The Truth About Lena

If you are a Computer Science student, an Electrical Engineering student, or just someone who works in Image Processing, you must have seen and worked on this picture:

Her name is Lena. But almost everyone who had seen this image knows almost nothing about her other than the fact that the image is a great test image because it contains a nice mixture of detail, flat regions, shading, and texture that do a good job of testing various image processing algorithms, and that she makes gentlemen drool- let’s face it, geeks do not get to see that kind of attractive ladies often- and ladies jealous! But really, who is Lena? And how did she become a standard in the boring field of Image Processing?!!

Her name is Lena Söderberg, a Swedish model born in March 31st, 1951. Lena posed for the November 1972 issue of the Playboy Magazine. The image used nowadays in Image Processing is actually the same image posted in the magazine- cropped, of course.

It was in June or July of 1973 when Alexander Sawchuk, who was then an assistant professor of electrical engineering at the University of Southern California Signal and Image Processing Institute (SIPI), a graduate student, and the SIPI lab manager were searching the lab for a good image to scan for a colleague’s conference paper after they got tired of the usual test images. They wanted some image of a human face that would produce an output with a good dynamic range. It was only then when someone walked in the lab with a recent issue of Playboy. In Lena’s picture, they found exactly what they needed.

The engineers tore away the top third of the centrefold so they could wrap it around the drum of their Muirhead wirephoto scanner, which they had outfitted with three analog-to-digital converters -one for each colour channel- and a Hewlett Packard 2100 minicomputer. The Muirhead had a fixed resolution of 100 lines per inch and the engineers wanted a 512 × 512 image, so they limited the scan to the top 5.12 inches of the picture, effectively cropping it at the Lena’s shoulders. This scan became one of the most used images in computer history, so much that Lena was called the First Lady of the Internet, and was a guest at the 50th annual Conference of the Society for Imaging Science and Technology in 1997. Someone even wrote her a poem:

Sonnet for Lena

O dear Lena, your beauty is so vast
It is hard sometimes to describe it fast.
I thought the entire world I would impress
If only your portrait I could compress.
Alas! First when I tried to use VQ
I found that your cheeks belong to only you.
Your silky hair contains a thousand lines
Hard to match with sums of discrete cosines.
And for your lips, sensual and tactual
Thirteen Crays found not the proper fractal.
And while these setbacks are all quite severe
I might have fixed them with hacks here or there
But when filters took sparkle from your eyes
I said, “Heck with it. I’ll just digitize!”

Now that the truth is out there, I can almost hear the voices of the radical, extremist Muslims calling for the ban of the use this image and probably killing, then dismembering and burning the corpse of our dean for using it in our Computer Vision curriculum! At some point in the near past, there were also voices calling for retiring the Lena image. That’s because publications of the kind of Playboy are degrading to women. Give me a break! This is just pathetic! We are not using the FULL image of Lena- forgive me for not posting it; extreme content- we are only using a cropped image of a nice looking girl that only shows a face and a shoulder. What is female-degrading or anti-Islamic about that? The source of the image? Newsflash, Mr. Extremist; not we, IEEE, nor any other organization that uses the image for any purpose pays a fee for the Playboy organization in exchange for the use of it, Playboy even waved away its copyrights to this specific image. In other words, it belongs to nobody, so we are not sponsoring the work of Satan!

I know that I will be personally criticized and attacked for my opinion, and I do not really care. Bottom line is, Lena’s image is perfect for testing Image Processing techniques, and until the radicals camp blesses us with another image to use that will not send us burning in hell for eternity, I will continue to use it. Even though I am sure that the proposed new image will be something like this! Not much dynamic range there, no?



8 Responses to The Truth About Lena

  1. Daoudz says:

    Insignificant – sorry but now, I think that you are a nitwit person.

  2. Daoudz says:

    Another comment, “Don’t delete my previous comment” :|

  3. AHmed Salem says:

    يقول الله تعالى فى سورة النور -الآية الثلاثون قوله تعالى

    [قُلْ لِلْمُؤْمِنِينَ يَغُضُّوا مِنْ أَبْصَارِهِمْ وَيَحْفَظُوا فُرُوجَهُمْ ذَلِكَ أَزْكَى لَهُمْ إِنَّ اللَّهَ خَبِيرٌ بِمَا يَصْنَعُونَ]

    لا شك أن النظر إلى النساء المتبرجات مما يسبب الفتنة ويدعو إلى فعل الفاحشة لذلك أمر الله النساء بالتستر بقوله تعالى :
    ( وليضربن بخمرهن على جيوبهن ) . ولا شك أن النظر إلى الصور العارية أو شبه العارية سبب للافتتان بها وعلى هذا فلا يجوز النظر إلى كل صورة تسبب الفساد أو تجر إليه في الأفلام والصحف والمجلات وغيرها .

  4. Mahmoud Naser says:

    Mr Sadiq there are some things that should not be taken lightly.

  5. Abd El Kareem says:

    Completely Stunned :|
    I Don’t Know What 2 Say

  6. arc says:

    it s nice picture,ı agree,but u should be careful with your u know about muslims?? have u ever meet with a real muslim??no ı dont think so,if u did,u would never talk like that about my friend while u r trying to do good work,just dont shit on it on the other hand…ciao

  7. Pingback: [Stats] Significant Insignificance in 2010 « Significant Insignificance

  8. Alireza says:

    haha really funny and witty writeup! keep it up! the last part about the lack of dyn range is funny too!

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