Archive for July, 2010

I am using a Bryan Mumford Time Machine and the high speed flash gear from to create some visually stunning images of water collisions – an example is here:

Some spikes added to the highlights using Noel Carboni’s plug-in 🙂  So this water drop collision took an exposure time of 9-millionths of a second, and the beer can pinhole camera project used a 6-month exposure time – that’s over 12 orders of magnitude difference in exposure time!

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Why is there so much cloud at night recently when it’s been relatively clear through most of the day?  Well I have the AstroTrac ready and set up with the new Canon 5D MkII and the Canon 15mm fish-eye lens so that I can take some whole-sky pictures (the 5D and 15mm fish-eye gives me a full 180 degree field of view so I can get horizon-to-horizon shots).  So that’s why it’s cloudy 🙁  Don’t forget we are also in Perseid season (that’s the main reason I’m ready with the AstroTrac), and although we won’t be getting any Moon problems at the height of the shower, we can’t guarantee clear skies on the main nights, so it’s fingers-crossed time again, as usual.

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Huge jump in sales of Star Vistas on U.K. Amazon today – no idea why – if you’ve seen a recent review somewhere please let me know 🙂

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Well some time during last night NFO had its 150,000 th visitor 🙂  Wow!!  Thank you all for taking the time to visit my site – I hope you enjoy all the goings-on at the New Forest Observatory.  Next milestone – 200,000 – another report when we get there.

Prof. Greg Parker

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I am just starting to read Cliff Pickover’s “The Loom of God” and it jogged my rapidly fading memory of my Professorial Inaugural lecture.  Below I reproduce the last few minutes of the 2005 Inaugural lecture I presented at the University of Southampton.

“It really is very strange that mathematics should describe our physical world so well.  There is after all no good reason why certain mathematical functions should so precisely describe what goes on in our physical world, unless there is of course some hidden link between these two sciences.  In fact some people find this link is so peculiar that they have written papers on the subject, as Eugene Wigner first did with  “The unreasonable effectiveness of mathematics in the physical sciences”.

Einstein is said to have remarked, “The most incomprehensible thing about the Universe is that it is comprehensible.” And I think this guy knew what he was talking about.

To quote Eugene Wigner:

“The miracle of the appropriateness of the language of mathematics for the formulation of the laws of physics is a wonderful gift which we neither understand nor deserve. We should be grateful for it and hope that it will remain valid in future research and that it will extend, for better or for worse, to our pleasure, even though perhaps also to our bafflement, to wide branches of learning.”

Is this one of those cases where one introduces complexity when it isn’t really there, or is there something deep and meaningful here?  Why should mathematics be able to describe physical events so well?  As any Mathematician will tell you, the maths is already “out there” it has an existence of its own independent of us, all we do is occasionally turn over a new stone and find a new piece of maths that had always “been in existence” independent of us.  Likewise with our physical measurements and experiments, the results of these experiments has always “been out there” we just came along at this particular point in time to uncover some of them.

If you were to apply Occam’s Razor to this problem, where Occam’s Razor states that the simplest most logical answer is usually the right one – you might be led to conclude – as some people firmly believe, that the reason mathematics so “unreasonably” describes the “real” world we live in is because we really are “living” inside a computer simulation – the Matrix had it right all along!

Thank you for listening, have a good evening, and let’s hope the program doesn’t decide to crash tonight!”

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Einstein was pretty unhappy with the way Quantum Mechanics was developing – which was a bit odd seeing as he came up with the concept of the photon and an explanation of the photoelectric effect – but I digress.

In trying to show those poor wayward Quantum Scientists where they were going wrong, Einstein came up with a number of “thought experiments” which tested and probed Quantum Mechanics to its limits.  One such thought experiment involved the simultaneous emission of two oppositely polarised photons from a source (something which can be achieved, and which has actually been practically carried out in ground-breaking experimental work by Aspect et al) and then measuring the polarisation state of each photon when separated by a distance greater than that which would allow “communication” between the two photons during the polarisation measurement.  In other words the polarisation state of each photon was measured in a time shorter than that which would allow a photon to travel between the two polarised photons being measured.

For many years I didn’t think this was much of an experiment.  For conservation reasons the two photons will be emitted in opposite polarisation states from the source, so that if at some large separation distance I measure the polarisation state of photon A and then I measure the polarisation state of photon B it is hardly surprising that I find the polarisation states are separated by 90 degrees.  This is in fact true and correct and shows that both common-sense and Quantum Mechanics agree for this special case.  Now what I cannot simply explain is that if the polarisation measurements are made for angles other than 90 degrees (and in fact 45 degrees where again common-sense and Quantum Mechanics agree) we find a discrepancy between the common-sense expected result of the polarisation measurement and the Quantum Mechanical result.  How very odd!!  As mentioned above, this experiment has been carried out practically by Alain Aspect and his team, and the experimental results agreed with …………………………Quantum Mechanics.  How extremely odd!!!!!

Now this is not the first time that a Quantum Mechanical result has gone against “common-sense”  but the repercussions of this are a little more far-reaching than in some of the other cases.  Einstein, together with Podolsky and Rosen (hence EPR) came up with this thought experiment to show an inconsistency in the Quantum Mechanical theory that required the theory to be “non-local” that is it allowed photon A to know what polarisation state photon B was in at any separation distance, even if that distance was greater than a photon could travel during the measurement time.  Einstein having created the Special Theory of Relativity would have been extremely unhappy with this possibility existing within another theory (Quantum Mechanics) – and this was the whole idea behind the EPR thought experiment – to show that the current ideas of Quantum Theory were “incomplete” as they required QM to be a non-local theory.

If you go into great detail regarding this experiment and where it “goes wrong” as far as common-sense is concerned, there are just three basic principles, one (or more) of which must be violated.  These principles are:

1)  The Reality principle.

2)  The Induction principle.

3)  The Locality principle.

Reality – regularity of phenomena is due to an underlying physical reality.

Induction – it is possible to reach conclusions valid for all systems of a given type from a consistent set of observations on a large sample of systems of that type.

Locality – if two systems have for a time been in dynamical isolation from each other, then a measurement on the first system can produce no real change in the second.

Now it is the Locality principle that was being “probed” by Einstein’s thought experiment – so it seems extremely perverse to me that out of the three possible principles that could be at fault – this is the one chosen by the Quantum Mechanical theorists to be the “joker”.

Surely in this post-Matrix age where the possibility exists that we are all part of a computer simulation, it is the Reality principle that needs to be called into question – and that the EPR Paradox is actually an extremely testing experiment into the very reality of our Universe – not simply a statement about the light-like separation of particles that had once interacted.

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There is an on-going discussion at present that may result in another Star Vistas Exhibition of deep-sky images – plus a talk on deep-sky imaging – but this time in the Bristol area.  If you are unable to make it to the ArtSway Exhibition this September, then there could be a 2-week October Exhibition in Bristol.  Keep visiting the New Forest Observatory web site to be kept up to date on the latest developments.

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There will be an Exhibition of Greg Parker’s latest and best deep-sky images at ArtSway, running from Friday 3 September 2010 until Sunday 5 September 2010.  A Private Viewing for invited guests begins at 6:00 p.m. on Friday 3 September and a short PowerPoint presentation on “The Magic of Photography” will start at 7:00 p.m.  The ArtSway gallery can be found in Station Road, Sway near Brockenhurst and seen on-line at ArtSway gallery.

If you are unable to attend the Exhibition, you can still see a collection of Greg’s earlier work in the recent publication “Star Vistas”, Springer 2009, with Forewords by Sir Arthur C Clarke, Sir Patrick Moore, and Dr. Brian May.

Friends and acquaintances will soon be receiving invitations to the Private Viewing.  If you do not receive an invitation and would like to attend the Private Viewing please e-mail me at:

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Recent clear night a few days back so I grabbed some more Hyperstar III data on the Cocoon and its associated dark nebulosity and added it to some data taken last year.  I will try and get another frame off to the right of this one just to see if there’s anything there – if not it should still give us some nice Milky Way stars 🙂

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In a pathetic attempt at trying to keep imaging with nights that are like a sunrise, here is a globular cluster in the Milky Way – M56 in the constellation Lyra.  I really like globulars with a Milky Way background – and fortunately there are a few of these.  What I didn’t know was that you could see galaxies through the Milky Way – there are 2 small ones top-left, there’s also a planetary nebula in there (towards the middle) as well.

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