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Cartesian Freakonomics

Today is the 410th birthday of noted French philosopher and mathematician Rene "I think therefore I am" Descartes. Known as the father of both mathematics and philosophy (he also fathered a daughter, Francine, out of wedlock), Descartes' work and life are plenty fascinating. But we bring up his birthday only because it is our best opportunity in weeks to share our favorite fact in the entire history of facts, which we learned from Britannica via floss contributor A. J. Jacobs:

Rene Descartes had a fetish for cross-eyed women, a fetish that turned out to shape his beliefs about free will and presage Freudian psychology. After spending his early adulthood ceaselessly attracted to women with strombosis (as crossed eyes are now known), Descartes determined that his fetish went back to his childhood, when he'd had a cute and cross-eyed female playmate. By recognizing the root of his fascination, he was able to rid himself of it with his free will.

That's all fine and good for Descartes, but in retrospect, maybe he should have kept his fetish. When you look like a very surprised Inigo Montoya, after all, you can't really afford to be picky. Seriously:

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Food
Hate Red M&M's? You Need a Candy Color-Sorting Machine
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iStock

You don’t have to be a demanding rock star to live a life without brown M&M's or purple Skittles—all you need is some engineering know-how and a little bit of free time.

Mechanical engineering student Willem Pennings created a machine that can take small pieces of candy—like M&M's, Skittles, Reese’s Pieces, etc.—and sort them by color into individual piles. All Pennings needs to do is pour the candy into the top funnel; from there, the machine separates the candy—around two pieces per second—and dispenses all of it into smaller bowls at the bottom designated for each variety.

The color identification is performed with an RGB sensor that takes “optical measurements” of candy pieces of equal dimensions. There are limitations, though, as Pennings revealed in a Reddit Q&A: “I wouldn't be able to use this machine for peanut M&M's, since the sizes vary so much.”

The entire building process lasted from May through December 2016, and included the actual conceptualization, 3D printing (which was outsourced), and construction. The entire project was detailed on Pennings’s website and Reddit's DIY page.

With all of the motors, circuitry, and hardware that went into it, Pennings’s machine is likely too ambitious of a task for the average candy aficionado. So until a machine like this hits the open market, you're probably stuck buying bags of single-colored M&M’s in bulk online or sorting all of the candy out yourself the old fashioned way.

To see Pennings’s machine in action, check out the video below:

[h/t Refinery 29]

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