Macfarlane Day (4th October 2014)

Started Aug 13, 2014 | Discussions
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Macfarlane Day (4th October 2014)

My calculations indicate that 4th October 2014 is a date of some significance for photography. On this day the number of still images which exist will exceed the capacity of the human race to ever look at them, and I have modestly named this tipping point as Macfarlane Day.

This computation became possible when recent studies published in J. Physiology (London) indicated that the human visual system and cortex requires a minimum of 1.7 sec (+/- 0.300 sec) to realize the content of a still image sufficient to recall it 30 mins later. The number of humans available to view images is 7.3 billion in the latter half of 2014 (United Nations Population Survey).

A more difficult estimate is the number of still images available for viewing. Some have said that the number of images exceeds three trillion since photography was invented in 1849, and most of them were taken in the last 12 months. This depends on estimates of the number of digital cameras and cell phones manufactured in the last ten years, and from counting images on Flickr. I have also assumed that unless deleted by in-camera systems, downloaded images still exist, even though many have been transferred to trash folders.

The full mathematical calculations will be submitted for publication later, but it is sufficient at this stage to confirm that much of the argument depends on use of Belphegor’s prime.

The estimate of the date of Macfarlane Day is subject to some minor degree of error (it could be in September), but the calculations are robust. I do not accept that an extraordinary increase in human population would negate this tipping point, as the rate of increase in images clearly exceeds our ability to reproduce. The suggestion that export of images to an alien world might contradict this finding is not valid, because we identified “human” in the pre-amble.

[1. For self-evident reasons, I exclude video and movies. The frame rate for video now exceeds the ability of anyone to make the calculations.

2. Belphegor’s prime is a palindromic number which reads the same both backwards and forwards and is only divisible by itself and one (it appeared in an episode of Homer Simpson).

3. Dogs could be trained to view images, possibly faster than humans, but that’s ridiculous].

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