Yesterday, SciShow posted the above explainer about how the digital camera inside your smartphone works. It’s informative, clear, and to-the-point – but it also really struck me. Maybe I’m more forgetful than most of you, but I was just wowed by all the tiny transformations that go into making a digital picture.
To be fair, I’m not much of a computer hardware person. I understand the basics of how both local and cloud storage work, but that’s really the extent of my knowledge, so it’s easy for me to forget what’s going on at the electron level, especially when it comes to image rendering and processing.
“The first thing your phone has to do,” explains host Olivia Gordon, “is change light into electronic data that it can understand.” Seriously, look over that sentence again. We have machines that just casually do that!
“When you take a selfie,” Gordon explains further, “a photon reflects off your face, flies into the camera, and hits a pixel in the CMOS (complementary metal-oxide semiconductor) sensor. When the photon hits a silicon atom in a pixel, the atom absorbs the photon’s energy, and its electrons become excited. And if the photon transfers enough energy, one of those excited electrons will get spit out. This creates a charge in that particular pixel, which the camera measures and interprets as brightness. The more photons that hit a pixel, the stronger the charge, and the brighter that pixel gets.”
And that’s just the process for a black-and-white photo.
I know the wider internet loves to mock and rage against selfies – especially when teenage girls dare to take them – and there’s certainly a variety of selfie that is more of a cry for help than a celebration of the self. But honestly? After watching the above video, I can’t be bothered to hate on anybody’s Instagram photos. The selfie is a masterwork of of human ingenuity, used to preserve and share happiness that would otherwise be momentary and fleeting. Go ahead and take as many as you want.
(Via SciShow; featured image via SciShow)
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