CLOSE
Original image

Get The Day's Best Amazon Deals Now

Original image

As a recurring feature, our team combs the Web and shares some amazing Amazon deals we’ve turned up. Here’s what caught our eye today, May 19.

Mental Floss has affiliate relationships with certain retailers, including Amazon, and may receive a small percentage of any sale. But we only get commission on items you buy and don’t return, so we’re only happy if you’re happy. Good luck deal hunting!

GADGETS, TOYS, AND MEDIA

Fritesla 20000mah Power Bank 4USB Portable Charger for Smartphones (Green) for $24.99 (list price $100.00)

RAVPower 60W 12A 6-Port USB Charger Desktop Charger Charging Station with iSmart Technology (Black) for $19.99 (list price $39.99)

Kinps Audio Auxiliary Stereo Extension Audio Cable 3.5mm Stereo Jack Male to Female, Stereo Jack Cord for Phones, Headphones, Speakers, Tablets, PCs, MP3 Players and More (10ft/3m, Nylon-Black) for $5.49 (list price $9.99)

SENSO Bluetooth Headphones Wireless Sports Earphones - w/ Mic, IPX7 Waterproof, HD Stereo Sweatproof Earbuds, for Gym Running Workout, 8 Hour Battery, Noise Cancelling Headsets for $37.97 (list price $169.99)

G.U.S. Multi-Device Charging Station Dock & Organizer - Multiple Finishes Available. For Laptops, Tablets, and Phones - Strong Build, Eco-Friendly Bamboo for $39.99 (list price $59.99)

ACDelco Super Alkaline AA Batteries, 40-Count for $7.80 (list price $12.99)

Cell Phone Camera Lens - TURATA 2 in 1 Professional HD Camera Lens Kit 0.45X Super Wide Angle & 12.5X Macro Lens for iPhone7 6s 6s plus 6 plus 5s & Most Smartphone, Tablet for $11.98 (list price $30.99)

NETGEAR AC750 WiFi Range Extender (EX3700-100NAS) for $39.59 (list price $44.99)

KITCHEN

Danish Dough Whisk Size Large for $7.99 (list price $10.49)

Wilton 2105-0112 Easy Layers! 5-Piece Cake Pan Set, 6-Inch for $10.52 (list price $16.95)

OXO Good Grips GreenSaver Produce Keeper - Large for $19.99 (list price $24.99)

Lodge LFSR3 Cast Iron Fajita Set, Pre-Seasoned for $24.97 (list price $29.99)

Watermelon Slicer Cutter Corer & Server - Multipurpose All In One Stainless Steel Knife - Melon & Fruit Slicer - Comfortable Rubber Handle Corer Tongs for $7.99 (list price $19.99)

Mueller Austria V-Pro 5 Blade Adjustable Mandoline Slicer – White/Grey for $29.99 (list price $59.99)

Lifefactory 11-Ounce BPA-Free Indoor/Outdoor Wine Glass with Protective Silicone Sleeve, Multicolor, Set of 4 for $32.89 (list price $39.99)

Presto 04821 Orville Redenbacher's Hot Air Popper for $22.50 (list price $39.99)

Imarku Pro Kitchen 8 inch Chef's Knife High Carbon Stainless Steel Sharp Knives Ergonomic Equipment for $29.99 (list price $99.99)

Rachael Ray Cucina 16-Piece Stoneware Dinnerware Set, Almond Cream for $52.17 (list price $140.00)

HOME

6 Piece 1500 Thread Count Egyptian Quality Deep Pocket Bed Sheet Set - 2 EXTRA PILLOW CASES, GREAT VALUE - Queen, Gray for $26.50 (list price $31.00)

OJIA Deluxe Home Decorative Super Soft Plush Mongolian Faux Fur Throw Pillow Cover Cushion Case (12 x 20 Inch, Light Coffee) for $14.95 (list price $39.99)

Dreamfoam Bedding King Copper Gel Memory Foam Mattress for $379.99 (list price $1,399.99)

GORILLA GRIP Rectangle (35-Inch-by-16-Inch) Non-Slip Machine Washable Bath Mat, Clear for $11.99 (list price $29.99)

Oceanstar M1125 Contemporary Solid Wood Magazine Rack, Mahogany Finished for $21.82 (list price $59.00)

Queen Comforter Duvet Insert White - Quilted Comforter with Corner Tabs - Hypoallergenic, Plush Siliconized Fiberfill, Box Stitched Down Alternative Comforter by Utopia Bedding for $33.99 (list price $69.99)

Brightech - SKY LED Torchiere Floor Lamp - Dimmable Super Bright 30-Watt LED - Warm White Color - Omni-Directional Head - Sleek Black Finish for $79.99 (list price $129.99)

Squeegee for Shower, Window and Car Glass - 2 Extra Silicone Replacement Blades - Foam Handle - Color Blue for $11.97 (list price $19.97)

Shark Navigator Deluxe (NV42) for $129.99 (list price $179.99)

Flameless Candles 4" 5" 6" Set of 3 Ivory Dripless Real Wax Pillars Include Realistic Dancing LED Flames and 10-key Remote Control with 24-hour Timer Function-Antizer for $21.98 (list price $99.99)

HEALTH AND BEAUTY

VIKTOR JURGEN Shiatsu Kneading Massage Pillow with Heat,Neck,Shoulder & Back Massager for Home/Car/Office for $27.95 (list price $99.00)

Fitbit Flex 2, Black for $59.95 (list price $99.95)

PRO-Women: Probiotics for Women with Cranberry Extract & D-Mannose - 15x More Effective than Probiotic Capsules - 30 Once Daily Time Release Tablets - Supports Urinary Tract Health for $22.95 (list price $35.95)

Nerdwax Stop Slipping Glasses as Seen on Shark Tank for $10.99 (list price $14.99)

Bekith Eco-Friendly Bamboo Toothbrush Adult Size – Natural Dental Care for Men & Women, Set of 6 for $10.00 (list price $19.99)

Colgate Slim Soft Charcoal Toothbrush (Pack of 3) 17x Slimmer Soft Tip Bristles for $4.10 (list price $5.95)

Colgate MaxFresh Wisp Disposable Travel Toothbrush, Peppermint - 24 Count for $3.41 (list price $7.99)

Philips Sonicare 2 Series Plaque Control Sonic Electric Rechargeable Toothbrush, HX6211/30 for $39.95 (list price $69.99)

Philips Sonicare Essence Sonic Electric Rechargeable Toothbrush, White for $19.97 with coupon (list price $49.99)

Marc Jacobs Daisy Eau So Fresh By Marc Jacobs Eau-de-toilette Spray for Women, 2.50-Fluid Ounce for $38.60 (list price $75.00)

OFFICE, SCHOOL, AND CRAFTS

HP Paper, Color LaserJet Poly Wrap, 28lb, 8.5 x 11, Letter, 98 Bright, 500 Sheet / 1 Ream (205050R) Made In The USA for $9.88 (list price $19.55)

Crayola Colored Pencils, 50 Count, Vibrant Colors, Pre-sharpened, Art Tools, great for Adult Coloring Books for $7.41 (list price $12.89)

Paper Mate Profile Retractable Ballpoint Pens, Bold (1.4mm), Assorted Colors, 12 Count for $7.97 (list price $17.09)

Paper Mate Profile Retractable Ballpoint Pens, Bold (1.4mm), Black, 12 Count for $7.19 (list price $8.47)

Strathmore Bristol Smooth Paper Pad, 9 by 12-Inch, 20 Sheets for $7.43 (list price $12.99)

Fluorescent Liquid Chalk Markers (10 Pack) By Kassa - Child Safe (Non-Toxic) - 2 Tip Sizes (6 and 4 mm) Chalkboard Paint Markers - Erasable Ink for Chalk Board (Nonporous), Glass and Windows for $12.95 (list price $24.95)

OUTDOORS, GARDEN, AND SPORTS

Vremi Garden Weeder Hand Tool - Gardening Weeder with Ergonomic Handle for Planting and Weeding - Handheld Cultivator for Flower and Vegetable Plants Care (Single) for $9.99 (list price $19.99)

Chapin 20002 Poly Lawn and Garden Sprayer For Fertilizer, Herbicides and Pesticides , 2 Gallon for $17.77 (list price $24.99)

GreenWorks 21212 4Amp 13-Inch Corded String Trimmer for $29.98 (list price $49.99)

Grillaholics Grill Mat - Set of 2 Non Stick BBQ Grill Mats - Heavy Duty, Reusable, and Easy to Clean - Extended Warranty for $19.95 (list price $39.97)

True Temper Forged Round Point Digging Shovel - 2585600 for $12.98 (list price $19.99)

Coleman Company 4-Person Pop-Up Tent,Green/Grey for $77.77 (list price $99.99)

GeLive Elephant White Ceramic Succulent Planter Flower Pot Window Box with Saucer for $13.99 (list price $19.99)

Coleman Compact Table for $37.64 (list price $49.99)

Survival Spark Magnesium Survival Fire Starter with Compass and Whistle for $8.95 (list price $12.95)

HeroBeam LED Lantern V2.0 with Flashlight - 2016 COB Technology emits 300 LUMENS! - Collapsible Tough Lamp - Great Light for Camping, Car, Shop, Attic, Garage (SINGLE PACK) for $13.77 (list price $24.99)

ALL NEW 2017 Garden Hose 50 Feet Expandable Hose With All Brass Connectors, 8 Pattern Spray Nozzle And High Pressure, {IMPROVED} Expanding Garden Hose for $44.89 (list price $89.99)

TOOLS

Lisle 52000 Razor Blade Scraper for $7.09 (list price $13.28)

DEWALT DW2166 45-Piece Screwdriving Set with Tough Case for $14.97 (list price $41.80)

BLACK+DECKER LI2000 3.6-Volt 3-Position Rechargeable Screwdriver for $16.99 (list price $19.88)

Stanley 51-713 Hickory Handle Nailing Hammer, 13 Ounce for $6.17 (list price $9.95)

3M 19015ES-CC 3-2/3 by 9-Inch Fine Grit Aluminum Oxide Paint, Wood, Metal Sandpaper, 9-Pack for $2.47 (list price $7.97)

Amir Motion Sensor Light, Cordless Battery-Powered LED Night Light, Stick-anywhere Closet Lights Stair Lights, Safe Lights for Hallway, Bathroom, Bedroom, Kitchen, etc. (White - Pack of 3) for $11.99 (list price $29.99)

DEWALT 3PC SIDE STRIKE CHISEL SET Blade widths: 3/4" 1" 1-1/4" for $18.60 (list price $40.90)

Stanley 20-045 15-Inch Fat Max Hand Saw for $9.56 (list price $20.38)

Kidde 466204 Pro 10 MP Fire Extinguisher, UL Rated 4-A, 60-B:C, Red for $57.45 (list price $84.45)

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
Cs California, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0
arrow
science
How Experts Say We Should Stop a 'Zombie' Infection: Kill It With Fire
Original image
Cs California, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0

Scientists are known for being pretty cautious people. But sometimes, even the most careful of us need to burn some things to the ground. Immunologists have proposed a plan to burn large swaths of parkland in an attempt to wipe out disease, as The New York Times reports. They described the problem in the journal Microbiology and Molecular Biology Reviews.

Chronic wasting disease (CWD) is a gruesome infection that’s been destroying deer and elk herds across North America. Like bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE, better known as mad cow disease) and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, CWD is caused by damaged, contagious little proteins called prions. Although it's been half a century since CWD was first discovered, scientists are still scratching their heads about how it works, how it spreads, and if, like BSE, it could someday infect humans.

Paper co-author Mark Zabel, of the Prion Research Center at Colorado State University, says animals with CWD fade away slowly at first, losing weight and starting to act kind of spacey. But "they’re not hard to pick out at the end stage," he told The New York Times. "They have a vacant stare, they have a stumbling gait, their heads are drooping, their ears are down, you can see thick saliva dripping from their mouths. It’s like a true zombie disease."

CWD has already been spotted in 24 U.S. states. Some herds are already 50 percent infected, and that number is only growing.

Prion illnesses often travel from one infected individual to another, but CWD’s expansion was so rapid that scientists began to suspect it had more than one way of finding new animals to attack.

Sure enough, it did. As it turns out, the CWD prion doesn’t go down with its host-animal ship. Infected animals shed the prion in their urine, feces, and drool. Long after the sick deer has died, others can still contract CWD from the leaves they eat and the grass in which they stand.

As if that’s not bad enough, CWD has another trick up its sleeve: spontaneous generation. That is, it doesn’t take much damage to twist a healthy prion into a zombifying pathogen. The illness just pops up.

There are some treatments, including immersing infected tissue in an ozone bath. But that won't help when the problem is literally smeared across the landscape. "You cannot treat half of the continental United States with ozone," Zabel said.

And so, to combat this many-pronged assault on our wildlife, Zabel and his colleagues are getting aggressive. They recommend a controlled burn of infected areas of national parks in Colorado and Arkansas—a pilot study to determine if fire will be enough.

"If you eliminate the plants that have prions on the surface, that would be a huge step forward," he said. "I really don’t think it’s that crazy."

[h/t The New York Times]

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