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11 Creative S’mores Combinations for National S'mores Day

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If you’re anxious to spice up an already perfect fire-forged treat, we’ve got some wild ideas that just might have a place around your campfire.

1. Filled Chocolate S’mores

The easiest way to beef up a three-ingredient treat like a classic s’more is to go hog-wild on a single element. Sure, you could get some fancy graham crackers or a flavored marshmallow, but why not focus on the chocolate? Instead of using a simple slab of the dark stuff, go for an extra-rich piece that comes with its own special fillings, from caramel to peppermint to still more chocolate.

2. The Elvis S'more

Not content to pay special attention to a single ingredient on your s’more? Go for rock 'n roll broke with a new-fangled twist on Elvis Presley’s supposedly favorite sandwich. The big guy loved putting crazy things between bread, particularly bacon, peanut butter, and banana. That's easy enough to replicate on a s’more, thanks to one clever bit: a peanut butter cup. 

3. S’mores Martini

The Savory

Although it might be easy and obvious to pile new ingredients on to an existing s’more and call it a day, it’s far more ambitious to take said s’more and turn it inside out for a new taste. How about a s’more martini? Thanks to marshmallow-flavored vodka, a bit of Kahlua, chocolate syrup and a generous graham cracker and chocolate rim, it’s surprisingly easy to make the childhood favorite into an adult treat.

4. S’mores Pops

The unsung hero of the s’more is the graham cracker. It may not get the glory of the chocolate or the marshmallow, but it’s the key to holding things together and making the treat a handheld one. So let’s do away with it, at least in its normal form. Instead of toasting marshmallows and then putting them on chocolate and graham cracker, toast up the mallows and then dip them in chocolate and graham cracker crumbs. Still handheld, albeit with a harder cleanup.

5. S’mores Pie

Graham crackers figure into other desserts, too—like pie!—so combining the two is a bit of a no-brainer. Deconstruct that s’more to make a s’mores pie, complete with a graham cracker crust and a toasted marshmallow top. You’ll need a plate and utensils, but it’s worth it.

6. S’mores Spaghetti

It’s not actual spaghetti—it’s something far tastier: Fake spaghetti made out of chocolate and marshmallow, with little graham cracker bits sprinkled over as fake Parmesan. It sounds almost impossible to make, but it’s definitely one of the wildest takes on s’mores around.

7. S’mores Cookie Sandwiches

If you’re willing to toss out one ingredient, it’s possible to open up a whole new world of s’more-related treats. Hold fast to chocolate and marshmallows, and turn a pair of tasty chocolate chip cookies into a vessel for delivering toasty marshmallows. Please forgive us, graham crackers.

8. S’mores In a Jar

Jar-bound desserts are all the rage now, and while they look impressive and sound kind of insane, they’re relatively easy to make—it just takes a lot of layering. As ever, the trusty graham cracker is the base here, while the fluffy marshmallow is the star.

9. S’mores Macarons

The beloved French pastry has long worked as a scrumptious delivery service for unexpected flavors, and s’mores are no different. Graham cracker dough, a marshmallow center, and a chocolate glaze? It’s nuts, but it’s also a brilliant way to make this stuff instantly high-brow.

10. Graham Cracker Loaded Brownie

Is that? No. It can’t be. It is! It’s a brownie—a treat on its own—loaded up with warm marshmallows, more melted chocolate, and graham cracker crumbles. Turns out, you can make anything into a s’more-flavored treat, as long as you’re willing to load up the ingredients and never look back.

11. S’mores Stuffed French Toast

S’mores may be dessert food, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they don’t have a place on the breakfast table—as long as you’re willing to stuff your French toast with the key ingredients. Two pieces of French toast are filling enough, but when they’re crammed with hot marshmallows, melted chocolate, and some graham cracker bits just for fun, all bets are off. Wild.

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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
Man Buys Two Metric Tons of LEGO Bricks; Sorts Them Via Machine Learning
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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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Cs California, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0
How Experts Say We Should Stop a 'Zombie' Infection: Kill It With Fire
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Cs California, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0

Scientists are known for being pretty cautious people. But sometimes, even the most careful of us need to burn some things to the ground. Immunologists have proposed a plan to burn large swaths of parkland in an attempt to wipe out disease, as The New York Times reports. They described the problem in the journal Microbiology and Molecular Biology Reviews.

Chronic wasting disease (CWD) is a gruesome infection that’s been destroying deer and elk herds across North America. Like bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE, better known as mad cow disease) and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, CWD is caused by damaged, contagious little proteins called prions. Although it's been half a century since CWD was first discovered, scientists are still scratching their heads about how it works, how it spreads, and if, like BSE, it could someday infect humans.

Paper co-author Mark Zabel, of the Prion Research Center at Colorado State University, says animals with CWD fade away slowly at first, losing weight and starting to act kind of spacey. But "they’re not hard to pick out at the end stage," he told The New York Times. "They have a vacant stare, they have a stumbling gait, their heads are drooping, their ears are down, you can see thick saliva dripping from their mouths. It’s like a true zombie disease."

CWD has already been spotted in 24 U.S. states. Some herds are already 50 percent infected, and that number is only growing.

Prion illnesses often travel from one infected individual to another, but CWD’s expansion was so rapid that scientists began to suspect it had more than one way of finding new animals to attack.

Sure enough, it did. As it turns out, the CWD prion doesn’t go down with its host-animal ship. Infected animals shed the prion in their urine, feces, and drool. Long after the sick deer has died, others can still contract CWD from the leaves they eat and the grass in which they stand.

As if that’s not bad enough, CWD has another trick up its sleeve: spontaneous generation. That is, it doesn’t take much damage to twist a healthy prion into a zombifying pathogen. The illness just pops up.

There are some treatments, including immersing infected tissue in an ozone bath. But that won't help when the problem is literally smeared across the landscape. "You cannot treat half of the continental United States with ozone," Zabel said.

And so, to combat this many-pronged assault on our wildlife, Zabel and his colleagues are getting aggressive. They recommend a controlled burn of infected areas of national parks in Colorado and Arkansas—a pilot study to determine if fire will be enough.

"If you eliminate the plants that have prions on the surface, that would be a huge step forward," he said. "I really don’t think it’s that crazy."

[h/t The New York Times]