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iCandy: August 2010

IEEE Spectrum's monthly slideshow proves that an image is worth a thousand bytes

1 min read
iCandy: August 2010

Photo: Regis Duvignau/Reuters
This 10-meter-diameter ultrarugged aluminum sphere, the centerpiece of France’s Laser Mégajoule project, is just a fancy container. Inside it is the tiny deuterium-tritium target at which 240 high-powered lasers will fire beams to trigger a moment of nuclear fusion. Studying the result might eliminate the need for nuclear weapons testing.

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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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