The Godmother of the Digital Image

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Lovely profile of Ingrid Daubechies, self-proclaimed “oddball mathematician,” from The New York Times.

In the summer of 2010, while preparing for a long research trip to Madagascar, the mathematician Ingrid Daubechies bought a 50-inch flat-screen TV for her husband, so he could invite friends over to watch Premier League soccer games. After setting it up, the couple turned on a match, and while Daubechies’ husband, the mathematician and electrical engineer Robert Calderbank, became transfixed by the action, she got distracted. “Oh, wow!” she said. “They use wavelets!”

Wavelets are versatile mathematical tools that can be thought of as a zoom lens, making it possible to spotlight the information that matters most in an image. The telltale signs of wavelets that Daubechies spotted were on the field, pixelating at larger scales, producing a fuzzy patchwork of green. “Look here,” she exclaimed. “You can see artifacts in the grass.”

Read more.


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