iCandy: As Seen in the Movies

A bendable display, a rocket-powered bicycle, and a gun that fires only for its owner

1 min read
iCandy: As Seen in the Movies
Photo: Fabrizio Bensch/Reuters

Photo: Paulo Whitaker/Reuters
When this turbine inside the Furnas hydroelectric dam in São José da Barra, Brazil, was taken out of service in January, it wasn’t missed. A severe drought in the region has left water levels there so low that the hydroelectric power plant has been operating at 15 percent of its capacity. Despite the dearth of water, Brazil’s energy crunch is not as bad as it could have been, because dozens of new thermoelectric facilities carry some of the load.

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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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