Thursday, May 31, 2007

Damn it, emotions scare me. Especially my own.

Whenever a minor surge of emotions appear, the rational part of my mind will look at that blossoming thunderhead and start freaking out.

OMG emotions! Kill them. KILL THEM!

Looks like the rational part is not very logical anyway.


Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Ohh look, a digital SLR!

Sometime last week, Jean managed to persuade me to sign up for gym membership at Fitness First. I suspect she used some form of black magic because I’ve scoffed at gyms for 24 years.

Been intending to pick up martial arts again but had never been able to find a training centre with reasonable prices. The university ones charge pretty exorbitant rates for anyone who’s neither a staff nor student, and there are no known places located within the city centre.

Seeing that this facility has boxing and kickboxing, Jean’s black magic worked extra well.

The boxing class was a let down. There was no focus on the technicalities of throwing a punch. No mention on aiming n inches behind the target surface. No emphasis on leaning forward into a cross-punch. No weight-shifting to improve uppercuts. Definitely no sparring or anything of that sort. How utterly uncultured, to even think of sparring. Hmmnp!

Who is the idiot who let his expectations fill up with helium and then letting it float so high?

The class focused heavily on aerobic performance and thus resulted in throwing a lot of punches quickly. One has to refrain from technically smart-arsed remarks like “try driving your cross-punch forward by leaning your upper body forward, rotating your shoulder and rotating your hips at the same time.”

This is not the place; people who want real boxing are in their boxing gyms with their red sandbags hanging from roof trusses and at least one square ring to work in.

I’ll probably continue to amuse myself with pacing myself and working on the technicalities...

On a separate note, I am now the owner of a Canon EOS 300D digital SLR and also a Hanimex 400 mm f6.5 telephoto (for only $22.30). On the 300D and The Architect’s D40 (the lens comes in a genetic T-mount that can be adaped to fit various camera mounts), the equivalent length of this thing is a humongous 640 mm.

They are in the mail. *insert grin*


Thursday, May 24, 2007

My first HDR photo

Click here for large size image

This was constructed as a high dynamic range (HDR) image to get good detail in highlights and shadows. Two images were captured with one stop exposure difference between them. In hindsight, i should have done three images with 1.5 stops of seperation to get that extra 3 stops of brightness range.

The merged 32-bit colour image was then trimmed back to 8 bits using a high-contrast sigmoid curve to give highlight and shadow details while avoiding a generally flat look.

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Monday, May 21, 2007

A halogen bulb's tungsten filament

I’ve been pimped by Politikus under the Thinking Blogger Award. Supposedly my blog is thought provoking. That's a good start; in a few years my plan to take over the world will be fully in place.

I’ll address that [tag] in a few days. Meanwhile, images...

Click here for large size image
The filament is approximately 3 mm in height and has 19.5 coils
Jupiter-9 85 mm lens reverse mounted on Panasonic PZ30

Ever since acquiring the knowledge of microscopy, I have wanted to get a photograph of the filament in an operating halogen bulb. However, no camera can ever hope to achieve the preposterously short exposure times or sub-micron aperture sizes required to correctly expose the live coil. The only realistic alternative would be the use of some sort of high density filter to remove as much energy as possible, hence making the existing camera usable in this context.

Click here for large size image.
Defects and surface irregularities in the tungsten filament are visible on the bottom half of the coils. The 19.5 coils distributed over 3 mm means that the coil spacing is 0.15 mm. The gap between coils is about the diameter of the filamen, thus the filamen diameter is approximately 0.08 mm.
Super-Takumar 50 mm lens reverse mounted on Panasonic PZ30

With not even one neutral-density filter, much less a stack of them, I made do with a pair of polarizers. A pair of ideal polarizers would block half the light from passing when the polarizers are aligned in parallel, and block all light when aligned perpendicularly. Effectively, I had a variable-density filter with a factor ranging from 2 to slightly less than infinity.

Click here for large size image
A closer view of the preceding image

The use of variable-density filtration has its benefits. The polarizer can be rotated to give a suitable degree of contrast to permit manual focusing. With that done, the shutter button is depressed halfway to lock the aperture and the histogram shows the final image’s brightness distribution. The polarizer can then be rotated to optimise the brightness distribution.

Click here for 100% crop image
The thickness variations on the filament is approximately 1/15 the filament diameter (0.08 mm). Thus the bumps and gaps on the filament are approximately 0.005 mm or 50 microns in scale.
A closer view of the preceding image

Colour is not relevant in these photographs as the entire filament emits black-body radiation corresponding to 3000 K. Any colour seen in these images are the result of chromatic aberrations and white-balance tweaks.

A 100% crop of the preceding image

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Sunday, May 20, 2007

Hello, I’m an asshole lacking in sympathy

Updated Monday 6.30 p.m.:
Comments were not enabled earlier due to an error. It has now been restored.
Thanks to LCF for pointing it out.

An accident along Jalan Matang-Batu Kawa in Kuching on Thursday (17th May) claimed the lives of one of the drivers, her mother and her 2 daughters while seriously injuring the driver’s niece. (source) (source) (source)
A local correspondent reported that newspaper coverage of the incident spanned five full pages.

Ordinarily, people would have been saddened or distraught at such an incident, but I think I’ve not much sympathy left for the universe or motor accident casualties.

It (my loss of emotions) probably started when I realised that the world is much, much larger than what the news media can possibly cover. For every donation request for a premature baby who requires corrective surgery, there are countless other broken families, unfairly dismissed employees and individuals corrupted by gambling. A news report on the marriage/ divorce of a celebrity couple is accompanied by thousands of unreported unions and partings of couples who are as important as the celebrities.

The point is that consumers of news have only a finite attention span, and it is the business (without funding the media cannot exist) of those in the media to fill and extend the consumers’ attention. Ultimately, this is not about the media not fairly reporting events (it can never do this), but the limited information that anybody/ anything can process.

Coming back to the main topic for today, it is not the fault of the media.

Basically I realised that the unfortunate incidents I hear of are definitely not the only ones occuring. On the basis of equity and/or apathy, I do not give these reported events much thought because:
Schapelle Corby / Paris Hilton going to jail is not an earth shattering event- many individuals go to jail without us ever knowing;
the recent Jalan Matang-Batu Kawa accident is not an entirely new class occurrence.

Interestingly, I have been over stimulated and desensitization. Not over stimulated from continuous coverage, but from my perception that these events are occurring everyday (with or without news coverage to explicitly highlight them).

Of course, it would be nice if I had been wrong all this while. It would be nice if people gasp in horror when a man dies from gunshots because violent deaths are actually rare. Sadly, violent deaths are common. Iraq alone would suggest that it is the case. (civilian death toll)

Ok, so violent deaths are not rare. But what if Iraq is an uncommon occurrence? Maybe failed/famine/conflict-infested/fucked-by-US states are aberrations. Turns out that it is not the case either. While North Korea, Iraq and the Gaza Strip are the current basket-cases in the news, but there is still a handful of depression in post-colonial Africa not in the lime-light.

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Friday, May 18, 2007

Sugar crystals

Click here for large size image

Having the optics of a microscope but no specimen stage nor a proper light source is extremely annoying. That means I have to attach my specimens to a clear plastic ruler, stand it between two heavy objects and shine my halogen study lamp on it.

The huge magnifications sought generally require a bright light source to get decent exposure times, and the desk lamp does not really cut it. With camera shake a real hazard (depressing the shutter button is enough to cause vibrations that are serious enough to make a mess of the photo. The system is so sensitive that even with a decent tripod, the 10 s self timer is insufficient for vibrations to fall to an acceptable amplitude), focusing and exposure are generally hit-and-miss pot shots.

A close up of the preceding image

Using the several CD boxes, I constructed a mirror assembly and a specimen stage. With a diagonal mirror holder (I made do with aluminium foil) and a horizontal specimen stage, it allowed a much faster set up time. Horizontally directing the intense beam of a slide projector onto the mirror, the specimen is illuminated from below.

The projector’s beam was impressive. Its intensity allowed exposures faster than 1/1000 s at full aperture and 1/60 s stopped down. Camera shake was no longer a problem.

The photograph here was taken by reverse-mounting a Super-Takumar 1.4/50mm over a Panasonic FZ30. The Super-Takumar was stopped down to f4 to improve depth of field (further reducing the aperture would introduce horrible vignetting) and the FZ30 stopped down to f11. Only the green channel was used to produce these monochromatic image.

A 100% crop the preceding image

Due to the many glass elements within the optical system, refraction eventually results in light of different wavelengths (colours) projected differently on the sensor. Amazingly, the image in the red channel has a slightly higher magnification that the green and blue channels. This minor mismatch in projected images results red and purple fringes on out-of-focus highlights.

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Thursday, May 17, 2007

Click here for large size image
Click here for Deviant Art entry


Thursday, May 10, 2007

Michelle's sister

I have a distant relative from Hong Kong who can be briefly described as my grandmother’s cousin’s wife. Due to cumulative age differences, my grandmother’s cousin’s wife (who is obviously two generations above me) is only 12 years older than me. We will call her Michelle for convenience.

At one of the parties last week, Michelle was seated with a few cousins around her. “Yat Wai,” she called my name in Cantonese, a strange glint in her eyes, “come over here for a moment.” The cousins eyed me, a strange mischief seeming to dance on their faces.

I plodded over and Michelle asked, “Do you have a girlfriend?”

Time stops. Cue pan shot of motionless scene à la The Matrix.

A cluster of neurons discharge, triggering a cascade of electrical discharges in neighbouring cells. I articulate a careful response.

“Ah, good,” she clapped her hands together softly, a smile appearing spontaneously, “I have a sister 12 years younger than me. Just the same age as you!”
“Err, is that necessary?” I had no other ways to respond.
“She’s a smart girl, pretty, studying medicine.”
Out of nowhere, my mother materialises and interject, “yes, look at how pretty and smart aunt Michelle is.”

For the rest of the week, I get teased occasionally by the aunts about this sister of Michelle.


Which brings us to the main topic of today’s discussion: the family tree as a mathematical object.

Consider the typical family tree, neatly arranged so that offspring are positioned below the parents and siblings are located side by side.

As a consequence of the above rule, members of the same generation are always on the same row. Members on separate rows are from different generations.

Now construct a function called generation, which is simply a measure of which generation a particular member is in. The generation number increases as one looks at earlier generations. Arbitrarily setting my generation to generation 0, my parents would be labelled generation 1; grandparents, generation 2. And so on.

Now to apply the concept of a path integral to this generation function. The path integral of the generation function is the difference in generation between the member at the start of the path and the member at the end of the path.

Note that this path is completely arbitrary and need not follow the sequence in which members are arranged on the family tree.

Consider this short path, starting from myself and ending at my brother:
Myself, my grandmother, my aunt, my cousin, my father, my brother.

Now, take the path integral by taking the change in generation at each step:
Myself to my grandmother. Grandmother is 2 generations above me; hence the change for this step is 2.

My grandmother to my aunt. My aunt is my grandmother’s daughter, and hence my aunt is one generation below my grandmother. The change for this step is -1.

My aunt to my cousin. -1

My cousin to my father. My father is my cousin’s uncle, and my father is one generation above my cousin. The change for this step is 1.

My father to my brother. -1

The path integral is the sum of these integrals, which is 2 - 1 - 1 + 1 – 1 = 0. Which makes sense, as my brother is in the same generation as me and hence there is no generation gap.

Now, one can see that in a typical family tree, this generation function is conservative: the path integral of the generation function does not depend on the path; it only depends on the two end points.

It follows that any integral taken along a closed loop would result in zero. After all, this is a conservative function and the closed loop means that the start and end points are the same; hence there is no difference between the start and end points.

Having introduced the path integral of the generation function, now consider a hypothetical question.

What if I marry this Michelle’s sister (whom we shall call Φ for convenience)?

Marrying Φ results in a deformation of the family tree topology. As a marriage creates a new connection element in the family tree, it creates a paradox of sorts. If I look at the marriage between myself and Φ, then the marriage would mean that we are of the same generation. However, if I trace backwards to my grandmother, her cousin, his wife and her sister, it turns out that we are not of the same generation.

If we take the path integral of a closed loop in this scenario, starting at myself to Φ, then back towards Φ’s sister, her husband, my grandmother and back to myself, we would find that the path integral is not zero but +2 (dependent on the direction of the loop).

Hence, by choosing the appropriate path integral to loop around this abnormality, I can be my own grandfather. Taking two orbits around the loop, I become my own great-great-grandfather.

Due to slackness on my part, I’ll not attempt to produce drawings on a sample family tree, the associated path integrals and the deformed topology resulting from the hypothetical marriage (althought this last one would be enlightening).

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Monday, May 07, 2007

I think I'm shitting images

Kodak T-Max 400

Monochrome film for C-41 colour process
This film is not cheap

Ilford PanF 50

Black and white film
Finding someone who can process B/W is not easy

Nikon SB-800

Click here for large size image
Nikon SB-800's contacts insulated and mounted on Ricoh, set to SU-4 slave mode: fires when another flash is triggered
Canon 430EX mounted on-camera and directed to a wall on the left

Super-Takumar f1.4/50mm

Click here for large size image
Used with an M42-EF mount adapter and a Canon EOS 300D

Super-Takumar f3.5/135mm and extension tube

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Extension tube held over a Canon EOS 300D

Pink is the new black cool

Click here for large size image
L-R: Brother, cousin, cousin,... cousin, self, brother

Canon EF-S 18-55mm lens with 430-EX flash, by Yee Hou

Canon EF-S 18-55mm lens with 430-EX flash, by Yee Hou
That's money by the way; a pile of RM 50 and RM 100 notes.

Canon EF-S 18-55mm lens with 430-EX flash, by Yee Hou

Canon EF 50mm f/1.8

An evilly hot day next to Diana's house

Notice the variery of optical equipment listed?

The following conversation is thus justified.
go sleep...
i feel bad for keeping you here
nah, im geektalking with my brother
we're discussing camera strategies
too many cameras, not enough hands

oh my god
so weighing off each device's pros and cons
well he went and borrrowed a shit load of equipment for the wedding

More optics here...

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