This year the Heinz Maier-Leibnitz Prize goes to Prof. Antonia Wachter-Zeh. Her algorithms prevent and correct errors that may arise during data transmission.
Communication is more than just speaking and listening – interruptions are as much part and parcel of the process. This applies to nearly every form of data transmission, whether saving data to Flash drives or making a phone call through digital mobile networks. How to minimize or correct errors is therefore something that hasn’t occupied the time of couples therapists alone, but also that of engineers and mathematicians.
In the process, the not-so-effective initial idea of sending the same data multiple times was discarded in the 1960s from mathematical processes such as the Reed-Solomon error correction code – which to this day still holds great technical significance. Mathematical solutions enjoy a rather long “half-life” – something which this year’s winner of the Maier-Leibnitz Prize and Professor of Coding for Communications and Data Storage, Antonia Wachter-Zeh, is surely benefiting from. Her research on new algorithms for error-correction codes and their uses for the transmission and storage of data, after all, brings together the fields of mathematics, engineering and computer sciences.
Antonia Wachter-Zeh’s algorithms ensure that information is protected from unauthorized access through encryption while being correctly stored. This allows information to be saved not only onto traditional media, but also through experimental methods such as saving data to DNA, where the organic molecules of the double helix function as a data repository. On just one gram of DNA material, there is enough space for 200,000 terabytes. The idea isn’t new, but its execution still faces a number of hurdles.