Leaves of grass

It’s cats all the way down

With their aloof, quiet remove and weirdly meditative ways, cats have always seemed like the mathematicians of the animal world. In his excellent portrait of hacker psychology, Eric Raymond pointed out that hackers are far more likely to have cats than dogs, and adds that “it is widely grokked that cats have the hacker nature”. Maybe this is why I was so tickled to stumble upon The Infinite Cat Project.

It began simply enough. Someone on an Apple forum posted a picture of their cat looking at a flower. Then someone else posted a picture of their cat looking at the picture of the first cat, on a computer monitor. Then someone else posted a picture of their cat looking at that picture — i.e. a cat looking at a cat looking at a cat. And then … well, you can see where this is headed. The Project just reached its 300th cat.

I love the idea that if the pictures could have infinitely high resolution, we could peer deep into the 300th one and see the ur-cat at the center, inspecting the flower, blissfully unaware of the expanding universe it set in motion.

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I'm Clive Thompson, the author of Smarter Than You Think: How Technology is Changing Our Minds for the Better (Penguin Press). You can order the book now at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Powells, Indiebound, or through your local bookstore! I'm also a contributing writer for the New York Times Magazine and a columnist for Wired magazine. Email is here or ping me via the antiquated form of AOL IM (pomeranian99).

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