Microsoft Scourge Mario Monti and Volunteer Mediators Break Through Europe's Transmission Bottlenecks

Can volunteers succeed where the European Commission has failed?

4 min read

22 December 2008—Could a set of energetic volunteers deputized by the European Commission (EC) break through Europe’s most stubborn power-grid bottlenecks? A quick start this year by one of these high-profile interconnection coordinators for priority energy projects suggests they might. In just six months, Mario Monti, best known for challenging Microsoft as Europe’s competition czar in the 1990s, negotiated a new transmission line between Spain and France that had been stalled for 15 years.

But some observers—including one of Monti’s fellow EC grid mediators—say the volunteers’ role is at best just a transition toward more robust European institutions with the expertise and the mandate to coordinate transmission planning.

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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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