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The Watchman

As commander of Cheyenne Mountain Operations Center, Duane Deal guards the skies

5 min read

When somebody thinks the worst thing about his job is that he can't spend more time doing it, it's time to recalibrate the "job satisfaction" scale.

But that's the attitude of Duane Deal, a brigadier general in the U.S. Air Force and commander of the famous Cheyenne Mountain Operations Center. Buried under 600 meters of solid granite just outside Colorado Springs, Colo., Cheyenne is the headquarters of the North American Air Defense Command (NORAD). Deal leads North America's first line of defense against threats that range from long-range missiles and hijacked airliners to rogue asteroids and falling space debris. An aerospace engineer by training and an avid pilot, he's taken part in more than a dozen investigations of rocket and aviation accidents, including the inquiry into the Columbia space shuttle disaster two years ago.

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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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