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50 Sweet Facts About Your Favorite Candies

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It’s no surprise that candy delights kids and adults alike. We love sweets so much that the average American eats about 22 pounds of candy each year. Whether you’re looking to impress your friends or simply brush up on your candy trivia, check out these 50 sweet facts about your favorite candies.

1. The most popular Halloween candy varies by state, from Airheads in Alabama to candy corn in Wyoming. But Kit Kat, Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, and Butterfinger are a few of the most consistently popular candies in all 50 states.

2. Harry Burnett Reese sold the Lizzie Bar and Johnny Bar, candy bars he named after his daughter and son, respectively. But his chocolate-covered peanut butter cup creation, which he named after himself and called Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, was his real hit.

3. Leo Hirschfield, the inventor of Tootsie Rolls, also invented Bromangelon, a gelatin dessert that was a precursor to Jell-O.

4. If you love drinking beer and eating candy, Oregon-based brewery Rogue Ales has the perfect candy bar in a bottle for you. The brewery’s candy-flavored beer—Hazelutely Choctabulous, a chocolate stout blended with hazelnut brown nectar—provides the perfect opportunity to drink your dessert.

5. If drinking alcoholic candy isn’t your thing, edible alcoholic candy is also an option. In Japan, adults can buy sake-flavored Kit Kats, which are enveloped in white chocolate and contain sake powder (0.8 percent alcohol). The Japanese can also snack on whiskey-flavored Pocky sticks, which are covered in chocolate and flavored with malt.

6. Historians aren’t sure exactly when candy canes were invented, but legend has it that the twisted sticks have been around since 1670, when a German choirmaster twisted regular sticks of candy to make them look like shepherds' hooks.

7. Inspired by a malted milkshake that was popular in the early 1920s, Milky Way was meant to mimic the taste of the shake.

8. Lovers of white chocolate, beware! Because white chocolate doesn’t contain cocoa solids, it's not real chocolate.

9. Toblerone customers are a passionate, vocal bunch. When the chocolate bar company decided to cut costs by reducing the weight of two of their bars sold in the UK, fans loudly expressed their disappointment and mocked the new bar’s fewer triangular chocolate peaks.

10. The two M's in M&M's stand for Mars and Murrie, the surnames of the two businessmen—Forrest Mars and Bruce Murrie—who developed and financed the candy-coated chocolates.

11. Clarence Crane, the creator of Life Savers, made his candies round rather than square, which was the typical shape for most mints at the time, after visiting a pharmacy. Inspiration struck when he saw a machine making pills that were round and flat, and the rest is history.

12. According to researchers who built licking machines (yes, they’re a real thing), it takes anywhere from 364 to 411 licks to reach the center of a Tootsie Pop. Human lickers, on the other hand, averaged just 144 to 252 licks.

13. E.T.'s iconic scene in which Elliott entices the alien with Reese's Pieces almost didn't happen. Steven Spielberg’s first two choices of candy were M&M’s and Hershey’s Kisses, but when the Hershey Company offered to pay $1 million to showcase their latest candy creation, Reese’s Pieces became E.T.'s favorite sweet.

14. If you’re not sure how to properly pair Halloween candy with wine, you’re in luck. Based on criteria including flavor, acidity, bitterness, and sweetness, wine experts recommend pairing Whoppers with Cabernet Sauvignon, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups with Sherry, and Hershey’s Kisses with Zinfandel.

15. M&M’s come in a lot more flavors than milk chocolate, peanut, and crispy. You can also snack on M&M’s in more esoteric flavors (some are limited-edition): pecan pie, peanut butter, pumpkin spice latte, pretzel, and white cheesecake.

16. Invented by an anti-smoking advocate, PEZ were originally marketed as mints to help smokers kick the habit. The candy’s slogan in the 1920s? "Smoking prohibited, PEZing allowed."

17. Franklin Mars named the Snickers bar after his wife’s favorite racehorse.

18. It’s never too early in the a.m. to indulge your sweet tooth. Last year, Dunkin' Donuts and Hershey joined forces to offer customers candy-flavored coffee, with Heath bar and Almond Joy flavor options.

19. According to the American Chemical Society, eating 262 fun-sized Halloween candy bars would poison a 180-pound person. But don't worry about death by candy—you'd vomit before you’d be able to down 262 candy bars in one sitting.

20. The rivalry between fans of Twizzlers and Red Vines is fierce and deep-seated. Candy fans have heated online debates about which licorice product has a better taste, texture, and appearance.

21. If you’ve ever wondered what’s in the filling (between the layers of wafer) of a Kit Kat bar, here’s your answer: it’s not chocolate! It’s actually recycled Kit Kats. Technicians pull any imperfect Kit Kats—with off-center wafers or not enough shine, for example—and then grind them into a paste.

22. President Ronald Reagan loved eating Jelly Belly jelly beans so much that Air Force One was outfitted with special jelly bean holders, lest turbulence cause his beloved beans to spill.

23. Most candy canes are peppermint-flavored, but more adventurous fans can buy candy canes in wacky flavors including wasabi, bacon, coffee, pickles, and gravy.

24. In 2012, a chef in Illinois created the world’s largest candy cane, measuring 51 feet and containing a whopping 900 pounds of sugar.

25. During the Korean War, U.S. soldiers in the First Marine Division used the phrase "Tootsie Rolls" as a codename for mortar shells. But the real candy came in handy when the soldiers used chewed-up Tootsie Rolls to patch holes in their vehicles' fuel lines.

26. In 2009, Butterfinger jumped on the energy drink bandwagon with Butterfinger Buzz, a candy bar containing 80 mg of caffeine (as much caffeine as a can of Red Bull). But due to low sales, the product was discontinued.

27. Until the '90s, Snickers bars in the United Kingdom were called Marathon bars.

28. Junior Mints were named after Junior Miss, a Broadway play that ran from 1941 to 1943.

29. To appeal to kids, PEZ turned candy dispensers into toys. The first dispensers geared toward children were shaped like Santa Claus, a robot, and a space gun.

30. Every day, 64 million Tootsie Rolls are made, which means that over 44,440 Tootsie Rolls are created per minute!

31. Haribo, the candy company famous for its gummy bears, is a portmanteau. Creator Hans Riegel combined the first two letters of his first and last name with the first two letters of his hometown: Bonn, Germany.

32. Athletes can munch on Jelly Belly’s Sport Beans, a line of jelly beans containing carbohydrates, electrolytes, B vitamins, and Vitamin C. Who says you can’t eat candy while exercising?

33. The 1920s saw the release of The Vegetable Sandwich bar, a health-oriented candy bar that contained celery, tomatoes, cabbage, and peppers covered in chocolate. But with competition from Baby Ruth, Milky Way, and Milk Duds, it’s no surprise that the vegetable bar didn’t take off.

34. The design of Mary Jane candies—a yellow wrapper with a red stripe and drawing of a young girl—has stayed the same for over 100 years.

35. DOTS are vegan, gluten-free, and kosher.

36. Introduced in 1932, 3 Musketeers was so named because it featured chocolate, strawberry, and vanilla pieces of candy. But vanilla and strawberry (as well as sugar) were scarce during World War II, so 3 Musketeers ditched the vanilla and strawberry to focus on chocolate.

37. Sam Born, the man who founded Just Born candy company in 1923, originally made his fortune by inventing the Born Sucker Machine—a device that would insert sticks into lollipops.

38. It used to take 27 hours to make one Peep, but after automation, now it only takes six minutes. That means the Pennsylvanian factory can pump out 5.5 million Peeps a day!

39. North Dakotans in search of candy cigarettes between 1953 and 1967 were out of luck. The state banned the candy due to concerns that it would encourage kids to smoke real cigarettes.

40. Past PEZ flavors have included pineapple, coffee, cola, and even chlorophyll.

41. Customers in the United Kingdom can buy jars of Twix spread, a Nutella-like spreadable that contains chocolate, caramel, and crunchy pieces of biscuit.

42. The Goelitz Candy Company's brand of candy corn, which they began producing in 1898, was called "chicken feed," since real corn kernels were usually only fed to livestock.

43. Even though Twizzlers are known as a "licorice candy," only the black licorice packages contain licorice extract. The standard strawberry ones are made with corn syrup, enriched wheat flour, and artificial flavoring.

44. If you love snacking on Everlasting Gobstoppers, Runts, and Laffy Taffy, you can partially thank Roald Dahl. Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory, the film based on his book Charlie And The Chocolate Factory, was the impetus for Quaker Oats, who agreed to help finance the film, to launch a candy line (which later became The Willy Wonka Candy Company) to bring the imaginative candy creations to life.

45. Every eight hours, Mars’ New Jersey factory produces 2 billion M&M’s.

46. Researchers determined that the Kit Kat jingle—"Gimme a break, Gimme a break, Break me off a piece of that Kit Kat bar"—is one of the most common earworms. Our apologies that it's now stuck in your head!

47. Since debuting in 1940, Mike and Ike candy has been made in almost 40 different flavors, from the original fruit mix (orange, cherry, lemon, and lime) to more unusual ones such as cotton candy and root beer float.

48. Salt-water taffy, which was invented in Atlantic City, New Jersey in 1880s, was given that name because it was sold as souvenir candy at seaside towns, not because it's particularly salty or watery.

49. After Curtiss Candy Company owner Otto Schnering achieved success with the Baby Ruth candy bar, he followed it up with Butterfinger, another smash hit.

50. Hershey, Pennsylvania, home to the world headquarters of the Hershey Chocolate Company, was named after a failed naming contest. In 1904, the newly created town hosted a contest to pick its new name, and the winner was "Hersheykoko." The post office (and many locals, including founder Milton Hershey's wife) rejected the the name, and they eventually went with the more straightforward "Hershey."

All images via iStock.

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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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Smart Shopping
This Week's Best Amazon Deals You Can Still Get
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As a recurring feature, we share some amazing Amazon deals we’ve turned up. These items were the ones that were the most popular with our readers this week, and they’re still available.

Mental Floss has affiliate relationships with certain retailers, including Amazon, and may receive a small percentage of any sale. But we only get commission on items you buy and don’t return, so we’re only happy if you’re happy. Good luck deal hunting!


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