chromosome 22 the first in a series of several visual studies using the chromosomes of the human genome. each study will be a computationally-generated printed piece that represents a chromosome of the genome.

the first piece, which can be seen as part of the background on this page, consists of the letters of the entire chromosome printed in succession, using a three pixel font and a one pixel border. at 150 pixels per inch, this results in an image that's 16 feet wide by about 16 feet long. the text is readable at a short distance and with a bit of squinting.

chromosome numbering i'm beginning with the higher numbered chromosomes, which are the shortest. the first studies are intentionally the most simplistic and least condensed, working towards the longest chromosome (number 1, which is roughly six times larger) the representations will get steadily more intelligent and compact.

process this piece was generated by a java program that parses a fasta format file (commonly used by biologists as a data format for exchange), and generates tiff format images using the data. i developed the font in software, as well as a few routines to write the very large tiff images. these are loaded into photoshop (they're about 2-3 gigabytes of data to start). unfortunately, photoshop has a limitation of 30,000 pixels in either direction, forcing me to chop the images into sections. tiff also has limitations in this area (2 gigabytes per file, i believe). this is somewhat disappointing or frustrating.

i wanted a sense of the scale of the data on a single chromosome. i originally planned to create a 36 x 50 inch (approx 1 x 1.5m) piece at 600 dpi, but that was illegible, and did little to convey scale, because it just looked like "too many small things to see." when one hears that there are '3 billion letters' of genetic code in the human genome, it's difficult to grasp what that means because the number is so large. and the genome itself is an abstract, invisible thing that lives somewhere inside your body. this piece attempts to make the scale itself visible, if for a single chromosome, made up of about 46 million letters.

<< ben fry