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How to Build a Better Barbecue Pit

Engineers use technology to demystify the black art of barbecue

3 min read
How to Build a Better Barbecue Pit

About six years ago, Bill Karau, an engineer who has worked for the U.S. Navy and Motorola, decided to build his own barbecue pit. What started as an annual barbecue tour with friends had quickly turned into a full-fledged hobby. ”I’ve probably had the opportunity to eat at somewhere between 120 and 130 barbecue joints over the last decade,” says the Texas native, ”and one of the things we always did on these trips, in addition to sampling the meat and talking about it, is we always go visit the pit boss and look at the pit. And me being the engineering geek in the crowd, I always wanted to try to understand the science behind what appears to be a black art.”

Before long, Karau was tinkering in his backyard, trying to design a barbecue apparatus that would take the guesswork out of slow-cooking meat. Now, after several years of trial and error, he has a patent pending for his Karubecue and has begun selling units throughout the United States and Canada.

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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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