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Weight Loss Surgery as Systems Engineering

Plastic surgeon Gary Horndeski's new surgical techniques decrease appetite

2 min read

Gary Horndeski was early into his plastic surgery practice in the 1990s when he noticed that his tummy tuck patients continued to lose excess fat and maintain their new weights without trying. He says he might have shrugged it off as a coincidence if it weren't for his engineering background. Instead, he speculated that a person's satiety could be controlled by additional intra-abdominal pressure.

Horndeski—an aspiring electrical engineer before detouring into medicine in 1972 to avoid the Vietnam War draft—had studied mechanics at Case Western Reserve University, in Cleveland, which was one of the first universities in the country with a biomedical engineering department. "I'm the product of that marriage," he says.

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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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