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How Do You Pronounce GIF? It Probably Depends on Where You're From

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It is a question that creates tension in friendships and divides families: How do you pronounce GIF?

The Graphics Interchange Format that makes fun looped image files possible also sparks heated debate in its shortened form. Is it a hard g like graphics or a soft g like gym? The Economist suggests that it’s a regional question.

Recently, the programming forum Stack Overflow posed the question to 50,000 people in 200 countries, and found that for the most part, the hard g wins out. While 65 percent of survey respondents went for the hard g, only 26 percent argued for the soft g.

But as the data team at The Economist points out, it’s a question that has built-in linguistic biases. If your native language doesn’t have a hard g sound, you probably use the soft g to pronounce GIF, and vice versa. Almost 80 percent of the poll respondents came from language backgrounds that would bias them toward the hard g sound, even though those languages make up just 45 percent of the world population. The Economist’s calculations found that weighted by population, Europe and the U.S. are biased toward the hard g pronunciation, but in emerging economies (defined by the World Bank), it’s not so clear cut.

Because there’s a third option that English-speaking nerds rarely duke it out over: the individual letter pronunciation, which appears to have made significant inroads in Asia. According to the poll, it’s more common in China and South Korea to enunciate each letter in GIF. Half of respondents from China opted for that choice, as did a full 70 percent of South Korean respondents. Explore the map visualization of the data here.

That said, GIF creator Steve Wilhite uses the soft g, like JIF. Do with that what you will.

[h/t The Economist]

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Hate Red M&M's? You Need a Candy Color-Sorting Machine
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You don’t have to be a demanding rock star to live a life without brown M&M's or purple Skittles—all you need is some engineering know-how and a little bit of free time.

Mechanical engineering student Willem Pennings created a machine that can take small pieces of candy—like M&M's, Skittles, Reese’s Pieces, etc.—and sort them by color into individual piles. All Pennings needs to do is pour the candy into the top funnel; from there, the machine separates the candy—around two pieces per second—and dispenses all of it into smaller bowls at the bottom designated for each variety.

The color identification is performed with an RGB sensor that takes “optical measurements” of candy pieces of equal dimensions. There are limitations, though, as Pennings revealed in a Reddit Q&A: “I wouldn't be able to use this machine for peanut M&M's, since the sizes vary so much.”

The entire building process lasted from May through December 2016, and included the actual conceptualization, 3D printing (which was outsourced), and construction. The entire project was detailed on Pennings’s website and Reddit's DIY page.

With all of the motors, circuitry, and hardware that went into it, Pennings’s machine is likely too ambitious of a task for the average candy aficionado. So until a machine like this hits the open market, you're probably stuck buying bags of single-colored M&M’s in bulk online or sorting all of the candy out yourself the old fashioned way.

To see Pennings’s machine in action, check out the video below:

[h/t Refinery 29]

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How Common Is Your Birthday? An Interactive Map Can Tell You
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by James Hunt

At some point in their life, everyone counts back from their birthday and tries to figure out what anniversary, special occasion, or other excuse might have happened to their parents nine months before they were born. To make this backtracking exercise easier—and give us the chance to do it for a much larger population—data journalist Matt Stiles created an interactive "heat map" showing the most common birthdays in the United States for individuals born between 1994 and 2014.

Click on the map and you'll quickly notice that July, August, and September are by far the most common birth months. It's no surprise that nine months prior you'll find the dark and rainy period of October, November, and December when—to put it delicately—people have to make their own entertainment.

According to Stiles, "People generally seem to have time for baby-making during their time off. Several of the most common birth dates, in September, correspond with average conception periods around Christmas. September 9 is most common in this dataset, though other days in that month are close. September 19 is second. Following a customary gestation period, many of these babies would, in theory, have been conceived on December 17 and December 27, respectively."

But that's not all we can tell from the chart. When you take into account the fact that some people get to choose their child's birthday because of induced and elective births, they tend to want to stay away from the hospital during understaffed holiday periods.

"The least common birthdays in this dataset were Christmas Eve, Christmas [Day], and New Year’s Day," Stiles concluded. "Dates around Thanksgiving aren’t as common. July 4 is also at the bottom of the list. Conversely, Valentine’s Day ranks relatively high, as you can see in the graphic, as are the days just before a new tax year begins."

Amazingly, though it only comes around every four years, Leap Year babies aren't as uncommon as you might think: February 29 ranked 347th out of 366 on the list.

You can play around with the interactive graphic, and see the full ranking of birthdays, here.

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