How to Build an Electronic Bee Counter

Turns out you can measure the capacitance of a bee

4 min read
How to Build an Electronic Bee Counter
Photo: Mike Teachman

Bees are important: they pollinate dozens of crops, including almonds, cacao, and coffee. While there has been a lot of attention paid to Western honeybees owing to colony collapse disorder, this specific disease and others like it are really measurable only once a colony collapses. And in any case, honeybees are not the only important bee pollinators. What we need is the ability to measure and monitor bee activity as it happens.

Historically, such monitoring was the purview of undergraduates armed with clipboards. More recently, optical sensors have allowed for the automatic detection of bees entering and exiting the hive. But placing optical sensors in a habitat of pollen, mud, and other hive debris drastically degrades their effectiveness. What if there was a better way?

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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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