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Akihito Fujii, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0

8 Tips for Scooping and Storing Ice Cream

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Akihito Fujii, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0

While getting any scoop of ice cream from container to eating vessel relatively intact is a triumph in its own right, there are simple tricks you can do to ensure maximum deliciousness. Neal Gottlieb, founder of Three Twins Ice Cream, should know; since 2005, he’s been building a name for his brand, which is innovating the organic ice cream trade with its homegrown approach and a host of deliciously unique flavors (think banana nut confetti, lemon cookie, and cardamom). Gottlieb shared a handful of tips on how to get the most out of your next carton.

1. GET WET.

To get the best scoop, “Wet the ice cream scooper with room temperature water,” suggests Gottlieb. “This keeps the ice cream from sticking to the scooper and allows for a nice smooth, gliding scoop.”

2. LEFTIES AND RIGHTIES SHOULD SCOOP DIFFERENTLY.

“Right-handers should scoop clockwise from the edge of the container,” advises Gottlieb. “Left-handers should scoop counter-clockwise from the edge of the container.”

3. START AT THE EDGE.

“Ice cream softens from the outside to the inside, so the best place to start scooping is from the edges,” explains Gottlieb, who also cautions that you “always want to avoid having the melted ice cream on the outside fall onto the still frozen ice cream in the middle.”

4. CHUNKY FLAVORS ARE HARDER TO SCOOP.

It’s a fact, according to Gottlieb: “Any ice cream that has chunks will stay frozen longer and is more difficult to scoop.” Which doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t try!

5. GELATO HAS ITS OWN RULES.

Though the terms “ice cream” and “gelato” are sometimes used interchangeably, they’re not the same thing. And as such, “gelato has a different scooping path,” says Gottlieb. “We recommend scooping in a straight line (not circular motion).”

6. FLIP YOUR PINT TO KEEP IT FRESH.

Even the most seasoned scooper could run into problems if he or she isn’t following the best practices for ice cream storage. And Gottlieb has got some advice in that department, too. “Though there’s not a whole lot that can be done to save a pint of ice cream after the ice crystals form, it is easy to tackle the problem before it starts,” he says. “The easiest way to avoid this is by not letting the ice cream melt in the first place, as freezer burn occurs when melted ice cream refreezes and oxygen gets into the pint. So, basically what we are saying is that you should just finish off your pint of ice cream in one sitting (no shame).” If that suggestion goes against all of your diet rules, the next best option is “flipping the pint over in the freezer, that way the melted ice cream will drip onto the lid and refreezing can be avoided.”

7. SHOOT FOR EIGHT BELOW.

This one’s easy enough: “The ideal temperature to store ice cream is –8 degrees,” states Gottlieb.

8. IGNORE THE DOOR.

Sure, shoving a container of ice cream back into the freezer door might be the easiest option, but Gottlieb says that’s a “big no-no.” Instead, he suggests storing “ice cream at the back of the freezer. Because temperature varies so wildly, the back of the freezer is the ideal spot for your sweet treat.”

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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
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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
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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:

501069-OpeningCeremony2.jpg

Opening Ceremony

To this:

501069-OpeningCeremony3.jpg

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]

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