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Frank Oppenheimer, the Man Who Made Science Fun

The brother of Robert Oppenheimer marched to the beat of his own drummer

2 min read

Something Incredibly Wonderful Happens: Frank Oppenheimer and the World He Made Up
By K.C. Cole; Foreword by Murray Gell-Mann; Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2009; 396 pp.; US $27.00; ISBN: 978-0-15-100822-3

Sometimes a biographer can love her subject too much. In the case of a new biography of physicist Frank Oppenheimer, by the respected science writer K.C. Cole, it turns out to be mostly a good thing for all concerned. Something Incredibly Wonderful Happens tells the story, from the perspective of a longtime confidante, of the younger brother of the man who led the American effort to create the atomic bomb.

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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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