The current Guinness World Records holder for the world’s largest digital image is a composite photograph of a sagittal section of a 1.5-millimeter-long zebrafish embryo. The picture, created in late 2010 by Frank G. A. Faas and colleagues at the department of Molecular Cell Biology of the Leiden University Medical Center in the Netherlands, measures 921,600 by 380,928 pixels, for a total of 351,063,244,800 pixels.
That’s nothing, however, compared to an image created by one Washington, DC–based developer. Almost a year in the making, the image has an area of 102,040,171,200,000 pixels — 290 times larger than the current record holder. At one pixel per inch, it would wrap around the Earth 2.7 times. If printed out at 15 DPI, a fairly common setting for large billboards, the image would be as tall as 16,408 Empire State Buildings stacked on top of each other. If 3D-printed, the image could (hypothetically) be used to bat the International Space Station out of orbit.
This image is so immense, in fact, that it can’t be opened like any common digital file. It can only be accessed with specialized software, programs used in fields like geography, microbiology, and astronomy. “Uncompressed, this thing would be 250 terabytes, which is huge!” the image creator, speaking to BuzzFeed News via Zoom, said with a proud grin. “Like, you can't just pick up 250 terabytes at Walmart.”
The image itself is a cartoonish representation of an erect penis. It’s peach-colored, with a thatch of hair at the base and a pink dorsal artery running the length of the organ. The head, relative to the shaft, is comically small. The creator would prefer we not reveal whether the phallus is circumcised or not — he wants it to be a surprise.
You can examine this digital dong at a website called the World’s Biggest Penis, which the creator set up without fanfare in the fall. Be warned: If you are inclined to inspect the entire thing, scrolling from top to bottom, it will take at least 41 days. The creator has also set up a Twitter bot that shares a tiny portion of the image every day; it will take the bot 134,819 years to post every piece of the picture.
It is, to put it mildly, the dick pic to end all dick pics.
“This is what the internet was made for,” Louisa Hall, a former colleague and personal friend of the man behind all this, told BuzzFeed News. “I also love that the image isn’t vulgar or pornographic — it's just silly, fun, and stupid in the best possible way.”
For professional reasons, the creator of the world’s largest dick pic — a former NASA intern and current senior software engineer at a Fortune 100 company — asked that BuzzFeed News not use his real name. “Some companies certainly have a fun and slightly more modern-thinking angle — those might find this project interesting and consider it a funny, technical feat,” he said, Zooming on his phone as he anxiously paced around the room, “but then there's still a lot of dinosaurs in tech that would consider this inappropriate or offensive.”
The 30-year-old creator has chosen to go by the name the Eggplant, a reference to the emoji that doubles as a penis. “‘The Eggplant’ gives me the freedom to carve out a little world where I can play and create,” he said, “without butting up against anything I'm doing at work.”
Hall, a program manager in the tech industry and one-half of the comedy musical duo Griefcat, sees why her friend would adopt a pseudonym. “It's really competitive to get hired,” she said. “I can understand wanting to be taken seriously. People could brush this off as, ‘Look at this jerk making a dick joke. Why would he do that?’”
Such concerns are not unfounded. For this piece, BuzzFeed News reached out to around 200 developers, scientists, and academic organizations from all over the globe, asking them to assess the world’s biggest dick pic and share their professional opinions. Not one accepted. The answers ranged from the succinct and polite (“The Goddard Space Flight Center will not be able to provide comment on this”) to the dramatic (“Are you fucking kidding?” emailed back one lauded researcher. “We don’t want anything to do with this shit!”).
Whatever one thinks of the world’s biggest dick pic, the “Why would he do that?” question is a valid one. “Like, this is useless, but it really isn't,” the Eggplant said. “People ask that a lot, ‘Why spend so much time making this thing that shouldn't exist? It’s impractical.’”
Furthermore, in an era where people, particularly women, are bombarded by a million unsolicited dick pics, did we really need yet another one, especially this big? “I never intended it to be derogatory or misogynistic,” the Eggplant said. “This is more about playfulness. I did it because of the same reasons people doodle penises on their sketchbooks as a kid. I never really drew a parallel to the much bigger topic of sex and gender. It had nothing to do with that.”
When asked whether he’s ever sent anyone a picture of his own junk, the Eggplant was emphatic: “I have not.”
At first, the Eggplant just wanted to make an NFT. It was late 2021, and the NFT market was booming, earning headlines in mainstream media and attracting a flurry of celebrities into the fold. “So I was like, You know what, I'm gonna give it a go,” the Eggplant said. “But I wanted to have my own take on it. I didn't want to follow the typical prescription of making a collection of 30,000 NFTs.” He wanted to make just one image, but wasn’t quite sure what it would be.
The Eggplant paces around when he’s brainstorming (or when he’s nervous). He was doing just that when the eureka moment struck. “If I'm going to stoop to making an NFT, I want it to be proper silly,” he said. “If it's going to be a single image, it needs to be huge, like really big and really satirical.
“A big meme could work, but I can't use someone else's work, it needs to be original,” he continued. “I can't make an enormous image by hand, it needs to be generated. It could be something like a fractal, but that's boring. It needs to be able to ‘grow’ so that I can make it as large as possible.”
At this point in the story, he took a long pause. “And then I had it: A penis. A giant, huge, uncontrollably large cartoon penis.” He let out a chuckle, then went on: “I was so excited because I knew it worked from a technical perspective, it poked fun at NFTs the way I wanted, and it had the right zing and lulz to it. I just started laughing and jumping up and down as if I had just won the lottery.”
A magna cum laude college graduate in computer science and applied math, the Eggplant had experience with massive data sets and imaging technology dating back to a yearlong internship at NASA. “My job over there was to take a set of higher-resolution images captured by one of their new satellites and stick them into a computer model to predict floods from melting glaciers,” he said. “I learned a lot about geographic information systems and Unix tooling. With these tools, I learned the techniques needed to manipulate, convert, and arrange images on a very large scale.”
It took him months to figure out a file format that could accommodate such large amounts of data. The first candidate was TIFF, widely used in scientific applications and the VFX industry, but the format maxes out at 4 gigabytes and can't have any values, including length or width, over 2 to the 32nd power. This was not enough for the Eggplant’s mighty creation. Fortunately, he discovered the ideal replacement, BigTIFF, which can handle images in the terapixel range and is supposed to allow values up to 2 to the 64th power.
When you look at the world’s largest dick pic, a couple of things are immediately apparent. First of all, you’ll probably notice that it’s lacking in girth. Measuring 23,760 x 4,294,620,000 pixels, its length is more than 180 thousand times longer than its width. “It's very disproportional for sure,” the Eggplant conceded.
“That’s an actual technical thing that I ran up against,” he continued. “The BigTIFF format claims it allows for 2 to the 64th power pixels, but when I tried, it broke. There must be some legacy code in there relating to the regular TIFF that only supports up to 2 to the 32th power. I couldn't go past that, so I had to scrunch it.”
You’ll probably also note that this penis has no balls. “I needed to use as much image real estate as possible,” the Eggplant said. “No empty space, which means the width of the shaft needed to be the total width of the image. It would have been strange to incorporate testicles with these proportions. It just didn't feel quite right.”
After choosing the perfect image format, the next step was to work on a methodology for generating the actual image. He created a custom algorithm capable of reproducing the branching patterns of veins that we see in nature. The algorithm ensured that the vein patterns were continuous and non-repeating.
The next order of business was figuring out how to actually render the image. “I crashed my computer over a hundred times making this,” he said. “The issue with images of this astronomical size is that they are extremely resource-intensive, and I wasn't working on a supercomputer like I was using at NASA. Programs like Photoshop and even advanced tools such as ImageMagick are incapable of producing images in the terapixel range.”
Since there aren’t any tools in the market that could handle a dick of this size, the Eggplant had to develop his own software to do it. He needed some expert help and, not wanting to reveal what he was creating, he went “undercover” on some online forums and groups, posing as a microbiologist or astronomer. “With a few questions answered,” he said, “I got back to work and finally created a program that balanced the memory, compression, and disk usage needed to create an image in the terapixel range.”
The final image was generated over a five-week period during which the Eggplant’s custom software created sections of the penis at 30 million pixels per second. Once it was done, he knew he had something bigger than an NFT on his hands. Having successfully created what appeared to be the biggest image ever made, he decided to approach the Guinness World Records organization.
Guinness rules state that applicants need two independent expert reviewers to be eligible for the largest digital image record. Reddit was no help, so the Eggplant ended up soliciting paid reviewers on Upwork. “I shot for the stars and sent a ‘Looking for help verifying Guinness World Record’ plea to a dozen PhDs in astrophysics, computer science, and geographic information systems. Surprisingly, many of them got back.”
But as soon as the academics found out the project involved gargantuan genitalia, most of them bailed. In the end, only two accepted.
“This is most definitely the largest image I have ever seen,” one of them, Steven G. Murray, an astrophysics postdoctoral researcher at Arizona State University’s School of Earth and Space Exploration, wrote in the Eggplant’s Guinness application, submitted in late October. “This is a coherent image of a single, rather whimsical, object. From my analysis, and in my opinion, I have found the image to meet the conditions that I would consider to be necessary to call this ‘the largest image in the world.’”
The other expert, Alex Latham, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology graduate and a computer scientist, wrote to Guinness attesting to the picture’s size. “The image is massive and retains detail at scale,” he wrote. “It is impossible to visually inspect every frame of this image at scale because of its size — a downsampled image makes it possible to visibly assert that there are no discontinuities.”
Still, Guinness was not impressed. “Our Records Management Team have completed the evidence review for your claim and the attempt would not be eligible per the record guidelines,” a Guinness representative replied via email in November.
To Guinness, the individual tiles that make up the mammoth penis looked too much alike: “The image contains large areas of repeated colour blocks and is not comprised of multiple unique images in the same way the current record was made up of 26,434 individually captured images. As such, the decision is that the image does not comply with the record guidelines and we, therefore, have no choice but to reject the claim.”
The Eggplant was gutted. He appealed the decision, doubling down with written testimony from Latham: “There is no overlap anywhere in the image and it’s continuous from start to finish. The principal source of randomness in this image is the directionality of the ‘veins,’ which undulate and branch randomly over the entirety of the image. This image is completely random and continuous, and there is no repetition.”
“It makes sense that [Guinness] didn’t want a giant weiner.”
As for the “large areas of repeated colour blocks,” the Eggplant told BuzzFeed News that “the current record holder includes a tremendous amount of repeating information.” He said that he had performed an analysis of that image: “The current world record includes 47% of its total pixel volume as either blank white or completely data-less black spaces around the border of the image. If this blank space can count toward the current record’s status, I do not understand how the area [around] the dorsal vein in my submission does not.”
But Guinness stood firm.
The Eggplant believes he knows why. “I think they kind of got caught in a pickle because they said yes to my submission [because] I made it kind of sound medical,” he said. “And then I gave them a big cartoon weiner. Of course, they were not happy about it.” He added, “They don't have scandalous stuff, no records that are like ‘most orgasms in a day’ or ‘world’s biggest boobs.’ It makes sense that they didn't want a giant weiner.”
BuzzFeed News reached out to Guinness for comment. “Guinness World Records maintains a rigorous review process to maintain the integrity of each Guinness World Records title,” a Guinness press rep wrote back, before declining an interview request. “However, we invite and encourage [the Eggplant] to reattempt at any time.”
In the meantime, the Eggplant has been working on the World’s Biggest Penis website, which features a compressed variant of the world’s biggest dick pic — a 128 gigapixel image he calls the “flaccid” version — that’s available for free download. The actual world’s biggest dick pic, dubbed the “erect” version, takes up some 102 terapixels of disk storage. The Eggplant said he’s still mulling turning it into an NFT, but he’s also open to trading it for something valuable or selling it outright. He’s also hawking playful merch, like this T-shirt, on the site:
But for the Eggplant, this is about so much more than commerce — or an extremely elaborate dick joke. When speaking of his creation, he can sound downright idealistic.
“This is an image for the internet, for the people. I never liked how the internet is full of ‘Me, me, me.’ More likes mean more followers, means more viewers, means more…what? It's all a big dick-measuring contest,” the Eggplant said.
He said that he does not “covet stardom,” adding, “I want this to open real conversations. Conversations about not being so uptight, about what it is to be human, and what it is to be able to communicate and have close relationships. Allow ourselves to just be people.
“That's what I want to convey,” the Eggplant continued, “to try to break down those walls and picture a world where it's not taboo to talk about something as silly as a penis.” ●