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Data Compression and Crowded Pigeons

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The Infamous WinZip

Have you ever used a data compression program?  WinZip, WinRAR, bzip2 and gzip are all common data compression software.  If you have ever emailed large pictures, sent or received text files or pdfs, you may have run across these pieces of software.  In general, they take a set of input files, and output a compressed file, which when uncompressed, produce the original files again.  The quite amazing thing that these software applications do is to produce a compressed file whose size is less than the sum of the sizes of the input files.  This is great!  But have you wondered, what would happen if you tried to compress a compressed file?  Would it get smaller?  Could you not, therefore, repeatedly compress the same file over and over till it became insignificantly small?  What is to stop this?  Another question you may ask is, given a compressor, can you compress all files to yield a smaller file?  Why do some files compress more than others?

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