This Is Your Brain on fMRI

The science of mind reading is further along than you might think

3 min read
This Is Your Brain on fMRI

images reconstructed

Images: Shinji Nishimoto
BRAIN RECONSTRUCTION: Segments of Hollywood movie trailers [top row] are shown to subjects while their brain activity is measured using fMRI. Then the images are reconstructed [bottom row] from the brain activity itself. Click on the image to enlarge.

At the end of last year, IBM predicted that by 2017 limited forms of mind reading would “no longer [be] science fiction.” Along similar lines, though, in 1933 Nikola Tesla said he would soon be able to photograph people’s thoughts.

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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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