Atomic Pocket Watches and More: Gift Guide 2013

Gadgets and gizmos for every budget, in our annual roundup

4 min read
Atomic Pocket Watches and More: Gift Guide 2013
Photo: Hoptroff

Hoptroff

Hoptroff movementAtomic Precision: These cesium-oven-equipped movements (above) form the heart of the No. 10.Photo: Hoptroff

Modern time is maintained by atomic clocks that monitor the vibrations of cesium atoms. For most of us, we get this time secondhand, radioed from GPS satellites or relayed through digital networks. But a select few will be able to keep their own atomic time—losing only 1.5 seconds every thousand years—thanks to the Hoptroff No. 10, a pocket watch with a built-in cesium gas oven. The No. 10 is technically a marine chronometer, and with a sextant, it can be used to navigate across oceans. The London-based watchmaker Hoptroff will make only 12 of these timepieces. Customers will have to pass a security check before taking delivery next year, lest the precision timing technology be reverse engineered for things such as missile guidance. Pricing is on request but will be in the high five figures (U.S. dollars).

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From WinZips to Cat GIFs, Jacob Ziv’s Algorithms Have Powered Decades of Compression

The lossless-compression pioneer received the 2021 IEEE Medal of Honor

11 min read
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Photo of Jacob Ziv
Photo: Rami Shlush
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Lossless data compression seems a bit like a magic trick. Its cousin, lossy compression, is easier to comprehend. Lossy algorithms are used to get music into the popular MP3 format and turn a digital image into a standard JPEG file. They do this by selectively removing bits, taking what scientists know about the way we see and hear to determine which bits we'd least miss. But no one can make the case that the resulting file is a perfect replica of the original.

Not so with lossless data compression. Bits do disappear, making the data file dramatically smaller and thus easier to store and transmit. The important difference is that the bits reappear on command. It's as if the bits are rabbits in a magician's act, disappearing and then reappearing from inside a hat at the wave of a wand.

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