the risk of developing breast cancer by almost a third!

• Grapefruit juice has long been known to increase the absorption of certain drugs (for example, drugs used to lower cholesterol, like Lipitor, Mevacor and Zocor, have increased potency when taken with grapefruit juice) — with the potential for turning normal doses into toxic overdoses. Now, the researcher who first identified this interaction is reporting new evidence that grapefruit and other common fruit juices, including orange and apple, can do the opposite effect by substantially decreasing the absorption of other drugs, potentially wiping out their beneficial effects.
 
• This baby tasting grapefruit juice for the first time is a pretty accurate portrayal of my current reaction to grapefruit. Minus the falling over part.

• But what about you, Flossers? Do you love or loathe grapefruit?

Hungry for more? Venture into the Dietribes archive.

‘Dietribes’ appears every other Wednesday. Food photos taken by Johanna Beyenbach. You might remember that name from our post about her colorful diet.

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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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Opening Ceremony
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These $425 Jeans Can Turn Into Jorts
May 19, 2017
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Opening Ceremony

Modular clothing used to consist of something simple, like a reversible jacket. Today, it’s a $425 pair of detachable jeans.

Apparel retailer Opening Ceremony recently debuted a pair of “2 in 1 Y/Project” trousers that look fairly peculiar. The legs are held to the crotch by a pair of loops, creating a disjointed C-3PO effect. Undo the loops and you can now remove the legs entirely, leaving a pair of jean shorts in their wake. The result goes from this:

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Opening Ceremony

To this:

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Opening Ceremony

The company also offers a slightly different cut with button tabs in black for $460. If these aren’t audacious enough for you, the Y/Project line includes jumpsuits with removable legs and garter-equipped jeans.

[h/t Mashable]

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