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15 Ways to Cure Hiccups

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After suffering from the same case of hiccups for over a month, you might be desperate for a solution. You might—as 21-year-old Anna Mayer did in 1944—even reach out to the president for a special dispensation to have your local doctor excused from his military service to come back to Queens and cure you. Don't have a direct line to the president? Don't worry. You don't even have to wait till your hiccups reach the level of national crisis to try the cures below. Most of these home remedies work by overwhelming the vagus nerve—which causes hiccups when it becomes irritated—with another sensation.

1. Place a teaspoonful of sugar on the back of your tongue.

2. Stick your fingers in your ears. (The same vagus nerve has branches in your auditory system.)

3. Gargle with water long enough to interrupt the hiccup cycle.

4. Breathe into a paper bag (not so long that you pass out!) to "distract" your nervous system with ridding the body of an increasing level of carbon dioxide.

5. Eat a big spoonful of peanut butter—the process of chewing the sticky stuff should distract your breathing away from the hiccups.

6. Eat some powdered chocolate mix. Swallowing the spoonful isn't easy and should short-circuit the hiccups.

7. Place a paper towel over the top of a glass, then drink water through the towel. You'll have to "pull" harder with your diaphragm to suck up the liquid and that should reset your breathing.

8. Stick out your tongue to stimulate the opening between the vocal cords and allow yourself to breathe more smoothly.

9. Swallow a teaspoon of vinegar, if you can. Suck on a lemon for the same sour effect.

10. Hold the top of a door frame and then lean forward.

11. Some people claim you can distract yourself out of having the hiccups so try to occupy your mind with tasks like reciting the alphabet backwards.

12. Take gulps of water in rapid succession; rhythmic contractions of the esophagus override spasms of the diaphragm.

13. Drink from the "opposite" side of the glass. This one is tricky and requires you to tilt your head almost upside down.

14. Go for the tried-and-true scare tactic, which is just another form of mental distraction.

15. A long, hopefully passionate kiss supposedly does the trick—as long as your hiccups don't ruin the mood.

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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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Opening Ceremony
These $425 Jeans Can Turn Into Jorts
May 19, 2017
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Opening Ceremony

Modular clothing used to consist of something simple, like a reversible jacket. Today, it’s a $425 pair of detachable jeans.

Apparel retailer Opening Ceremony recently debuted a pair of “2 in 1 Y/Project” trousers that look fairly peculiar. The legs are held to the crotch by a pair of loops, creating a disjointed C-3PO effect. Undo the loops and you can now remove the legs entirely, leaving a pair of jean shorts in their wake. The result goes from this:


Opening Ceremony

To this:


Opening Ceremony

The company also offers a slightly different cut with button tabs in black for $460. If these aren’t audacious enough for you, the Y/Project line includes jumpsuits with removable legs and garter-equipped jeans.

[h/t Mashable]