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Jackie Martling has made a career out of telling jokes, most of them off-color, notably on ”The Howard Stern Show” and now on ”Jackie’s Joke Hunt,” on Sirius Satellite Radio 101. But he’s a closet geek, with a mechanical engineering degree from Michigan State University, and he’s learned the hard way that engineers make the toughest audience. His worst show ever was at a technical college in Philadelphia in 1981, where he’d wowed the crowd the year before. This time, though, people complained that he told the same jokes both years. ”Of course I did,” he remembers. ”I still tell a lot of the same jokes every night. But no one remembers them. Except those engineers that night at the tech college.” For a sampling of his humor, go to

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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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