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The lawn-mower land-speed record is under siege as a team of British automotive engineers attempts to break the 130-kilometer-per-hour barrier

1 min read

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Neighbors commonly compete over who has the greenest, most manicured lawn. But for Don Wales, the driver who intends to break the current lawn-mower land-speed record of 130 kilometers per hour (80.8 miles per hour) this month, he who cuts fastest wins. Wales’s machine, dubbed Project Runningblade, will make the high-speed dash on sand but must then prove capable of actually cutting grass. For the past three years, a team of automotive engineers has been fine-tuning the mower’s power train so it can deliver the burst of speed needed to cover the 1-mile course in less than 36 seconds. They’re also honing its aerodynamics so the mower won’t become airborne at top speed.

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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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