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Sci-Tech: The Movie

Fifteen films that try to cross-pollinate art and science

3 min read

If you're anything like me, you'll have found yourself--all too often--either getting annoyed or sadly shaking your head in disbelief at television shows and movies that try to include science or technology in the mix.

The reason for dismay? Science and technology are typically dealt with in a very superficial way by Hollywood, dropped into scripts as window dressing or convenient grease to move along a humdrum plot. Accurate depictions of technology are rare, and saying something meaningful about science or engineering is even rarer. This is a shame, because technology and science are powerful forces in today's global culture, and they have fundamentally changed our relationship with the world around us--and will continue to drive change long into the future. An informed artist's perspective could help us better understand where we all stand as human beings in this shifting relationship.

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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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