Statistical thermodynamics of natural images

Greg J. Stephens, Thierry Mora, Gašper Tkačik, William Bialek

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

45 Scopus citations


The scale invariance of natural images suggests an analogy to the statistical mechanics of physical systems at a critical point. Here we examine the distribution of pixels in small image patches and show how to construct the corresponding thermodynamics. We find evidence for criticality in a diverging specific heat, which corresponds to large fluctuations in how "surprising" we find individual images, and in the quantitative form of the entropy vs energy. We identify special image configurations as local energy minima and show that average patches within each basin are interpretable as lines and edges in all orientations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number018701
JournalPhysical review letters
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2 2013

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Physics and Astronomy


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