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The formula that helped the nerds in HBO's 'Silicon Valley' get rich is being used in the real world

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Life imitates art imitating life as the 'Weissman score' comes to actual scientific research

Promotional image from HBO's 'Silicon Valley'
Promotional image from HBO's 'Silicon Valley'

HBO's satirical show Silicon Valley begins with a programmer who accidentally develops a radically efficient new algorithm for compressing data. We know the algorithm is great because we are told it achieved a "Weissman score" of 2.89, the highest yet recorded. The thing is, the Weissman score didn't exist until Silicon Valley's production team willed it into being. While the show was being developed, actual Stanford professor Tsachy Weissman and then-PhD student Vinith Misra were hired as consultants and charged with creating both the fictional algorithm itself and the metric for ranking it against other algorithms. While the algorithm itself isn't possible with today's technology, the Weissman score could work as a legitimate ranking system in real life, and now other researchers are planning to use it as such, as IEEE Spectrum reports.

One researcher at North Carolina State University plans to update his recently published research paper with Weissman scores, while two other professors teaching at Stanford and the University of Santa Barbara, California, plan to incorporate it into their classes, according to IEEE Spectrum. Weissman himself told the geek publication that he's "tempted" to use the algorithm for his own research projects, but is presently holding back out of a desire to avoid appearing too hubristic. It's exactly that type of attitude that simply wouldn't fly in the fictional startup world of Silicon Valley. Read more about the specifics of how the algorithm works and how it came into being at IEEE Spectrum.