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Every possible photograph that could ever exist

Posted by Kevin Hartnett  February 27, 2013 02:18 PM

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Standard resolution for a digital camera these days is about eight megapixels. And each one of those eight million pixels has the potential to be thousands or even millions of different colors. You can probably see where this is going: By raising the number of available colors to the eight-millionth power, you can come up with the total number of different photographs that could possibly ever exist.

Which is just what artist Jeff Thompson of Lincoln, Nebraska is trying to do. He has created an installation titled "Every Possible Photograph" that, well, is on pace to display every possible photograph that could be taken. To do that, he's connected custom-designed software to a wall of monitors depicting exclusively grayscale colors that cycles through pixel-combinations at a rate of 200 to 300 images per second. That may sound speedy, but as Thompson explained to Fast Company Design, "Even this [grayscale] version will take approximately 46,138,562,195, 008,110,600,774,753,760, 087,749,172,181,189,607,929, 628,058,548,517, 099,604,563,033,706,075 years to complete," he explains. "By way of comparison, the universe is 13,770,000,000 years old."

Every Possible Photo.png

Image courtesy of Jeff Thompson.

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About brainiac Brainiac is the daily blog of the Globe's Sunday Ideas section, covering news and delights from the worlds of art, science, literature, history, design, and more. You can follow us on Twitter @GlobeIdeas.
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Joshua Rothman is a graduate student and Teaching Fellow in the Harvard English department, and an Instructor in Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. He teaches novels and political writing.

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