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Bowled Over by Toilet Technology

Super smart seats and community-conscious commodes aimed at huddled masses yearning to breathe free

1 min read
Bowled Over by Toilet Technology
Photo-Illustration: Eawag/EOOS

Photo: Ben Martin
For communities lacking any sewage infrastructure, researchers at Cranfield University, in England, came up with the Nano Membrane toilet. When the user turns a hand crank, a mechanical screw dumps both the liquid and solid waste onto a special nanomaterial that hastens evaporation. This dramatically reduces the amount of disease-causing pathogens and odor-causing volatile compounds. The water vapor, now free of salt and other elements in urine, is subsequently recaptured with the help of another nanomaterial. It then drains into a collection vessel for use in irrigation or as nonpotable water for household functions.

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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
Photo of Jacob Ziv
Photo: Rami Shlush

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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