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Russian Renaissance Man

How we got the story on the Russians proposed space shuttle

2 min read

The creative people who generate countless magazine pages every month can be grouped into three basic categories: writers, photographers, and illustrators. With these people often working side by side, you might think there would be some crossover: writers who can shoot terrific photographs, say, or photographers who can produce computer-generated illustrations.

In fact, such people are rare. The voluminous and increasingly technical knowledge required of a professional photographer or illustrator is not something a weekend enthusiast can pick up on the fly. Nor are the word craft, news sense, and myriad other bits in the journalist's tool kit something that the average person can acquire on short notice.

Thus the achievements of IEEE Spectrum contributor Anatoly Zak are worth celebrating. A respected writer on aerospace and aviation issues, Zak is also a skilled illustrator whose work has appeared in such outlets as Air & Space Smithsonian ,,, and, yes, Spectrum.

A former reporter at the Moscow newspaper Nezazisimya Gazeta , Zak turned to photography and graphical illustration later, as a college student at Syracuse University in New York, to which he transferred from Moscow University in 1993. A couple of years ago, he pulled off a first in Spectrum's history: he illustrated part of his own story, "Rockets 'R' Us," in the February 2002 issue.

He repeats that feat in this issue [see his self-illustrated news story, "Russians Propose a New Space Shuttle"]. Today, from his home in suburban New Jersey, he does freelance illustration and writing, and maintains a Web site that is devoted to Russian aerospace news at

We're pleased to count Zak among the creative people who help us generate our pages each month�in more ways than one.

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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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