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No. 224: Garfield as a Number

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Garfield as a Number

First | Previous | 2009-12-17 | Next | Latest

Permanent URL: https://mezzacotta.net/garfield/?comic=224

Strip by: qvaak

{A long string of hexadecimal digits}

The author writes:

Not much of a picture, so let's try to compensate with a long text.

1) The numbers above are obviously some kind of code, that can somehow be turned into a picture, a Garfield strip more precisely. As puzzles go, this one is not a good one. It's rather toilsome and not the least clever. I did not make it to be a puzzle; puzzleness was a side effect. Still, someone probably will try to solve it. And for him I say: read no further. These comments will spoil half of the "fun".

2) Everything is numbers. Anything is a number. I like to call the above string of numbers and letters a number. Okay, so it isn't in normal decimal base, so the portrayal is not the most usual. And it's more useful to interpret the monstrosity as a string of numbers, data. Still, it isn't wrong to think of it as one relatively gigantic number. Reminds me of illegal numbers. Heck it's not so terribly far fetched to say it is an illegal number.

3) Turning information into a number can of course be done in many ways. Same information can be translated into different numbers and different pieces of information might translate into the same number. Nevertheless, computer languages offer very flexible, wide and well defined frames for these translations. By the looks of it my code might be anything: a picture, a virus, a song, a game, a patch of DNA. Yet still, even if given without any context, a computer minded person (given the site I'm writing to, that would probably be you) would open the "file" without even much trying. The code starts by defining its format. It might not be universal even in the computer world, but it's good enough.

4) One might argue that the previous passage just proves how cultural the relationship between the strip and the number is and that the momentariness and randomness of the relation makes it quite uninteresting. The strip could be any number. In a way it is any number. Just invent a fitting language. To make the relationship more robust I followed the idea of the Arecibo Message. If you remove the aforementioned file header and turn the data into binary format, it is 223×67 bits long, and when divided into a 223 long and 67 high rectangle of black and white dots, it becomes the 1995-11-25 Garfield strip.

5) I say my 223×67 pixel black and white picture is the Garfield strip of 1995-11-25. This is a rather bold claim, I know. The picture is only barely recognisable, the text is actually retyped to keep it legible. Isn't the Garfield strip really ink on paper? Any computerised picture is just a more or less faithful reproduction, none even close to the original. But no. We have got used to thinking of works of art as something abstract. They can be reproduced and still be the same. And that is so cool - and so sensible. When we define things sensibly, that usually means defining them vaguely too. There is a lot of grey area between things, that are the creation and things that clearly aren't the thing itself, but derivative works, referrals, shadows. The number above is, to my opinion, as far on the grey middle ground as you can get. It is the strip (in some sense), any farther and it surely would not be.

Original strip: 1995-11-25.