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Profile: Joe DiPrima’s Musical Lightning Bolts

A self-taught engineer builds Tesla coils for fun and profit

3 min read
Photo showing that ArcAttack makes its own Tesla coils to produce giant sparks for live performances—and a wearable Faraday cage to perform in.
Going to Eleven: ArcAttack makes its own Tesla coils to produce giant sparks for live performances—and a wearable Faraday cage to perform in.
Photo: ArcAttack

If you’ve ever wanted to play guitar while giant bolts of lightning ground themselves around you—andtoyou—then Joe DiPrima can hook you up. DiPrima is the cofounder of ArcAttack, a small Austin, Texas–based performance and design group that specializes in the fun things you can do with high-voltage Tesla coils.

“We do a lot of random things,” says DiPrima, with a chuckle, “Every year we go on a fall and spring tour, usually. We’ll go into theaters and schools and do an hour-long science show, and then we do lot of public shows in conjunction with those.”

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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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