CLOSE
Original image

12 Football-Shaped Foods for Your Super Bowl Party

Original image

Traditions have grown up around the annual Super Bowl football game, such as the halftime show scandal, the ad critiques, and of course, the food. The game itself begins in the evening, after hours of pre-game discussion, and parties often go all day long. News stories about a chicken wing shortage just before Super Bowl Sunday have some party hosts nervous. The supply is only 1% short of what was consumed last year, so there will be wings, although they will cost more. But chicken wings aren't the only staple of Super Bowl parties -there's always chili, hot dogs, pizza, nachos, and, of course, the other parts of those chickens. The only critical things to remember about Super Bowl party food are to make sure its delicious, and make sure there is plenty of it. On the other hand, this weekend is an opportunity to have fun and show off your artistic side -which is why there are so many recipes for snacks shaped like footballs that you can add to the menu.    

1. Football Zucchini Fritters

A Turkish recipe called Mücver contains zucchini, potatoes, carrot, and onion, so it will fill any requirements for vegetables on Super Bowl Sunday. Beth at Hungry Happenings turned the fried fritters into footballs! They can be made ahead of time and warmed before serving, then the football laces are added by piping Greek yogurt on top.  

2. Football Pepperoni Pizza

This pepperoni pizza made by Angie McGowan at The Family Kitchen is appropriately decorated with a football of pepperoni slices and laces of Swiss cheese. You can make your own homemade pizza with her recipe, or recreate the look with a frozen pizza by rearranging the toppings -before you bake it, of course.  

3. Football Salami

A football-shaped salami is beyond the capabilities of most kitchens. This salami is sold by Norm Thompson. It's too late to get one for this year (they're sold out), but you can save the idea and order yours early for next year.  

4. Football Deviled Eggs

These spicy sweet deviled eggs look like footballs when you add laces made of chives. Better make a lot of them!

5. Football Bites

Ali Ebright at Gimme Some Oven has a simple clever method for cutting salami slices and cheese into perfect football shapes for these hors d'oeuvres. You can layer them on any crackers, but my favorite (Town House) is already somewhat football-shaped. The laces that add the finishing touch are made with ranch dressing piped from a ziplock bag.  

6. Peanut Butter Football Dip

I never thought of peanut butter and chocolate as a dip -but with pretzels, it works! Dorothy at Crazy for Crust made a football shape with peanut butter and chocolate chips, then covered the whole thing in chocolate sprinkles. "Just cover it in something that makes it look like a football." I would guess the laces are bit of icing. Serve with plenty of pretzels.

7. Nutella Brownie Footballs

Also from Dorothy Kern, these brownies are stacked from a layer of peanut butter cookie crust with Nutella brownies on top! A cookie cutter makes them into footballs, with a touch of icing for the laces. Attached to the recipe at Crazy for Crust is a link to a recipe for iced football cookies.

8. Football Cake Pops

Made by Jamie at Love + Butter, the cake pops are made of chocolate cake crumbs and frosting shaped into footballs, then glued onto sticks with melted chocolate -which also coats them! The instructions appear to make a lot of them, which you will need. No one will stop at just one!  

9. Chocolate Covered Strawberry Footballs

Jackie at Domestic Fits lives in California, where strawberries are always in season. She shows us how to dip strawberries in chocolate and decorate with white chocolate to make tasty little fruit footballs.

10. Football Cupcake Eggs

It looks like a football, but it's an egg. But it's not an egg, it's just an eggshell (although one that resembles a football) that has chocolate cake inside. Got it? Pull off this project, and the response at your Super Bowl party will surely be, "Oh, you went to a lot of trouble for these, didn't you?" Yes, indeed. Get complete directions to make your own at The Cupcake Project.

11. Football Whoopie Pies

Whoopie pies go by different names and slightly different recipes depending on where you are. Basically, it's two soft cookies sandwiched with cream in the middle -like Little Debbie Oatmeal Pies. Laura at Make Merry used a pumpkin cake recipe, slightly altered, to make her footballs. The creme in the middle is made of sugar, butter, marshmallow creme, and maple extract. The laces are piped icing. So are these cookies, cakes, or pies? Does it really matter?

12. Football Barbecue Cupcakes

The cupcake is a work of art. Susan S at Diamonds for Dessert created it as an entry in a "Manly Cupcakes" contest in 2010. How manly is it? Beside the decorations of a football and barbecue grill (aflame!), one of the ingredients is beer. Once you put the flame out, all the decorations are edible. The entire recipe and directions are posted in case you want to try it yourself. Good luck!

Original image
iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
technology
arrow
Man Buys Two Metric Tons of LEGO Bricks; Sorts Them Via Machine Learning
May 21, 2017
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
Animals
arrow
Scientists Think They Know How Whales Got So Big
May 24, 2017
Original image
iStock

It can be difficult to understand how enormous the blue whale—the largest animal to ever exist—really is. The mammal can measure up to 105 feet long, have a tongue that can weigh as much as an elephant, and have a massive, golf cart–sized heart powering a 200-ton frame. But while the blue whale might currently be the Andre the Giant of the sea, it wasn’t always so imposing.

For the majority of the 30 million years that baleen whales (the blue whale is one) have occupied the Earth, the mammals usually topped off at roughly 30 feet in length. It wasn’t until about 3 million years ago that the clade of whales experienced an evolutionary growth spurt, tripling in size. And scientists haven’t had any concrete idea why, Wired reports.

A study published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B might help change that. Researchers examined fossil records and studied phylogenetic models (evolutionary relationships) among baleen whales, and found some evidence that climate change may have been the catalyst for turning the large animals into behemoths.

As the ice ages wore on and oceans were receiving nutrient-rich runoff, the whales encountered an increasing number of krill—the small, shrimp-like creatures that provided a food source—resulting from upwelling waters. The more they ate, the more they grew, and their bodies adapted over time. Their mouths grew larger and their fat stores increased, helping them to fuel longer migrations to additional food-enriched areas. Today blue whales eat up to four tons of krill every day.

If climate change set the ancestors of the blue whale on the path to its enormous size today, the study invites the question of what it might do to them in the future. Changes in ocean currents or temperature could alter the amount of available nutrients to whales, cutting off their food supply. With demand for whale oil in the 1900s having already dented their numbers, scientists are hoping that further shifts in their oceanic ecosystem won’t relegate them to history.

[h/t Wired]

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