iCandy: Lights, Camera, Action

Lighting: from the personal to the municipal

1 min read

Photo: Solent News/Rex Features/AP Photo
People of a certain age can’t help but be reminded of the scene in the 1977 James Bond film The Spy Who Loved Me when the hero drives his sports car off of a pier and the car turns into a submarine. This concept vehicle, the Volkswagen Aqua, is meant to stay above water. The hovercraft reaches 100 kilometers per hour over land, water, and ice.

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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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