Archive for May, 2013

I have just seen that I got Earth Science Picture of the Day (EPOD) number 47 on May 25th for “Imaging Diatoms”.

I can only imagine that I missed this because I had been working over the allotment all day and got back too shattered to even bother turning the computer on.  Still at least over 100 runner bean plants and over 300 spuds went in ready for this year 🙂

Thank you Jim at EPOD for continuing to publish my work and my apologies for not acknowledging sooner 🙂


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I had an electric focuser lying around so with a pulley and timing belt from Radiospares I put together an electric focuser rig for the Canon 5D MkII and the 100mm macro lens that took the mega-wide-field Virgo/Coma galaxies shot.  If I find there’s mileage in this approach I will invest in a prime 200mm Canon lens which has a 72mm diameter lens (and I have an IDAS filter for this lens size).

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For the second test of the newly aligned M25C camera on the Hyperstar III I chose the Stephenson 1 region of Lyra.  Although I didn’t have the optics spot-on they were pretty close and I’m quite pleased with the resulting image.  When I spend a little more time getting the collimation just right we’ll be back to the earlier high-quality Hyperstar III imagery we’re used to seeing 🙂


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Recently imaged M57 as a test-shot for the recently flattened M25C chip.  This is 14 x 5-minute subs with a blazing nearly full Moon overhead.  Looks pretty reasonable considering 🙂


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The Hyperstar III is so fast that all other amateur imaging systems are extremely slow and have very disappointing performance in comparison – and that includes the mini-WASP array as currently configured.


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Feynman left us many interesting facts/tools and one of the most powerful I have ever come across was his observation that “The same equations have the same solutions”.  By this he means that equations of the same form have similar solutions.  Now this may sound like it is stating the obvious, which I guess it is, but it is an incredibly powerful tool in the right hands.

Maybe around 30 years ago I found two areas where this statement had some very interesting outcomes, but I have not been able to push the results to a final conclusion.  As I am now getting too old for this sort of young man’s thinking it is time for me to put this out for general consumption so that someone with a more agile mind/imagination can finish off this work.

The first subject area is mechanics and the derivation of a set of “Mechanical Maxwell Equations”.  I shall give you the outline of the ideas and it’s up to you to finish it off 🙂  The starting point for equations of the same form are the Newtonian gravitational force equation and the equation for the force between two charges.  Using the similarity in form you can “equate” 1/4 Pi Epsilon nought with G – I call this the equivalence of the constants.  Charge then equates to mass and distance is the same in both equations.  We have two more quantities in electromagnetism that we need an equivalent mechanical quantity for, namely B and E.  By looking for similar equations in electromagnetism and mechanics it isn’t too difficult to find that E’s equivalent is a, the linear acceleration, and that B’s equivalent is omega or angular velocity (very interesting that B should equate to omega!!).  You now have all the necessary information to create your own set of four “Mechanical Maxwell” equations.  I have done this, and luckily they turn out to be dimensionally correct – but I have no idea what they mean or what they are saying.  I will leave it up to you to tell me 🙂

The second area where “The same equations have the same solution” shows us an interesting route for new thoughts and ideas is in the area of Quantum Mechanics, specifically Hidden-Variable theory.  The form of the de-Broglie/ Bohm equation for a hidden-variable form of wave equation has the same form as the condensate wave function in superfluid physics.  So the Quantum Potential which is the source of all the trouble in de-Broglie/Bohm Hidden-Variable theory is related to a term in superfluid physics which is only important when the superfluid density varies rapidly with position, for instance near a wall or inside a vortex.  When we are dealing with the bulk fluid we can omit the term – which is extremely interesting.

So there you have it.  Two interesting areas of research.  The first might lead to a nice paper, and the second might lead to a Nobel Prize.  Over to you.


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Bit embarrassed to say that I am still learning how to use the Hyperstar III.  Rather humbling when I thought I knew all there was to know about getting the best out of the Hyperstar.  I had done a few camera swaps on the HSIII and I was having difficulty getting good stars across the whole of the M25C, something I had not had a problem with before.  Now here is where I was going wrong.  I thought that I could have the M25C adjusters set so that the face plate was perpendicular to the camera body (this means the chip would almost certainly not be flat to the optical axis) and that I could sort out all the chip flatness/collimation with the Hyperstar III adjusters alone.  THIS IS WRONG!!  I slowly caught on that I was not going to get good stars across the chip using the HSIII adjusters alone after spending around 3 hours playing about chasing my own tail – it was clear that the HSIII adjustments were not enough – YOU NEED THE CAMERA TO BE FLAT TO THE OPTICAL AXIS BEFORE IT GOES ONTO THE HYPERSTAR III.  Oh well – live and learn.  So I used Terry Platt’s method as given on his website to flatten the M25C APS-size chip to the optical axis, and I put the camera back on the Hyperstar III last night.

I ran the FocusMax autofocuser on Sulafat (Lyra) and the first 20-second sub looked pretty good without touching the Hyperstar collimation adjusters.  A CCDInspector look at the sub gave me the magic x = 0, y = 0 for the chip flatness (can’t do much better than that), and it gave me 2.7″ for the collimation.  I have never seen a set of CCDInspector numbers this good before for the Hyperstar III/M25C combo.

Hopefully I’ll be turning out some interesting Hyperstar images once again in the not too far distant 🙂

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Does the EPR “paradox” tell us anything about Physics?

Well the trite answer is yes of course it does – but can we be a bit more specific?

Physics is an “after the fact” science relying on experiments and the observations on the results of those experiments.  What do I mean by “after the fact”?  I mean you set up an experiment to measure some property or event and the experiment, if successful, will give you a numerical value for that property or event, so far you have learnt absolutely nothing new – but please keep with it 🙂  By setting up various different experiments and conditions we can measure the mass, “apparent” size and the charge on an electron.  But we cannot say WHAT an electron actually is.  Why not?  Well one reason is we don’t know how to set up the experiment to do that.  The experiments we set up measure the PROPERTIES of an electron – that is all.  We can smash things together in high energy particle accelerators and see how various particles are created (or annihilated) and what the energies involved are – but these experiments say nothing about what the particles themselves are.  How can they?  They are only measuring the EFFECTS that the particles themselves create.

Mathematical Physics is great at providing predictions.  It still requires the experiment to be performed to give the mathematical predictions any substance – any “reality”.

This situation is rather like the 4-year old kid who keeps asking why? to an initial answer to a question.  Eventually we come to a stopping point.

The EPR “paradox” was thought up as a hard test for the theory of Quantum Mechanics.  Quantum Mechanics gave its answer, a nasty answer that goes (like most things in Quantum Mechanics) against common sense.  Aspect and some other brilliant experimentalists created beautiful experiments to measure the results of an EPR-type problem, and yes, Quantum Mechanics gives  us the same answer as the experiments and common sense doesn’t.  But can  you take things further than this?  Can you, with the information provided, say anything about the MECHANISMS involved?  I don’t see how this is possible.  You created the experiment given the parameters you wished to measure to confirm (or otherwise) the EPR “paradox”.  You did not set up the experiment to look at the MECHANISMS involved (and basically you wouldn’t know how to do this anyway) so why would you expect an EPR-type MEASUREMENT to give you an insight into the underlying mechanisms?  This is very much the situation of the 4-year old kid asking “Why?” one time too many.

But if this is the case, doesn’t every experiment and every part of Physics run into this very same problem?  Even the simplest Physics that we think we know EVERYTHING about?  I think it has to  – doesn’t it?

Let’s take a very quick look at Newtonian Mechanics – not much there we don’t know everything about is there?  Masses flying about, velocities, energy (potential and kinetic), acceleration, inertia – oops what’s that one?  Inertia?  What’s that then?  Well it’s the resistance to an applied force exhibited by any body possessing mass.  Yes but what IS it?  Well it’s possibly caused by the interaction of the body with all the other mass in the Universe – but actually we really don’t know.  And what is mass anyway?  I don’t think the Higgs Boson goes very far in telling us what “mass” actually is.  So even in a science that we think we know quite well and that was dealt with a couple of hundred years ago sufficiently well for us to send space probes on Grand Tours – we don’t have to go very far back with the Why? question to hit our stopping point.

A lot of these Physics problems come down to “fields” as their ultimate answer, where “fields” is a great euphemism for “I don’t know”.  When Maxwell came out with his 4 equations for electromagnetism he hit similar issues with the scientists of his day.  What were these “fields” where are the “springs” and the ether that carry these waves?  What are the mechanisms?  I guess I am also asking what the “springs” are in all our theories – and my contention is that we simply don’t know.

If we’re stuck in asking the basics of such “very simple” questions – then where do we stand in asking the biggies?  What happened before the Big Bang for instance?

The Scientific Method is a very powerful tool for explaining what we can observe, it should be, after all the experimental method has proven to be a great way to provide the hard numbers to our observations.  But for the underlying mechanisms?  What do we do for those?

I have a very strong feeling (shouldn’t really allow “feelings” to come into it – that’s getting into Metaphysics 🙂 ) that we are seeing EXACTLY the same problem rearing its head that we have already seen in mathematics.  Godel’s Theorem didn’t help us much there – but at least mathematics has a name for the issue – Physics doesn’t.  How about Greg’s Enigma??



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I will presenting “Deep-Sky Imaging from the New Forest Observatory” at the Webb Deep-Sky Society AGM meeting on Saturday 15th June 2013.

The venue is the Institute of Astronomy, University of Cambridge, Madingley Road, Cambridge CB3 0HA.

Images taken using the original Hyperstar/H9C,  Sky 90/M25C, Hyperstar III/M25C and the mini-WASP array will be shown during the talk.


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Anne Baring’s new book “The Dream of the Cosmos:  A Quest for the Soul” has a Pleiades image from the New Forest Observatory on the cover.  The Publisher has done an excellent job in putting the book together.

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