I found this idea fascinating.
I was thinking recently, one day we might run out of new images. Let’s take the current standard for high quality images, 1080p hi def video. It’s surprising to realize that that frame contains a finite number of possible images. I thought it would be interesting to figure out just how many, so I wrote a little Python expression to do the math. The total number of pixels is 1920 horizontally x 1080 vertically = 2,073,600 pixels. There are 256 possible intensities of red, green and blue for each pixel, so that’s 2563 = 16,777,216 possible colors. To figure out how many possible images there are, we need to raise the second number to the power of the first, so 16,777,2162,073,600 = 1.5 * 1014,981,180 possible images. That’s a pretty big number – it’s almost fifteen million digits long. Printing it in 10 point Monaco would take over 2,700 pages of paper. Scientists estimate that there are 1080 atoms in the observable universe – a tiny number in comparison.
However big it may be, the fact that the number is finite is a surprising thing to realize. It means that every possible image has a unique ID number.
Given enough time this machine will display every possible picture within this array of 64 x 64 black & white pixels.
What makes this interesting is that among those pictures will be those of all your ancestors and descendents, the first words of every book that will ever be written. The true digital face of God.
It brought to mind Arthur C. Clarke’s brilliant short story The Nine Billion Names of God.
“This is a project on which we have been working for the last three centuries — since the lamasery was founded, in fact. It is somewhat alien to your way of thought, so I hope you will listen with an open mind while I explain it.”
“It is really quite simple. We have been compiling a list which shall contain all the possible names of God.”
“I beg your pardon?”
“We have reason to believe,” continued the lama imperturbably, “that all such names can be written with not more than nine letters in an alphabet we have devised.”
“And you have been doing this for three centuries?”
“Yes. We expected it would take us about fifteen thousand years to complete the task.”
It’s all in there, every possible image. There’s an image of me sitting in front of my computer just as I am right now. And there’s an image of my Great, Great, . . ., Great Grandfather hefting up the megaliths at Stone Henge. And there’s an image of my Great, Great, . . ., Great Grandson basking on the beach under the alien sun of Fhloston Paradise. Even if it didn’t, or doesn’t, happen.
Don’t worry too much though. At a TV frame rate of 30 images per second, even the super low resolution 64 x 64 black and white version would take 359,676,102,360,200,472,965,684,305,166 years to watch from beginning to end.