allPossibleImages presents an 8x8 grid of small red lights (LEDs). Working at a rate
of about ten per second it cycles through all the images that can be displayed on this grid.
The number of possible images is immense, and it will take far longer than the life of our
solar system to complete a cycle.
While the number of possible images is immense, it is also fixed and precisely known. I am
fascinated by aspects of the world that are both known and unknowable. I can
understand intellectually, for instance, that a digital camera has a certain resolution and
a certain number of pixels and that the fixed and discrete nature of those properties means
that there are a limited (although immense) number of images that the camera can capture.
Yet it is extremely difficult to think about all of those images, the sheer number of them,
an overwhelmingly large number, yet one still fixed and immutable.
What does the set of all possible images look like? Imagine a camera strapped to the forehead
of every person on earth. And then one for each animal, each plant, each bacterium and virus.
All taking pictures all day, every day, from the beginning until the end of time. That's a
tiny subset off all possible images. Imagine each rock, each wave, each planet, each satellite,
each sun with its own camera, snapping away. Imagine taking all of the pictures it is possible
to take. I can not do it.
allPossibleImages attempts a much more modest version of this thought experiment.
It reduces the camera's eye to a simple black and red display of sixty four pixels that
can each be turned on or off. It then cycles one at a time through all of the images that its
pixels can display. If you watch it long enough, it will print your name. It will show you a
picture of your dog. It will send you messages from the great beyond. Anything that you can
draw in black and white on an 8x8 grid will eventually appear. It'll just take a long, long time.
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