iCandy: December 2009

Spectrum's monthly slideshow proves that a picture is worth a thousand bytes

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Photo: Chris Ison/PA/AP Images
Neighbors commonly compete over who has the greener lawn. But for Don Wales, who intends to break the current lawnmower land speed record of 130 kilometers per hour (80.7 miles per hour) in February, 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.
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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

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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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