An anonymous reader writes "To distinguish images derived from living vs. non-living sources, USC and NASA JPL researchers report today using the standard gzip compression utility. As a measure of overall pattern complexity, they find that the inherent pixel content of biologically generated fossils produces higher image compression ratios [more data redundancy], compared to their non-biological counterparts. The more the file shrinks, the more likely it is that a living process was involved. A test is live online here. This extends the simple, but powerful, uses of gzip to biogenic fossil detectors, in addition to spam cop filters, DNA sequence comparisons, digital camera image crunchers, etc. In nine months, the two Mars rovers will send back the first microscopic-scale images of Mars rocks, which should be amenable to some of these same techniques: thus gzipping is apparently pretty zippy."
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