CLOSE
Original image
Wikimedia Commons

What If You Survive the Apocalypse and Only Have One Pair of Contacts?

Original image
Wikimedia Commons

My biggest fear goes something like this: The apocalypse or an apocalyptic event happens. There are earthquakes, asteroids, nuclear wars—whatever, it doesn’t really matter. After the flames finally stop raining down and the world has settled into an ashen plain of sorrow I come to a startling realization: My glasses are at home and I’m wearing monthly disposable contact lenses.

I would be at a competative disadvantage should I ever have to enter "survival mode" without the aid of glasses or contacts. Even the smallest and weakest of children who happen to be blessed with normal eyesight would leap above me on the food chain. I would be susceptible to naturally occurring apocalyptic hurdles and booby traps —a comically obvious net placed on the ground could very easily be my downfall.

Assuming my glasses (as well as the home in which they were sitting) were washed away by a river or lava or something equally inconvenient, I would be reliant on the lenses hugging my eyeballs to guide me through the end of the world.

How Long Will My Contacts Last?

If properly cleaned and stored overnight, my contacts remain comfortable for about a month. Given that the apocalypse will probably be pretty dusty, I can't bank on having that much time. In order to prepare for this scenario, I spoke with Gary Heiting, OD, the Senior Editor of AllAboutVision.com. He said that, depending on the person, a pair of monthly contacts can be worn anywhere from one to three months (although three is pushing it). Wearing contacts longer than recommended greatly puts you at risk for serious eye infection.

In fact, infection is the greatest contact lens-related threat I'd face after the apocalypse. Acanthamoeba keratitis, for example, is caused by a one-celled organism that can dig its way into your corneas and eventually eat away at your vision. According to Dr. Heiting, the most likely causes of this kind of ailment are handling lenses with unclean hands or direct exposure to contaminated water.

Cleaning Contacts In The Filthy Apocalypse

I assume clean water will be tough to come by after the apocalypse (especially if I am in some sort of Waterworld-type scenario—surrounded by water but none of it is suitable for washing my hands, the cruel, cruel irony), so Purell would have to do. Dr. Heiting said that, in a pinch, antibacterial hand wash is fine, but you have to be very careful to ensure that all traces of alcohol have completely evaporated before making contact with your eyes. Still, soap and water is always the best bet.

I'll be able to loot a drugstore for saline solution (and snacks and sports drinks), so, for a couple of months, I will have good enough vision to wander the charred Earth and look for roaming bands of survivors whose trust I will undoubtedly have to earn with a series of daring deeds ("That was close..." "You're telling me!" That kind of thing).

What About Fresh, Packaged Lenses?

Even with Purell and fresh saline solution, my contacts won't last forever—soon, it will come time to find replacements. Naturally, I’m going to want to loot either A) an optometrist's office or B) a contact lens manufacturing plant (by this time I will have become very good at looting). Unfortunately, even in sealed packaging and taken directly from the assembly line, these contacts won't last for an eternity.

Contact lenses have expiration dates, and I asked Dr. Heiting how concrete those were. According to a source in the contact lens industry, manufacturers must prove that the lenses are stable up to that date (usually around three years after production). It's not like milk, in that the lenses will necessarily go bad once that time comes, but it's still a risk to wear expired contacts. Dr. Heiting said he can't recommend wearing expired contacts, "except perhaps in cases of dire emergency when the risk of very poor uncorrected vision outweighs the possibility of lens parameter changes or possible contamination."

Well well well, looks like I'm in business. A pair of factory-fresh lenses will last around three years, so I should be okay until civilization is rebuilt. When that time comes, I can visit my optometrist for a long-overdue checkup.

How To Ensure You're Never Up Apocalypse Creek Without A Paddle

Now, there are precautions one can take to ensure that they don't have to worry about their contact lenses during the apocalypse. Dr. Heiting recommends that you consider eyeglasses an "emergency medical device." Keep a pair on you at all times and you'll never have to worry. Still, having glasses isn't a 100% guarantee that the end of the world will be a breeze:

The best bet for a comfortable and crystal-clear apocalypse is LASIK or other types of refractive surgeries. Dr. Heiting says that many firefighters, police officers, and other first responders get these procedures done because they are faced with harrowing situations daily that can be made all the more difficult by cumbersome glasses or finicky contact lenses.

See you after the apocalypse—I'll be the guy dodging booby traps and reading faraway street signs with no trouble.

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
Nick Briggs/Comic Relief
entertainment
arrow
What Happened to Jamie and Aurelia From Love Actually?
May 26, 2017
Original image
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]

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