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The Frisky

Pain is Beauty: 10 Bizarre Facial Treatments

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The Frisky

You look fantastic. What's your possibly horrifying secret?

1. Fire facial

Unusual beauty treatments are big in Japan. The latest to spread like wildfire: Huǒ liáo fire treatments. Towels are soaked in alcohol and an invigorating beauty elixir, draped over parts of the body, and then set on fire. Don't expect to see this offered on Groupon anytime soon.

2. Snail facial

If you prefer gentler, less life-threatening beauty treatments, consider the Celebrity Escargot Course at Tokyo's Clinical Salon. After an initial cleansing by an aesthetician, live snails apply moisturizing hyaluronic acid, antioxidants, and proteins ... by crawling all over your face. But don't worry: The snails come from an organic farm.

3. Vampire facial


The vampire facial is one way to keep up with the Kardashians. Instead of drinking the blood of others, it requires having your own drawn and then separated in a centrifuge. Platelet-rich plasma is then applied and injected back into your face with micro-needles to heal wounds, stimulate collagen, and make you look really scary.

4. Gold facial


A 24-karat gold facial will cost a pretty penny. The anti-aging treatment generates new cells, firms skin, and prevents the depletion of collagen and elastin, because the skin rejects gold. That's what the beauty experts say, anyway. One thing we know for sure: You'll look like Tutankhamen.

5. Caviar facial

QT Facial

Eating fish is one way to give your skin a dose of anti-inflammatory EPA and omega-3 fatty acids. Or you can just smear caviar all over your face. The fishy delicacy is hydrating, firming, and tastes delicious on blinis with crème frâiche.

6. Bird poop facial

It really is lucky when an Asian nightingale defecates on your head. Otherwise, the so-called Geisha Facial will cost you about $200. The excrement is combined with rice bran to gently exfoliate skin.

7. Miracle Whip facial

Here's a beauty treatment you can DI-Why. A 20-minute Miracle Whip mask works like a mild chemical peel, sloughing off dry skin. Your face will be baby soft and smell like coleslaw.

8. Bee venom facial

This might sting a little. Honey bee venom is the latest all-natural ingredient in expensive face masks and creams. Peptides like melittin and apamin increase blood circulation and stimulate collagen and elastin. But bee venom may have a more important use—nanoparticles carrying mellitin have killed HIV-infected cells in mice, while leaving normal cells unscathed.

9. Urine facial

Throughout history, human urine has been used for various cosmetic and medicinal purposes. Like tooth whitening in ancient Rome—"Et ewww, Brute!" Some people still use urine to treat acne. It can be consumed orally, applied topically to blemishes, or massaged into your entire face.

10. Wine facial

You might need a drink after pondering all of these weird beauty treatments. Consider an antioxidant-rich wine facial instead. Alpha hydroxy acids in sweet white wines replenish dry skin. Oily skin pairs best with red. Cheers!

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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
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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Nick Briggs/Comic Relief
What Happened to Jamie and Aurelia From Love Actually?
May 26, 2017
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Nick Briggs/Comic Relief

Fans of the romantic-comedy Love Actually recently got a bonus reunion in the form of Red Nose Day Actually, a short charity special that gave audiences a peek at where their favorite characters ended up almost 15 years later.

One of the most improbable pairings from the original film was between Jamie (Colin Firth) and Aurelia (Lúcia Moniz), who fell in love despite almost no shared vocabulary. Jamie is English, and Aurelia is Portuguese, and they know just enough of each other’s native tongues for Jamie to propose and Aurelia to accept.

A decade and a half on, they have both improved their knowledge of each other’s languages—if not perfectly, in Jamie’s case. But apparently, their love is much stronger than his grasp on Portuguese grammar, because they’ve got three bilingual kids and another on the way. (And still enjoy having important romantic moments in the car.)

In 2015, Love Actually script editor Emma Freud revealed via Twitter what happened between Karen and Harry (Emma Thompson and Alan Rickman, who passed away last year). Most of the other couples get happy endings in the short—even if Hugh Grant's character hasn't gotten any better at dancing.

[h/t TV Guide]