The Physicist of "Star Trek"

Our Science of Hollywood columnist talks to Lawrence M. Krauss, the scientist who paid the ultimate compliment to a science-fiction series--he took its science seriously

4 min read

It’s good to be a geek these days in Hollywood. Not since the golden age of the 1950s has quality science fiction been so prevalent. Television shows like ”Lost” and ”Battlestar Galactica are winning critics and fans. Brainy flicks like Serenity , the film based on the cult TV show ”Firefly,” and the epic The Fountain are hitting theaters.

But the biggest news this fall is the mashup of old and new Hollywood science. J.J. Abrams—the star writer/producer behind ”Alias and”Lost”—is now working on the return of the ultimate sci-fi franchise, ”Star Trek.” And as production rolls for Star TrekXI , also set to return is the series’ most unlikely star: Lawrence M. Krauss.

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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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