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More pictures of darkness.

Not long ago, I discovered that by covering my camera’s lens with aluminum foil, I could take interesting pictures. Not pictures of actual objects, but pictures of all the pixel errors and thermal noise in my camera’s image chip. I figured that, since I have an iPhone 4S handy, I’d see what darkness looks like according to its camera. Apparently, the abyss is pink and green:

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Just like seeing your own retina.

While I was messing around learning amazing things about my camera, I remembered another cool experiment I tried once. I covered the camera’s lens in two layers of aluminum foil to block as much light as possible, then took a picture. As you can imagine, the picture came out black. You are probably now wondering what’s wrong with me, but as always (okay, as usually), there is a method to my madness. For you see, when you take a photo without any external light, the image you get consists entirely of weird in-camera effects: thermal noise from where electrons jiggled loose and made the camera think a photon had hit the image sensor, and, if you’re very lucky, a bright streak where a particle of radiation struck the chip. In my first picture, I didn’t get any cosmic rays, but I got some surprisingly pretty thermal noise:

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I always liked things like this. It’s like a sensory deprivation chamber, where you can suddenly see all the weird static in your retinas and eventually you start hallucinating. You learn a lot about the way the brain works when you stop giving it any input and see what happens. And you learn cool things about how cameras and their image chips work when you take pictures of nothing at all.

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