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On the night of 13/12/2014 – and it was Moonless too!  Being the array it meant I actually grabbed 15-hours worth of data!!  Two targets, the first was the California nebula where I managed to get 11 effective hours of 20-minute subs (I lost one effective hour, that is one sub, due to cloud).

Second target as it was still clear and Moonless was a pair of Carbon stars that fitted the field of view in Orion and Gemini – BL Orionis and CR Geminorum.

A very successful evening’s mini-WASPing :)


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My 63rd EPOD today with “Web Strength of Garden Cross Spider”.

Many thanks to Jim at EPOD for continuing to publish my work :)

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I had the misfortune to read something on Facebook that sent me off on a rant.  Here is that rant.

We were given RULES not guidelines about the exams we set as Lecturers at the University. And these rules stated that the mean of the class HAD to be at the 50% level, and if your results deviated significantly from this you had to explain how you managed to screw up, and what you would do next time to make sure this didn’t happen again. I kid you not. This was a Russell Group University, and it was (and is) common practice amongst other top U.K. Universities too. Is this the way to teach at the University level, or is this just a way of maximising the numbers of bums on seats for 3 or 4 years given a lackluster and mediocre student intake? I certainly did not have the luxury of this Idiocracy approach to education when I was an Undergraduate. I entered Sussex University with a Higher National Certificate in Applied Physics from Oxford Polytechnic and I had Distinctions in all subjects – so I thought I was pretty shit hot. At the end of my First Year at the University of Sussex I got a 2:2 mark. I was completely devastated, but it showed me the level that was expected of me. So what did I do? I worked my butt off for the next two years and nearly blew my brain and ended up with a First Class Honours Degree that actually meant something. What would have happened if Sussex had taken the Idiocracy approach to setting exams? Well I probably would have still ended up with a First – but I would have understood about a 1/10th of what I ended up knowing, and I would have been about a 1/10th as useful in all the jobs I had following graduation. End of a Grumpy Old Man’s rant.

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Unfortunately it appears that it is physically impossible for there to be a quantum computational aspect to the brain.

For a while I thought that perhaps the “conscious” (i.e. classical computer) part of the brain could act as the “observer” and by an “entangled Quantum Zeno effect” it could make the decoherence time of a brain quantum computer sufficiently long to be physically possible.  The Quantum Computer part of the brain would correspond to the “sub-conscious”.  Sadly, a discussion with perhaps the greatest theoretical Quantum Physicist on the planet shows that this is not viable :(  It therefore appears that there is NOT a quantum computational aspect to the brain.

And just today the bloody obvious hit me like a hammer.  If there WAS a quantum computational aspect to the brain – then why would we be stymied by the 2-slit experiment?  And more importantly why would Feynman have been able to say that “nobody understands Quantum Mechanics”?

Looks like the brain is a massively parallel classical computer, still it gives very impressive results!!

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A while back I was driven to write about the nonsense regarding our particle accelerators creating a Black Hole, or some other exotic particle that will destroy the Earth.

And now it seems I have to do the same thing all over again regarding this Singularity business, now that Stephen Hawking has decided to comment on the subject.

We really do seem to be living in the Golden Age of the Idiocracy.  Because some retard, or possibly a 10-year old with zero science understanding, writes about Mars appearing the size of the full Moon on some Internet blog – there are actually a huge number of negative IQ people out there that take such complete and utter garbage at face value.  Why am I so affronted by such stupidity?  Because even Stone Age man knew better than that dammit!!  Where computers are involved people seem very keen to turn off their brains i.e. common sense.  I guess this is why the Singularity gets any air time at all.

I feel a little less offended by idiots proclaiming that particle accelerators will destroy the Earth because to understand the nonsense behind that statement you at least need to have GCSE standard maths and physics.

The Singularity issue is in yet another category of innate Homo Sapiens gullibility, it is closely related to the “Computer says no” reflex, where people happily relegate responsibility for thinking to a computer program where someone else has kindly done the thinking for them.  After all, thinking and learning hurt don’t they?  And we don’t want that do we??

I find it difficult to know where to begin dissing the “Singularity is near” concept.  But I think I can give an example that puts the whole Singularity business into context, and that is nuclear fusion.  Nuclear fusion is our attempt at creating the powerhouse behind the stars here on Earth.  “The energy source that is always 10 years in the future”, as often stated by those working on the problem.  And that’s where I saw the link with the Singularity and the hard A.I. problem, except the hard A.I. problem is INFINITELY more complex by comparison.  The reason being we don’t know what we’re talking about when it comes to trying to define and therefore to replicate consciousness.  At least when it comes to nuclear fusion we have Maxwell’s equations, we know the mathematics behind creating complex dynamical magnetic confinement fields, behind the behaviour of plasmas, and behind the actual fusion reactions themselves – and still we can’t make the damn thing work!  We started fusion research way back in the 1950s and back then the early researchers thought they had got fusion going (almost first time of trying) due to the production of a few neutrons – unfortunately they were not neutrons resulting from fusion reactions.  Never mind, small issue, in 10-years time we’ll easily have this sorted.  And then 60 years comes and goes and we still don’t have it sorted.  And this is for a technological problem where we know all the basic physics and have all the basic equations to hand!!

Now let’s consider the Singularity.  You can see why I used nuclear fusion as a comparison, it’s because a machine that passes the Turing test is likewise always 10-years in the future.  But the Singularity is a bit more than simply passing the Turing test, here we are talking hard A.I. we are talking a sentient machine, machine consciousness – and yet we don’t know squat about consciousness, so don’t you think it might be a little difficult (slightly more difficult than getting fusion to work) to get consciousness into a machine, given we don’t even know what it is?  No of course it isn’t!!  Haven’t you seen Terminator?  It’s dead easy.  You create a Skynet (Internet) and it grows and grows until quite suddenly, right out of the blue, it becomes self-aware!!  How cool is that?  Hello – hello out there – Terminator is a film, it is not real life (unlike the Idiocracy).  But from where I am sitting, the proponents of the “Singularity is near” are doing just that – they are treating what was an entertaining sci-film as our future reality.  Not a very scientific approach, more like a religious belief, a religious sect (and that’s just about as insulting as I can get).  It must also be pretty insulting to all those Philosophers and other great thinkers that spent a lifetime working on, and writing about the subject of human consciousness.  Not to mention those computer scientists that have spent their whole career working on the hard A.I. problem.  These people, if any, should be the ones to have any clue about how to create consciousness in a machine – and of course they do not have a clue.  They are completely clueless.

So where does that leave us?  Well – THE SINGULARITY IS NOWHERE BLOODY NEAR and it will remain that way for quite a few generations to come.  I am not writing off the possibility of machine consciousness – far from it, but for a race of “intelligent” beings that haven’t even gone back to the Moon yet, something we did way back in 1969, don’t you think you are being a little over ambitious in your expectations of what is, and what is not, currently feasible.

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I only managed to get 4 x 15-minute subs before the cloud rolled in (one of the 3 scopes was out of focus) – but hey, at least it’s another one off the list.

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Last night, 23/11/2014 was the first clear night in a month – and it was Moonless too :) :)

Gave the mini-WASP a good run, but packed up at midnight, which was actually a stupid thing to do – I should have carried on for at least a couple more hours.  Never mind.

Managed to grab 3 targets, one (Castor) was not a very clever or imaginative choice, but I am slowly learning.

Castor was 39 x 5-minute subs, P Cygni was 18 x 10-minute subs, and V V Cephei was 6 x 15-minute subs.

P Cygni is one of the most luminous stars in our galaxy and VV Cephei is one of the largest.  I wasn’t expecting to see the nice little planetary nebula NGC7139 in the V V Cephei image, so that was a great bonus.

All in all a very successful night’s imaging with the array.

Next outing – Carbon Stars :)

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Here is the bright star Mirach and the nearby galaxy named the “Ghost”.  A zoomed-in view of Mirach and the Ghost is shown in the insert top-left.

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This is what the latest incarnation of the mini-WASP array looks like – and it will look like this for some time to come.

There are 4 imaging systems on the array and one guider:

1)  Sky 90, filter-wheel with IDAS, H-alpha, H-beta, OIII, SII filters, M26C OSC CCD, Robofocus.

2)  Sky 90, filter-wheel with IDAS, H-alpha, H-beta, OIII, SII filters, M26C OSC CCD, Robofocus.

3)  Sky 90, IDAS filter, M26C OSC CCD, Robofocus.

4)  200mm Canon lens at f#4 with M26C OSC CCD, manual/electric focuser.

5)  Megrez 80 guide scope with SX guide camera.

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The solution to the Fermi Paradox is that there is no other intelligent life in the Universe.

Better start taking a little more care of this planet and the creatures we share it with people!

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