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Build an Electronic Vulture Egg

An artificial egg packed with sensors could help save endangered birds

4 min read
Build an Electronic Vulture Egg
Extinction Event: Vital to ecosystems and once the most common birds of prey in the world, vultures are becoming increasingly rare.
Photo: David Alayeto/Getty Images

Vultures are nature’s garbage collectors, helping the environment by consuming dead animal carcasses. In this way, they are essential in stopping the spread of diseases such as rabies (which vultures are immune to). However, recent years have seen the number of vultures decline, particularly in South Asia, where some species are close to becoming extinct due to the toxic effects of a drug used to treat cattle. To protect vulture populations, one of the things we need to know more about is their breeding behavior.

A year ago we at Microduino were approached by the International Centre for Birds of Prey (ICBP) as part of a project to achieve this end. The ICBP needed to create an electronic egg to monitor vulture nests. The conservationists there wanted the egg to include a host of sensors that could measure both its internal temperature and the temperature gradient across its surface, as well as barometric pressure, humidity, carbon dioxide levels, light intensity, and the egg’s rotation and movement. The data would then be transmitted to a relay node and uploaded to the cloud.

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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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