The December 2022 issue of IEEE Spectrum is here!

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Photographer David Stuart was on assignment for IEEE Spectrum in an atmospheric cemetery in Atlanta when he noticed an odd, bright apparition in the LCD panel of his digital SLR. ”I got really excited for a second,” he says, ”but then I realized it was just a sun flare.” So it was left to photo retoucher Scott Dorman of Smalldog Imageworks and illustrator Bryan Christie to get ghosts into the shot.

The three collaborated on the largest effort ever undertaken at Spectrum to bring an artistic concept to life, and you can see the results on the opening page of ”Is It Live or Is It AR?” in this issue. (The three also worked on this month’s cover image, showing a T. Rex head.) Senior Art Director Mark Montgomery came up with the idea and deployed the all-star team of past contributors to capture the emerging technology of augmented reality. ”Many of the practical uses of augmented reality are for museums,” says Montgomery. ”So we wanted to show a person using AR as a virtual museum guide.”

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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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