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Television Entertainment

How Stanford Engineers Created a Fictitious Compression For HBO 90

Tekla Perry (3034735) writes Professor Tsachy Weissman and Ph.D student Vinith Misra came up with (almost) believable compression algorithms for HBO's Silicon Valley. Some constraints -- they had to seem plausible, look good when illustrated on a whiteboard, and work with the punchline, "middle out." Next season the engineers may encourage producers to tackle the challenge of local decodability.
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How Stanford Engineers Created a Fictitious Compression For HBO

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  • Meh (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ShakaUVM ( 157947 ) on Saturday July 26, 2014 @04:08AM (#47537333) Homepage Journal

    Anyone who knows anything about compression knows that universal lossless compression is impossible to always do, because if such an algorithm existed, you could run it repeatedly on a data source until you were down to a single bit. And uncompresing a single bit that could be literally anything is problematic.

    I sort of wish they'd picked some other sort of woo.

  • Re:Meh (Score:5, Insightful)

    by pla ( 258480 ) on Saturday July 26, 2014 @09:23AM (#47537917) Journal
    Or if you're into math, you invoke the pigeonhole principle

    Though technically true, in fairness we need to differentiate between meaningful data and noise. Yes, a universal compressor doesn't care. Human users of compression algorithms, for the most part, do care.

    So the limit of useful compression (Shannon aside) comes down to how well we can model the data. As a simple example, I can give you two 64 bit floats as parameters to a quadratic iterator, and you can fill your latest 6TB HDD with conventionally "incompressible" data as the output. If, however, you know the right model, you can recreate that data with a mere 16 bytes of input. Now extend that to more complex functions - Our entire understanding of "random" means nothing more than "more complex than we know how to model". As another example, the delay between decays in a sample of radioactive material - We currently consider that "random", but someday may discover that god doesn't play dice with the universe, and an entirely deterministic process underlies every blip on the ol' Geiger counter.

    So while I agree with you technically, for the purposes of a TV show? Lighten up. :)
  • Re:The cast (Score:0, Insightful)

    by JockTroll ( 996521 ) on Saturday July 26, 2014 @10:45AM (#47538287)
    Of course it's not believable. Geeks and nerds are usually portrayed by talented, good-looking actors who play their characters as slightly eccentric enthusiasts who happen to be socially awkward in an endearing way. Nobody pays money or wastes time to see ugly, repulsive abhumans behaving in socially unacceptable ways, stalking women, being rude and obnoxious and talking about crap nobody cares about. Perhaps the most accurate portrayal of a nerd in movies was Scott Weidemeyer from "Zero Charisma", and even there it was radically toned down. Face it, the only way to portray that subculture in media is to simply NOT portraying it at all and showing a falsified and viewer-friendly version. Your typical nerd is not the cast from "The Big Bang Theory". Your typical nerd is Elliot Rodger: a lifelong loser obsessed with niche interests and hollow pursuits, good at nothing, with at most average intelligence and yet cultivating delusions of superiority and seething with rage towards the Real, Beautiful People. Nerds are shunned and derided for good reasons.

God help those who do not help themselves. -- Wilson Mizner