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This Article Already Exists

Updated: May 21


Imagine a library that contains every written work ever made. Every novel, every poem, every note written to a friend. The short story The Library of Babel by Jorge Luis Borges imagines exactly this. Every possible book of 410 pages exists in this library. It’s sectioned off into hexagons with shelves of books on each side. The library extends seemingly infinitely, and most of the books are just complete gibberish, because it contains every possible book, and a string of random letters could still be considered a book. 


It contains every single work of fiction, nonfiction, everything ever written in 410 pages or under, by complete brute force. You might think that a library like this could only ever exist in fiction, but there is a website that effectively acts as a digital library of babel. Created by Johnathan Basile, it contains every possible page of 3,200 characters.

It contains descriptions of every single thing you’ve done, everything you will do, and even things you never did.

If you go to a random book, and a random page, though, you’ll most likely find random gibberish, because most arrangements of 3,200 characters don’t mean anything. The website has a search feature, and you are able to find the location of any string of text within the library of babel. In fact, even this article itself exists in the library, and you can find it at this link


You might be wondering how this website is even possible, storing every single possible arrangement. The trick is, the website doesn’t actually store anything, it uses an algorithm to create a random string of characters based on its location in the library. It might seem like cheating, but, every possible page has a specific location in the library, since an algorithm is used instead of pure randomness. This gives the effect of having the entire library to explore, without having to store the library in its entirety. 


There’s another thing on this website, called the babel image archives. It’s basically like a gallery of babel, and it contains every 640x416 image. It contains every single image that could possibly exist. Every possible image of you exists in the library, including your wedding, your birth, and even an image of you reading this article right now. Chances are though, you’ll just see something that looks like TV static, because that’s what most 640x416 images are. 


The number of images that exist in this gallery is incomprehensibly large. The number of atoms in our observable universe is around 10 to the power of 80. The amount of images in this gallery is around 10 to the power of 961755. To put that into perspective, imagine if every single atom in our observable universe contained another observable universe inside it. There still wouldn’t be enough atoms to match the images. Imagine every atom in every sub-universe contains another observable universe. Not enough. You would need around 12,000 sub-universes to match the number of images in the gallery. 


There’s a similar search feature in the image archive, and you’re able to upload an image to find its location in the archive. An image of the library of babel entry for this article can be found in the babel image archives.

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This is super interesting! Love your photos too.

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This article is actually crazy, the math and dedication to this is wild!

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