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11 More Obvious Things Confirmed by Science

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Maybe these scientists were waiting for an unexpected turn in the findings that never came, or maybe they really did need to know if sexy waitresses get better tips. But either way, here are 11 (more) times the results won't shock you.

1. Eating lots of bad food is bad for you.

If you were holding out hope that fried chicken was a staple of a well-balanced diet, science has some bad news for you. A study released last year in the American Journal of Medicine tracked the effect of eating habits on participants' health from middle-age on. The research involved assessing the diet of 5350 adults (age 51.3±5.3 years, 29.4 percent women) and then tracked their mortality, chronic diseases and overall health for a period of 16 years. The results:

[P]articipants with a “Western-type” diet (characterized by high intakes of fried and sweet food, processed food and red meat, refined grains, and high-fat dairy products) had lower odds of ideal aging.

I know, it's a shame.

2. People will buy more fruits and vegetables if they're cheaper.

Just because you've been swayed by the science in No. 1 to believe all that fried food is bad for you doesn't mean you're going to change your ways. However, one thing that is proven to encourage the purchase of more produce: discounts. A paper published last year in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reported on a trial done in Dutch supermarkets in which participants were given 50 percent off produce coupons, nutrition education, both, or neither. The researchers found that people bought and consumed more fruits and vegetables if they were given the coupons, even more so than if they were educated on the benefits of a healthy diet. Of course, this is important information for crafting public health initiatives, but did they really need the study to know people prefer to spend less money?

3. Musicians get the girls.

Tales of rock stars and groupies provide more than enough anecdotal evidence to know this is true, but does the musician vibe really make a man more attractive if he's not in a world-famous band? Spoiler alert: yes. A French research team enlisted a young man (full disclosure: he was “previously evaluated as having a high level of physical attractiveness”) to stand on a street and request phone numbers from 300 different young ladies—all in the name of science, of course. For 100 such solicitations he was holding a guitar case; for another 100 he had a sports bag; and for the final 100, he was empty handed.

Results showed that holding a guitar case was associated with greater compliance to the request, thus suggesting that musical practice is associated with sexual selection.

But of course. No word on whether or not he followed up with any of the 31 percent of women who offered the apparent guitarist their digits.

4. We're all working for the weekends.

Next time someone accuses you of having a case of the Mondays, tell them that yes, in fact, you do, and it is a scientifically proven ailment. Or at least a widespread trend. A 2010 study in the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology set out to test the hypothesis "that both weekends and nonworking times would be associated with enhanced well-being." Unsurprisingly, "results supported these hypotheses." Makes sense to me. I mean, I love working for mental_floss, but I can concur that my Saturdays are still "associated with several indicators of well-being."

5. Stereotypically "sexy" waitresses get better tips.

One caveat: This whole study, published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior, is based on self-reporting some rather personal details. But there's little cause to question findings that support such an obvious trend (not to mention Hooters' whole business model). Waitresses completed an online survey that included subjective assessments of their own attractiveness and sexiness as well as objective physical attributes like bust size, hair color, and tip amounts. I bet you can predict what happened, but in case you were wondering, yes:

the waitresses’ tips varied with age in a negative, quadratic relationship, increased with breast size, increased with having blond hair, and decreased with body size.

6. Men and women desire a sexually attractive partner.

Those young, blond, busty waitresses aren't just getting more tips. They're also getting—gasp!—more dates as well. And don't bother saying you're not shallow like that; your subconscious definitely is. A team of researchers subjected willing undergrads to a word-association assignment to test how much they associate physical attractiveness with an ideal partner. Regardless of how the same participants responded when asked directly about the importance of appearance in a mate, they were quick to report positive feelings when shown words related to "sexiness." "If a person tells me, for example, that she doesn't care about how attractive a guy is, our research suggests that her claim isn't worth all that much," study researcher Paul Eastwick, of Texas A&M University, said in a statement.

7. "Pre-gaming" before you hit the bar means more overall alcohol.

Imagine that: Drinks at home plus drinks at the bar equals more overall drinks. A study from Switzerland shows that the intent to defray the cost of alcohol out at the bar with a "pre-gaming" event doesn't really work. Instead, people still imbibe just as much while they're out on the town, which just gets added to their drinks from at home.

The study also found that those who pre-drank were more likely to suffer risky or unfavorable consequences of drinking, such as blackouts, hangovers, unplanned substance abuse or unprotected sex.

That's probably a result of the more overall drinks.

8. Men are more attracted to their female friends than vice versa.

Maybe "obvious" is a little harsh here. I have plenty of platonic male friends and if they're pining after me, they are certainly not obvious about it. But "predictable in a large sample set"? For sure. In the first part of a study reported in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, researchers recruited 88 pairs of opposite-sex college-age friends to fill out strictly confidential questionnaires about their friendship. What they found was men were more likely to report an attraction to their female friends than the other way around. When the study was expanded beyond college-age, both parties classified attraction to their friend as a "cost," and not a "benefit."

9. Magazines mostly feature young women. This can give older women bad body image.

Even when the audience skews over-50, the women featured in fashion magazines are almost exclusively sub-40. That's the predictable finding of a 2011 paper in the Journal of Aging Studies. And just like excessively thin models can have a harmful effect on the eating habits of young girls, these wrinkle-free faces in magazines like Vogue and Essence have middle-aged and older women feeling bad about their own visible signs of aging.

10. People are happier when their spouses are generous. Or If they're having lots of sex.

The results of a survey of more than 1400 heterosexual couples between the ages of 18 and 46—all of whom had children—published in 2011 as part of the National Marriage Project showed that higher levels of reported generosity coorespond to a happier marriage. That's right: People like getting backrubs, flowers and unsolicited acts of niceness, so much so it actually makes them happy. Of course, not as happy as regular sex might. While generosity is good, it was sexual satisfaction that proved to be the most consistent indicator of a happy marriage.

11. Restricting high-risk individuals from owning guns saves lives.

At least, it seems obvious. The links to the "report" mentioned don't seem to work, but you can see a PDF here.

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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]