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Cat Receives Mail

Fox Benwell has a postal cat! His cat Linnet waits by the door for the mail to be delivered. Watch as she enthusiastically receives a package, checks to see if anyone is watching, and then steals upstairs to put it in her stash. See more of Linnet at Instagram. -via Everlasting Blort


Number Fever: The Pepsi Contest That Became a Deadly Fiasco

In 1992, Pepsi-Cola was in a war with Coca-Cola over the Philippine soda market, and Pepsi was losing badly. So they launched a sweepstakes in which people would collect bottle caps with numbers. The winning number would be worth varying amounts of money, up to a million pesos (worth $68,000 today). Number Fever, as it was called, boosted Pepsi sales as people collected bottle caps with numbers. The winning number was announced on May 25. Marily So tells how her husband located a bottle cap with the winning number, 349, and saw that it was worth a million pesos. There was rejoicing, but the couple did not know that Pepsi had printed 600,000 bottle caps with number 349 on them.

Similar scenes were playing out across the country. A bus driver had three 1 million-peso 349s. A mother of 12 whose children went through 10 bottles of Pepsi a day had won 35 million pesos. Winners raced to the iron gates of Pepsi’s bottling factory in Quezon City, just northeast of Manila, to claim their prizes. As the crowd grew, a secretary dialed the marketing director, Rosemarie Vera. “There seems to be many 349 crowns in circulation among people I know,” the secretary said, according to an account in the Philippine Daily Enquirer. At 10 p.m., someone from the company telephoned the Philippine Department of Trade and Industry and said a mistake had been made.

Within a year, a violent consumer uprising would be under way, with riots and grenade attacks leaving dozens injured and five dead.

Read the full story of the soda pop promotion that went oh-so-wrong at Bloomberg Businessweek.  -via Damn Interesting


LED Flashlights Make Hunting Easier, But At What Cost?

For decades, humans have been using light-emitting devices such as flashlights in order to hunt for prey. Apparently, sudden light causes confusion to animals and makes them freeze. In the past, however, flashlights with incandescent bulbs quickly run out of power, which makes it a costly tool for the hunter. It also makes hunting more difficult. But with the current LED technology, which can emit the same light with less power, hunters have found it easier to hunt. There is a downside, however.

Cheap, powerful flashlights are allowing hunters in tropical jungles around the world to more easily kill nocturnal animals, including endangered species such as pangolins, according to a new study. Scientists warn the new technology threatens to further damage ecosystems already strained by overhunting.

But for forest ecologist Robert Nasi, the problem is not the LED flashlights; it is how people use them.

For example, Gabonese hunters working at night in the vast forests of the Congo reported killing threatened species, including the giant pangolin (Smutsia gigantea) and various small antelopes known as duikers. LEDs could fuel intensive hunting of the sort that can take a toll on jungle ecosystems, Nasi says. But for people hunting to feed themselves, the lights could save time, freeing them up to do other things like fish or tend crops.

What are your thoughts about this one?

(Image Credit: Memed_Nurrohmad/ Pixabay)


Managing Regrets

We all have regrets in our lives. It might be regret in choosing the wrong degree program in the university, regret in making a financial decision that resulted in a huge loss, or regret in a relationship that should have been ended way earlier before things got worse. Regrets come with a lot of “what if” questions and “I should have done this” statements, as well as pain that could either cause us to grow and move forward, or to shrink and stay stuck. Of course, all of us want to grow, but how do we do it properly?

Psychology professor Shawn M. Burn gives us advice on how to deal with our regrets. See her tips over at Psychology Today.

(Image Credit: sir5life0/ Pixabay)


Has Natural Language Processing Been Chasing The Wrong Goal The Whole Time?

Jesse Dunietz was surprised as he attended the 58th Annual Meeting of the Association of Computational Linguistics. For decades, natural-language processing (NLP), the AI branch that specializes in creating systems that analyze the human language, has been measuring the ability of these systems through benchmark data sets.

Much of today’s reading comprehension research entails carefully tweaking models to eke out a few more percentage points on the latest data sets. “State of the art” has practically become a proper noun: “We beat SOTA on SQuAD by 2.4 points!”

But during this year’s meeting, Dunietz felt something different.

Attendees’ conversations were unusually introspective about the core methods and objectives of natural-language processing (NLP), the branch of AI focused on creating systems that analyze or generate human language. Papers in this year’s new “Theme” track asked questions like: Are current methods really enough to achieve the field’s ultimate goals? What even are those goals?

For Dunietz and his colleagues, the field needs a “ transformation, not just in system design, but in a less glamorous area: evaluation.”

More details about this over at Technology Review.

(Image Credit: insspirito/ Pixabay)


A Tiny Llama For The Great Inca Gods

Found in the border between Peru and Bolivia in the Andes Mountains is one of the largest lakes in South America: Lake Titicaca. For the Inca and the Tiwanaku (the people that lived there before the Inca), the lake, which is home to still and reflective waters, is a sacred lake. Currently, the lake is filled with “sunken sacrifices from centuries ago.”

After years of searching, archaeologists have now retrieved the first underwater offering not yet damaged or looted by opportunists: a box of volcanic rock, submerged around 500 years ago. 
Upon opening this tightly-sealed sacrifice in front of local Indigenous leaders, the research team discovered an ancient llama, carved from the shell of a spiny mollusc called a spondylus from Ecuador, and a furled sheet of gold, thought to be part of a bracelet.
If historical accounts from the invading Spanish are right, the box may have once even held the blood of children or animals, although no human remains have been found in the lake to date.

Scientists believe that boxes such as this one are lowered on the lake as some sort of sacrifice to the gods.

More details about this one over at ScienceAlert.

(Image Credit: Teddy Seguin/Université libre de Bruxelles/ ScienceAlert)


This Piranha Plant Will Light Up Your Day

Usually found thriving inside Warp Pipes, the Piranha Plants wait for the perfect opportunity to chomp down the heroes of the Mushroom Kingdom, Mario and Luigi. But this Piranha Plant is different from all of its kind. It doesn’t bite, and it’s friendly towards people.

Paladone’s Piranha Plant lamp comes with its mouth wide open, and looks intimidating as it pokes its head out of a drain pipe. Its green stalk is poseable, so you can bend it to your whim, and aim its light where you want it. Rather than living organic matter, this Piranha Plant is made from plastic, and it’s teeth aren’t sharp enough to break skin. The plant can go anywhere too, since it runs on battery or USB power.

(Image Credit: Technabob)


Watch This Woman Swim a Lap While Balancing a Glass of Milk on Her Head

US Olympic swimmer Katie Ledecky demonstrates perfect body control as she swims the length of a pool while balancing a glass of chocolate milk on her head. Without the glass, it would look like an easy lap. It is only with this additional challenge that we can understand what she has managed to achieve through decades of effort.

-via Born in Space

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