Neural network-named tomatoes you won’t find at the farmer’s market


As gardeners know, a tomato is not just a tomato. They come in all shapes, sizes, and especially colors, from tiny red gems to big and purplish brown to pear-shaped with zebra stripes. And their tastes and textures vary wildly as well, with some sweet and soft, some tough-skinned and tart, and some dense and destined for processing.

These varieties all have names, of course, and good names are at a premium. Darren Abbey, who runs the blog The Biologist Is In, breeds new tomatoes and needs to name them from time to time. He gave me a list of 11,629 existing names, ranging from the highly experimental (Rts-119) to the classic (Sungold).

I used these names to train a recurrent neural network, which is a kind of algorithm that learns patterns that let it imitate the data it sees. Could it learn to produce plausible tomato names?

Yes, as it turns out! On Darren’s blog post you can read his expert opinion, but the verdict is: these are totally usable names.

Speckeled Boy, Sweet Lightning and Golden Pow

Sweet Lightning
Speckled Boy
Pinkery Plum
Market Days
Fancy Bell
Mountain Gem
Garden Sunrise
Honey Basket
Cold Brandy
Sun Heart
Special Baby
Golden Pow

However, not ALL the names were plausible. These are a lot weirder.

Smol Pineapple, Bumbertime and The Ball

Bear Plum
The Bango
Sun Burger
First No.4
Smoll Pineapple
The Ball
Golden Cherry Striped Rock
Old German Baby
Frankster Black
Ranny Blue Ribber
Adoly Pepp Of The Wonder
Cherry, End Students
Small Of The Elf
Champ German Ponder
Pearly Pemper
Green Zebra Pleaser
Flute First

These *seem* weird, but they aren’t actually all that weird for tomato names. There are at least 50 oxheart tomatoes in the original dataset.

Matt’s Sandwich
Indigo Tree
Sun Burger
Striped Hollow Potato Leaf
Lelly’s Yellow Stuffers
Terra Pink Strain
Greek Boar
Ton’s Oxheart
Babla’s German Paste
Mortgage Lifter, Honey Blues

These however? These tomatoes don’t sound promising.

Speckled Garfech, True Grub and Panterosa

Speckled Garfech
Green Dork
Cluster Gall
Shirve’s Gigant Bullburk
True Grub
Black Crape
Roma Wasting Star
Scar Giant
Bug Beauty
Banana Placente
Speckled Bake
Green Boor
Wonder Bagg
Sun Bung
Bolosavyi Scarling West Colon
San Blue Tard
Red Krap
Shart Delight
Solad Piss

For more in-depth analysis of these names, check out Darren’s blog.

I also trained a neural net on fruit names earlier – read the results here.

And this post’s bonus content is well worth checking out, because not only does it contain many more tomato names, but I also tried an experiment where I trained a neural net first on tomato names, and then on the names of metal bands. The results were glorious, including such wonders as

Angels of Saucing
Serpent Green
Market Death
Sweet Sever
Devil Potato Large Death

Fill out the form here and I’ll email you more ill-advised tomato names.

You know the stories about how McDonald’s burgers don’t rot, and therefore must not…

The Burger Lab: Revisiting the Myth of the 12-Year-Old McDonald’s Burger That Just Won’t Rot (Testing Results!)

You know the stories about how McDonald’s burgers don’t rot, and therefore must not really be food? Someone did an actual controlled experiment on this to figure out why, and it turns out that it only works with the smallest, thinnest burgers, because they dry out before they start to decay. It’s burger jerky. Try it with a thicker McDonald’s burger, or put it in a plastic bag, and it’ll decay just like “real” food. Homemade burgers behave the same way.

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Going to the ER at Comic-Con: Not the Peanuts I was Expecting

Wristband vs. Heart MonitorI’ve been attending San Diego Comic-Con for more than 20 years, but this was the first time I left the con in an ambulance.

I’m OK now. Though I might not be when I see the bill.

It started at lunchtime. We went to New Break, an independent coffee shop near Ralphs, which we’d been to before. They were offering samples of a blended peanut butter banana coffee drink, and while I really wanted to try their blended mint mocha, it was safer to skip something made on the same equipment.

What I decided on was a Mexican Mocha. Generally, these add cinnamon, maybe nutmeg or chili powder. I’ve had drinks with that and similar names, and Mexican hot chocolate, plenty of times. I didn’t ask what was in it, but I had just told them I was allergic to peanuts when I decided to skip the blended drink.

I considered getting it iced, but there was some confusion as to what was included in the lunch deal, so I got it hot instead. That turned out to be a wise decision, since I probably would have started out chugging a few ounces of a cold drink.

Two sips in, the back of my throat and my lips started tingling — a bad sign. I stopped, flagged over one of the baristas, and asked whether there were any nuts in the drink. She didn’t think so, but said she’d check.

I pulled out my emergency kit, took my Benadryl and Pepcid, and set my Epi-Pen on the table in case it progressed. I probably should have just taken it right then, but who wants to spend the afternoon in the emergency room instead of Comic-Con?

Meanwhile, the coffee shop staff had been unable to find ingredients for the mix, and had to call the owner to confirm that yes, there were peanuts in it.


Over the next hour, it felt like the reaction was under control, so I figured we could return to the convention center. Unfortunately, anaphylaxis can take several hours to run its course, and medication can wear off before it does.

The Walk

It started out fine. We walked past the outdoor Axe Cop display. I took a photo of the Despicable Me Minion blimp. We crossed the tracks, pushed through the crowds, and made our way inside to the nearest elevator.

But somewhere along the line my stomach started cramping up, and I started feeling light-headed. As we crossed Sails Pavilion, I started really hoping we’d make it across before I passed out so that I could fall on carpet instead of concrete.

Outside Ballroom 20 we stopped and asked one of the staff if there was a place I could lie down because I wasn’t feeling well. A lot of that hallway is set aside for lines, or has sitting/standing banned for fire reasons. She directed me to the stroller parking enclosure. Katie took J off to the day care (conveniently, we’d already scheduled it for the afternoon) while I tried — and failed — to relax.

View from the Floor


At this point the timeline gets a little fuzzy. I remember staring up at the glass roof, watching the minion blimp float overhead. I remember my hands and feet going numb, and asking Katie to jab me with the Epi-Pen because I wasn’t sure I had the grip strength. I remember my ears going numb at one point, which really scared me, and shortly after the shot, my ribs.

I don’t recall being afraid I’d stop breathing per se. I was afraid I’d pass out, and I was afraid something would get worse while I was unconscious.

The first responder asked me all the diagnostic questions, like “What’s your name,” “Do you know what day it is,” “Do you know where you are?” “Yeah, outside Ballroom 20!”

I remember convention staff, onsite first aid, and paramedics. I remember giving my name and symptoms repeatedly, trying to correct the overall timeline in a couple of cases. I distinctly remember one of the paramedics looking like Terry O’Quinn (Locke from Lost). They gave me oxygen and a tube with asthma medication to breathe through.

Once they’d determined I was stable enough, one of the paramedics asked about an anxiety case that had also been reported, and got the response “Right over there.”

It turned out at least some of the numbness wasn’t from the blood pressure spikes & troughs of anaphylaxis, but from hyperventilating. Now I wonder if, had I managed to control my breathing early on, I might have been able to just spend a few hours at the onsite first aid station instead.

Eventually they helped me into a wheelchair and wheeled me out through the service corridors that only staff and celebrities normally see. Katie remarked that one of the actors she’d seen had talked about the big freight elevator they took us down. Then we were out in the back of the convention center, where they loaded me onto an ambulance and took me to the hospital.


The last time I went to the ER for an allergic reaction, they interviewed me and sent me back to the waiting room. But that time, I walked in under my own power after a co-worker drove me there. This time, I was carried in on a stretcher from an ambulance.

I ended up spending the next few hours under observation, hooked up to various monitors, repeating the story to each new category of staff, tech, nurse, and doctor. The ambulance drivers offered Katie a ride back to the convention center so she could pick up J, though after a while we decided that it would be simpler if they stayed at the con and I met them there.

I was allowed to use my phone and tablet, so I did a round of “I’m OK” texting and figured out plans with Katie, then got some reading in. (Mira Grant’s new Newsflesh novella, which is a better choice for hospital reading than, say, Blackout.)

For a while, I hoped I could make it back while the convention floor was still open, especially when the doctor declared at 4:30 that it looked like they’d only need to keep me for another hour. Unfortunately I didn’t walk out until 6:20, and by the time I’d called a cab, waited for it, and taken the ride back to the convention center, it was just after 7:00, the floor was closed, and people were streaming into the Gaslamp District for dinner.

I seriously thought about going to see the Flashpoint Paradox premiere. Not because I desperately wanted to see the movie a week early, but because they were going to have a discussion afterward, and because damn it, I’d missed the entire afternoon of the con (including the pickup time for the DC exclusive for which I’d gotten one of the last wristbands that morning). But 15 minutes usually isn’t early enough to get into line for a Ballroom 20 presentation, I was exhausted from the allergic reaction and medication, I hadn’t seen J since before going to the hospital or Katie since shortly after check-in, and I basically hadn’t eaten anything since breakfast.

We ended up going out for a simple dinner and heading back to the hotel, where I went to bed early and got the best night of sleep of the whole trip.

If you’d like to help prevent situations like this from happening, please consider supporting Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE). We’re participating in this year’s Walk for Food Allergy, and you can donate to the organization through our sponsorship page. Thank you!

The post Going to the ER at Comic-Con: Not the Peanuts I was Expecting appeared first on K-Squared Ramblings.

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