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5 of the Most Expensive Pizzas Ever Made

by Kirsten Howard

Taking a break from the usual chain restaurant pizzas and paying for a pie that’s a little more decadent could leave you crying into your wallet. This week, to coincide with International Margarita Day (which is tomorrow—mark your calendars), New York City’s Bodega Negra has partnered with Patrón to create the Platinum Margarita Margherita Pizza, a $500 pie covered in glazed lobster, mango, Osetra caviar, black truffles, and avocado. But there’s a big difference between a $40 gourmet pie—and a $12,000 one. Beware: Truffles ahead!

1. THE PIZZA ROYALE 007

The Pizza Royale 007 has only been made once—in 2007—and it’s easy to understand why. Created to raise funds for the Fred Hollows Foundation, which was set up to prevent curable blindness in developing countries, the pizza was bought for a whopping £2150 (about $2700) at a charity auction by lawyer Maurizio Morelli as a Valentine’s Day gift for his wife, Sabrina.

Award-winning restaurateur Domenico Crolla flew from Glasgow to Rome to prepare the pizza, which was topped with edible gold, cognac-marinated lobster, medallions of venison, Scottish smoked salmon, and champagne-soaked caviar.

"This is the perfect romantic Valentine's gift,” Crolla said at the time. "We Italians are experts at amore and I think this pizza will show that the way to a woman's heart is definitely through her stomach."

2. GORDON RAMSAY’S MAZE PIZZA

While the basic cost of Gordon Ramsay’s £100 ($125) pizza—which is covered with white truffle paste, fontina cheese, pancetta, cep mushrooms, onion puree, and mizuna lettuce and sold at the foul-mouthed chef’s Maze restaurant in London’s Grosvenor Square—doesn’t come close to the price tag of the 007, the final tally can rise, based on your taste for truffles. What makes this particular pizza so expensive is that it’s topped with a very rare Italian white truffle and, as it’s shaved onto your pizza at the table, it’s up to you to say “enough.” If you don’t, and the chef continues shaving the entire truffle onto your cheesy dough disc, the bill could come to a pretty eye-watering total, as the truffle’s worth up to about $2500 per kilogram. The pizza holds the Guinness World Record for “Most Expensive Pizza Commercially Available.”

3. FAVITTA’S PIZZA FOR LOVERS

Though the restaurant is now closed, Favitta's Family Pizzeria in Henrietta, New York offered the “Pizza For Lovers,” which was an incredibly expensive pizza that actually kind of wasn’t. The catch with this bad boy was that it wasn’t the pizza itself that contributed to the $8180 price tag, it was the extras that came with it. Prepared for romantic couples on Valentine’s Day, the $19 pizza was served with a $160 bottle of champagne—and an $8000 diamond ring.

“We'll bring the ring, and I'll personally deliver it, with a little white cloth over my arm, and open the bottle for them," explained owner Tom Favitta.

4. NINO’S BELLISSIMA PIZZA

Yet another shuttered pizzeria, back in 2012, the main event at Nino’s Bellissima Pizzeria in New York City was “The One Percenter,” a $1000 pizza that earned its price tag because of the $820 worth of caviar—six different types of it—plopped on top of it. (The same pizza was made available in 2007, but was then known as “The Luxury Pizza.”) Dollops of first-class fish eggs Beluga and Black Russian Royal Sevruga are liberally sprinkled over the dough base, with a bit of sliced lobster and crème fraîche to finish the job.

“People who know about their caviar love this pizza,” said owner Nino Selimaj. “We sell them to politicians, Wall Street traders, or couples celebrating a birthday or anniversary. But diners always see it on the menu and ask about it, why it is so expensive and how many we sell. People are always curious.”

5. LOUIS XIII PIZZA

So here it is: the most expensive pizza in the world.

Concocted by Italian master pizza chef Renato Viola, the tiny 8-inch Louis XIII pizza is topped with mozzarella, three types of caviar, imported lobster from Norway, and pink salt collected by hand from the Murray River in Australia, but the real kicker is how the whole thing is prepared.

When you order the $12,000 pizza, three food artisans—a pizza-maker, a sommelier, and a separate chef to cook all the ingredients—will fly to your house from Italy and prepare the pizza in your very own kitchen, making it the world’s most expensive order-in pizza. Anyone for Pizza Hut?

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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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iStock
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Health
200 Health Experts Call for Ban on Two Antibacterial Chemicals
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iStock

In September 2016, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a ban on antibacterial soap and body wash. But a large collective of scientists and medical professionals says the agency should have done more to stop the spread of harmful chemicals into our bodies and environment, most notably the antimicrobials triclosan and triclocarban. They published their recommendations in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.

The 2016 report from the FDA concluded that 19 of the most commonly used antimicrobial ingredients are no more effective than ordinary soap and water, and forbade their use in soap and body wash.

"Customers may think added antimicrobials are a way to reduce infections, but in most products there is no evidence that they do," Ted Schettler, science director of the Science and Environmental Health Network, said in a statement.

Studies have shown that these chemicals may actually do more harm than good. They don't keep us from getting sick, but they can contribute to the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, also known as superbugs. Triclosan and triclocarban can also damage our hormones and immune systems.

And while they may no longer be appearing on our bathroom sinks or shower shelves, they're still all around us. They've leached into the environment from years of use. They're also still being added to a staggering array of consumer products, as companies create "antibacterial" clothing, toys, yoga mats, paint, food storage containers, electronics, doorknobs, and countertops.

The authors of the new consensus statement say it's time for that to stop.

"We must develop better alternatives and prevent unneeded exposures to antimicrobial chemicals," Rolf Haden of the University of Arizona said in the statement. Haden researches where mass-produced chemicals wind up in the environment.

The statement notes that many manufacturers have simply replaced the banned chemicals with others. "I was happy that the FDA finally acted to remove these chemicals from soaps," said Arlene Blum, executive director of the Green Science Policy Institute. "But I was dismayed to discover at my local drugstore that most products now contain substitutes that may be worse."

Blum, Haden, Schettler, and their colleagues "urge scientists, governments, chemical and product manufacturers, purchasing organizations, retailers, and consumers" to avoid antimicrobial chemicals outside of medical settings. "Where antimicrobials are necessary," they write, we should "use safer alternatives that are not persistent and pose no risk to humans or ecosystems."

They recommend that manufacturers label any products containing antimicrobial chemicals so that consumers can avoid them, and they call for further research into the impacts of these compounds on us and our planet.

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