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Take a Whirlybird Out for a Holiday Whirl

Remote-control helicopters don't have to break the bank

5 min read
Take a Whirlybird Out for a Holiday Whirl

When I first began flying radio-controlled model aircraft as a teenager, helicopters were reserved for an elite class of modelers—those with lots of time, money, and skill. Decades later, remote-controlled helicopters remain a challenge to fly, but nowadays at least, you can test your skills with one without spending more than it costs to take the family out for a decent meal.

Warning: A good fraction of remote-control helicopters crash and break the first time their new owners try to fly them, which could be especially discouraging for a young person. But there are ways to avoid that fate. One is to purchase a helicopter with two rotors that spin around the same axis. These coaxial models tend to have the most docile handling characteristics.

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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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