The Future's So Bright

A flashlight made from high-output LEDs is not for the fainthearted

2 min read

Anyone who thinks that LED illumination is for wimps should look at—not into—one of Wayne Johnson’s new flashlights. With 4 four-chip LED modules, it puts out roughly the same light as a 200-watt incandescent bulb. Parabolic reflectors point most of that light into a beam that can illuminate the landscape dozens of meters away.

Johnson, a former computer programmer, reports that he first got into custom flashlights because he liked to take nighttime walks. But confrontations with furiously barking dogs he couldn’t even see or skunks he could make out only when well within spraying range made his evening ambles more chancy than he liked. Incandescent flashlights had too little battery life, and LED units cast a negligible beam. When the first 1-watt LED modules appeared, he was hooked. For more than five years he’s supported himself with Elektro Lumens, a company that makes both high-output LED conversion kits for conventional flashlights and whole custom-built models for the deep pocketed.

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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
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Photo of Jacob Ziv
Photo: Rami Shlush
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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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