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No Air Conditioner Needed! 11 Life Hacks for Staying Cool This Summer

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Don’t get down as the temperatures go up this summer. Whether you’re trying to beat the heat in your home or outside, these 11 tips will help you keep things as chill as possible.

1. CLOSE THE CURTAINS AND SHUT THE BLINDS.

It's tempting to let some of the summer sunshine in, but doing so will also make the numbers on your thermostat climb. By some estimates, as much as 30 percent of unwanted heat comes in through windows, so it pays to keep them covered.

2. CREATE A WIND TUNNEL.

Got windows on opposite sides of your house or apartment? Take advantage of cooler temps in the mornings and evenings by creating a wind tunnel. Face one fan inward in front of the window where the air is coming in, and place one fan facing outward in front of the opposing window. VoilaDIY wind tunnel!

3. CHECK YOUR FANS.

If you have ceiling fans, make sure they’re spinning counter-clockwise, which helps keep air moving and keeps things feeling cool. In the winter, fans should rotate clockwise to push the air upward and circulate warm air.

4. USE A HOT WATER BOTTLE.

When it’s too sweltering to sleep comfortably, grab a hot water bottle and fill it with ice water. Place it under your ankles or knees to help cool your entire body.

5. CHILL CERTAIN BEAUTY PRODUCTS.

Store your lotion, face toner, aloe gels, perfume, moisturizer, and eye creams in the fridge. Keeping them chilled will not only cool you down when you apply them, it may also help extend the shelf life of some products, especially if you live in a particularly hot or humid climate.

6. FIND YOUR PULSE POINTS.

Pulse points are areas of your body where you can feel your pulse through the skin because blood vessels are positioned close to the surface. Applying ice or a cold cloth to these points can help cool you down from the inside out. Find them in your neck, wrists, the insides of elbows and knees, the tops of your feet, the insides of your ankles, your inner thighs, and just in front of your ears.

7. WORK UP A SWEAT BY THE LAKE.

If you’re determined to get a run or a long walk in despite the heat, look for a lake, river, or ocean. Bodies of water tend to cool the surrounding area down at least a little—and every degree helps.

8. EMBRACE THE WET BLANKET LIFESTYLE.

Get a sheet damp, then hang it over an open window. The hot air that passes through evaporates the water contained in the sheet, which creates a cooling air stream.

9. OR, WRAP YOURSELF IN A COLD BLANKET.

If you prefer to sleep on your sheets instead of using them as curtains, put them in a plastic bag and toss them in your fridge for an hour before bedtime (or even just a few minutes). Your body heat will warm them up eventually, of course, but having a cool base can at least help you get to sleep faster.

10. KEEP SOME PRODUCTS FRESHLY MINTED.

The menthol in peppermint tricks us into feeling cool, which you can use to your advantage on warm days. Try adding some peppermint essential oil to your body wash to get an all-over cooling effect.

11. PLANT STRATEGICALLY.

One long-term solution to a house that holds heat: plant trees, tall bushes, or plants that can climb up a trellis in front of east- and west-facing windows. Direct sunlight streaming in from windows and skylights is responsible for about half of the unwanted heat in homes, so blocking it can be a huge help.

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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
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Man Buys Two Metric Tons of LEGO Bricks; Sorts Them Via Machine Learning
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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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iStock
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Why Your iPhone Doesn't Always Show You the 'Decline Call' Button
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iStock

When you get an incoming call to your iPhone, the options that light up your screen aren't always the same. Sometimes you have the option to decline a call, and sometimes you only see a slider that allows you to answer, without an option to send the caller straight to voicemail. Why the difference?

A while back, Business Insider tracked down the answer to this conundrum of modern communication, and the answer turns out to be fairly simple.

If you get a call while your phone is locked, you’ll see the "slide to answer" button. In order to decline the call, you have to double-tap the power button on the top of the phone.

If your phone is unlocked, however, the screen that appears during an incoming call is different. You’ll see the two buttons, "accept" or "decline."

Either way, you get the options to set a reminder to call that person back or to immediately send them a text message. ("Dad, stop calling me at work, it’s 9 a.m.!")

[h/t Business Insider]

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