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Roadsidepictures, Flickr // CC BY-NC 2.0

10 Thirst-Quenching Facts About Gatorade

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Roadsidepictures, Flickr // CC BY-NC 2.0

If you've ever stepped foot in a gym, grocery store, or sporting arena, then you've probably heard of Gatorade. The drink has been around for half a century and is now sold in over 80 countries, but how much do you know about the drink that changed sport culture and the way we treat dehydration?

1. IT WAS INVENTED TO HELP THE FLORIDA GATORS FOOTBALL TEAM STAY HYDRATED.

Jimmy Emerson, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

This may seem like common knowledge to some, but in 2002, 60 percent of people surveyed had no idea that there was a connection between Gatorade and the University of Florida football program. After 20 football players were sent to the infirmary for dehydration in a single weekend during the 1960s, the college's coaching staff expressed concern about the health of the UF student athletes. They met with Dr. Robert Cade, who began experimenting on the players to develop a drink formula that would replenish the electrolytes lost during long periods of physical activity in the hot Florida sun.

2. IT WAS VERY EXPENSIVE TO DEVELOP.

The first batch of Gatorade cost $43 to make back in 1965, which is approximately $325 when adjusted for inflation. After seeing the results of the “magic elixir,” head coach Ray Graves requested that more be produced, ”no matter what it costs.”

3. IT ORIGINALLY TASTED TERRIBLE, BUT PLAYERS DRANK IT ANYWAY.

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A researcher reportedly vomited after trying the experimental drink, and players said that it tasted like “bodily waste,” but they drank the product anyway for the health benefits. Eventually, Dr. Cade’s wife, Mary, suggested that they add lemon juice to the mixture to improve the taste.

4. THE SUPER DRINK SAVED LIVES AT A FLORIDA HOSPITAL DURING EARLY TESTS.

After being tested on football players, Gatorade was given to babies at the UF Health Shands Hospital who were being treated for dehydration. According to Dr. Cade’s daughter, Phoebe Cade Miles, “there used to be hundreds of babies admitted for severe dehydration, many of whom died, and this changed overnight.”

5. THE GATORADE SHOWER BEGAN AS A PRANK IN 1985.

Almost every big victory in the NFL today is celebrated with players dumping a cooler of ice-cold Gatorade on their coach. The person often credited as the pioneer of the Gatorade shower is New York Giants defensive tackle Jim Burt, who gave one to head coach Bill Parcells in 1985 after defeating the Washington Redskins.

6. MICHAEL JORDAN WAS THE FIRST CELEBRITY TO ENDORSE GATORADE.

Previously on Team Coca-Cola, Michael Jordan was offered $1.4 million per year for ten years in 1991 to be the face of Gatorade. “They had Elton John and Whitney Houston making millions, I don’t understand why they wouldn’t pay Michael the same,” said Jordan’s former agent, David Falk, about Coke. Jordan’s performance on the court, widely popular campaigns, and ads like the “Be Like Mike” commercial above made the partnership extremely profitable.

7. THEY SPONSOR EVERY SINGLE TEAM IN THE NFL.

The Kansas City Chiefs tried Gatorade in 1969 on recommendation from coach Grave from the Florida Gators. Fourteen years later, Gatorade became the official sports drink of the NFL and is currently the only company that sponsors all 32 teams in the league.

8. THERE WAS A GATORADE AND BEER CONCOCTION CALLED HOP'N GATOR.$_57.JPG

Dr. Cade sold a drink recipe to the Pittsburgh Brewing Company, which sold the alcoholic beverage until the mid-1970s. Hop’n Gator was last produced in 2004 as a special batch of 10,000 barrels and has not been made since.

9. GATORADE ORANGE IS NOT THE SAME AS FLORIDA GATOR ORANGE.

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According to a 2009 Style Guide for the Gatorade “G Bolt” logo and related packaging, the official orange of Gatorade is number 1505 in the Pantone Matching System (PMS), but the lightning bolt has a red (PMS 185) outline that makes the orange appear lighter. [PDF] The shade of orange used by the University of Florida is PMS 172.

10. AN ESTIMATED 100 BILLION OUNCES OF GATORADE ARE SOLD EACH YEAR.

That's according to a 2005 estimate by ESPN.com business reporter and author of the First in Thirst: How Gatorade Turned the Science of Sweat Into a Cultural Phenomenon, Darren Rovell. That much Gatorade could fill over 1,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools. 

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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
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technology
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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Health
One Bite From This Tick Can Make You Allergic to Meat
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We like to believe that there’s no such thing as a bad organism, that every creature must have its place in the world. But ticks are really making that difficult. As if Lyme disease wasn't bad enough, scientists say some ticks carry a pathogen that causes a sudden and dangerous allergy to meat. Yes, meat.

The Lone Star tick (Amblyomma americanum) mostly looks like your average tick, with a tiny head and a big fat behind, except the adult female has a Texas-shaped spot on its back—thus the name.

Unlike other American ticks, the Lone Star feeds on humans at every stage of its life cycle. Even the larvae want our blood. You can’t get Lyme disease from the Lone Star tick, but you can get something even more mysterious: the inability to safely consume a bacon cheeseburger.

"The weird thing about [this reaction] is it can occur within three to 10 or 12 hours, so patients have no idea what prompted their allergic reactions," allergist Ronald Saff, of the Florida State University College of Medicine, told Business Insider.

What prompted them was STARI, or southern tick-associated rash illness. People with STARI may develop a circular rash like the one commonly seen in Lyme disease. They may feel achy, fatigued, and fevered. And their next meal could make them very, very sick.

Saff now sees at least one patient per week with STARI and a sensitivity to galactose-alpha-1, 3-galactose—more commonly known as alpha-gal—a sugar molecule found in mammal tissue like pork, beef, and lamb. Several hours after eating, patients’ immune systems overreact to alpha-gal, with symptoms ranging from an itchy rash to throat swelling.

Even worse, the more times a person is bitten, the more likely it becomes that they will develop this dangerous allergy.

The tick’s range currently covers the southern, eastern, and south-central U.S., but even that is changing. "We expect with warming temperatures, the tick is going to slowly make its way northward and westward and cause more problems than they're already causing," Saff said. We've already seen that occur with the deer ticks that cause Lyme disease, and 2017 is projected to be an especially bad year.

There’s so much we don’t understand about alpha-gal sensitivity. Scientists don’t know why it happens, how to treat it, or if it's permanent. All they can do is advise us to be vigilant and follow basic tick-avoidance practices.

[h/t Business Insider]

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