“Detectors are really the way to express yourself.
To say somehow what you have in your guts.
In the case of painters, it’s painting.
In the case of sculptors, it’s sculpture.
In the case of experimental physics, it’s detectors.
The detector is the image of the guy who designed it”
- Carlo Rubbia




Impossible Images

A  growing collection of impossible images illustrating the diverse array of limits on resolution, ‘impossibility’, ‘image’ (which ranges from photograph to dataset), and imaging technology (from huge dipole magnet telescopes to detectors connected to the LHC).
So far I have abstracted these categories of impossible images:



Images that were deemed impossible or erroneous,
because they do not represent the world as we know it




Historically impossible images, that have become possible

An early observation of fluorescence was described in 1560 by Bernardino de Sahagún and in 1565 by Nicolás Monardes in the infusion known as lignum nephriticum (Latin for "kidney wood").
In his 1852 paper on the "Refrangibility" (wavelength change) of light, George Gabriel Stokes described the ability of fluorspar and uranium glass to change invisible light beyond the violet end of the visible spectrum into blue light. He named this phenomenon fluorescence : "I am almost inclined to coin a word, and call the appearance fluorescence, from fluor-spar [i.e., fluorite], as the analogous term opalescence is derived from the name of a mineral."
Ernst Mach (1838 - 1916): argued that “because atoms could not be seen, belief in their existence was faith, not science. He said atoms should be regarded at best as hypothetical fictions whose postulation made sense of data but whose existence could not be confirmed.” [source]

These images are from a historic set of experiments undertaken by the German physicist and philosopher Ernst Mach. Mach was interested in the pressure waves produced by a projectile moving faster than the speed of sound.

With these images, Mach showed:
- that sharper bullets produce less turbulence, and hence less drag, than blunt bullets.
- that there are two shockwaves (and hence two sonic booms) when a projectile reaches supersonic velocities.
X-rays were discovered by William Roentgen (1895) while experimenting with a cathode radiation.
X-rays with high photon energies (above 5–10 keV) are called hard X-rays, while those with lower energy (and longer wavelength) are called soft X-rays.
- X-Ray microscopy: create cellular CTs to analyse biological samples and re-create them in 3D (CAT)

Temporarily impossible images due to political / financial constraints




Medipix is a family of read-out chips for particle imaging and detection. The original concept of Medipix is that it works like a camera, detecting and counting each individual particle hitting the pixels when its electronic shutter is open. This enables high-resolution, high-contrast, very reliable images, making it unique for imaging applications in particular in the medical field. A colour X-ray imaging technique that could produce clearer and more accurate pictures, to help doctors give their patients more accurate diagnoses. Unfortunately, at the moment there are too much time penalties so we can just see a more overall image. Contribution: Rafael Ballabriga Sune.

Images impossible due to spatial resolution


An image of how electrons that move from one molecule to the next create chemical bonds.
image: Philip Willke et al/Institute for Basic Science


A the hypothetical image of the insides of a proton (3 quarks). The beauty of that is that when you zoom in that far, you have to create images below the wavelength of (visible) light. There is no equipment for that.
Most probably it would be dark, even if the proton was photographed in the light.
contributed by Mark Sutton (trigger, CERN)

 Images that are only possible as inferential images


The Double Negative Gravitational Renderer (DNGR)
The DNGR is computer code used to create the iconic images of black holes and wormholes for the movie Interstellar.

The images rendered with this algorithm are from 2015, some years before the first image of the shadow of a black hole as released by
Source
Event Horizon Telescope
An image of the shadow of a Black Hole.
The shadow of a black hole seen here is the closest we can come to an image of the black hole itself, a completely dark object from which light cannot escape.
How can you take a photo of an object that annihilates light? - you capture its shadow.
Shadow Knowledge is knowledge of how to perceive the shadows; the fringes of what is enlightened (or not in the dark) but also knowledge of what exists in the shadows....
Discussions about what is "real" are often fuelled by the use of terms like “hyperreal”, “fake” or "alternative facts". As a result, the 2010s have become a very interesting decennium for images of "reality". As it turns out Standard Models need extensions, fields of knowledge can scale and vision can reach beyond the unseeable. Take for instance the discovery of the Higgs boson particle (2012) or the capturing of the shadow of a black hole (2019) - these are examples of when science and imagination cross and together shatter norms previously thought of as 'universal realities'.
Even for the laymen, realities should now finally be understood as complex and multiple. And because of this, we need space for Shadow Knowledge - knowledge derived from objects of unsupported dimension and scale. In the shadows, things lack definition. The shadows offer shady outlines that can functions either as vectors of progress or as a paint by numbers.


Images that have indefinitely become impossible due to (technological / political) resolutions.



Pale Blue dot
Voyager 1, Pale Blue Dot is a photograph of planet Earth taken on February 14, 1990, by the Voyager 1 space probe from a record distance of about 6 billion kilometers (3.7 billion miles, 40.5 AU), as part of that day's Family Portrait series of images of the Solar System.

The term "Pale Blue Dot" was coined by Carl Sagan in his reflections of the photograph's significance, documented in his book of the same name, Pale Blue Dot.
This photo can no longer be taken because Voyager has passed a threshold (in terms of distance) to take photos of Earth).
American artist Trevor Paglen has launched the first artwork into space, but it is yet to be activated because of fallout from the US government shutdown.
The Orbital Reflector, a 30-metre-long reflective, diamond-shaped balloon made from a material similar to Mylar – a form of plastic sheet made from polyester resin – is currently orbiting the earth waiting for clearance to be released.
When it is deployed it will be the first "purely artistic" object in space that does not have any military, commercial or scientific interest.
US government shutdown delays deployment
However, the partial US government shutdown from 22 December 2018 to 25 January 2019 means that the artwork has not yet been released. Instead it has been travelling in the earth's low orbit unactivated for three months.
A brick-sized box containing the inflatable artwork was launched into the earth's low orbit on 3 December 2018 as part of a greater load of 64 satellites on Elon Musk's SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.
The status of the orbital reflector project has since stayed ‘undeployed’.

Images that are impossible due to the laws of physics, nature or reality - but that can be ‘doctored’.


In the sky, the Andromeda galaxy is about 3x as big as the moon or the Sun. If you hold up your thump in front of you, you see it will be roughly the same size as both the moon and the Sun. Andromeda would be much bigger.
It is however impossible to capture the Andromeda galaxy and the moon in one picture: Andromeda is too far and not bright enough. Next to the Moon the galaxy would wash out.
All the photos we have of the night skye in which we see both the Moon and Andromeda are doctored.


Speculative Impossible Images 
   
Supersymmetry is a conjectured, speculative model  symmetry of space and time

To perceive radiowaves by attaching antennas to our eye sockets                                   
Images that will remain impossible and that cannot be doctored.


Dark Matter 

An image of the Quantum Vacuum at a slice of planck constant time
(the smallest slice of time).