PhD Blog Posts

How digital cameras work

Some of my PhD work involves the use of cameras, and pre-empting a talk I will inevitably have to give at some point, I should learn how they work.

The first thing you need to know is that cameras detect electromagnetic radiation. For us humans, we can only detect this radiation between the wavelength of 390-700 nm. Because of this, most digital cameras are set to capture this specific band of radiation. Cameras can be built to detect wavelengths of almost any size, from X-ray’s which are very small to radio telescopes which are extremely large. Here is an excellent graphical representation of this.
vislight

Source – https://www.quora.com/What-is-the-wavelength-of-the-visible-spectrum
The word camera, according to Wikipedia, ‘comes from camera obscura, which means “dark chamber” and is the Latin name of the original device for projecting an image of external reality onto a flat surface.’ I prefer to think of cameras as electromagnetic (EM) radiation detectors.

Cameras detect the EM radiation that is not absorbed and therefore, reflected from whatever they are pointed at. The sensor is mostly a trap for the EM radiation. Then EM is trapped, and the camera’s computer converts the signals it has in its ‘trap’ into colour In the form of digital values.

In most cameras that you will encounter, a Bayer filter is used. This filter filters light into three colours: red, green and blue (RGB). The filter is positioned in front of the ‘trap’ and using this filter, and you can quantify how much R, G or B is landing on your ‘trap’. The other two primary colours are estimated using good old maths. Here is a good image showing this.
Image result for bayer filter

Source – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bayer_filter

 

After the relevant processing steps, a giant array of pixels is created. Pixels are the smallest elements in the image. The atoms of the image world. An image can be thought of as a three-dimensional array with width, height and depth. Where depth, in this case, is a different colour channel. So, you will have three two-dimensional arrays stacked on top of each other in an RGB image. With a value in each channel. For example, see the picture below.

rgb array
rgb array

In this case the cell in position (o,o,o) – [255,255,255] would be rendered as white, black would be [0,0,0]

The meeting – Week 18 as a PhD student

I will start this week with a quick update on my experience of publishing these posts. I posted two posts on the first day of making my site; It has become clear to me how important a headline is. One of my posts is titled ‘An unexpected PhD student’, the other is titled ‘ Week 1 – mediocre expectations’. I will let you be the judge of which one got 100% of the views that day. I don’t know why I expected the fact that being a PhD student would be more interesting than the run-of-the-mill fitness or lifestyle blogs. Oh, how I was wrong. This adds another dimension to this experience; previously, I thought people would click on my posts and give me feedback on my writing. My current belief is that I will have to become a lot more savvy with self-promotion and become the corporate-waster I despise. Although, It will probably look good on a CV…

This week1 I had my first supervisor meeting, I had to give a presentation about all the work I have been doing, and mostly justify my funding to my industrial sponsors. At my university, this occurs every 3-4 months, with larger formal reviews at the 6six month and one year mark. I am glad to say it went well, and that my supervisor’s – all four of them – are very supportive. I had been looking forward to this meeting as I have not had any feedback as to how I am doing; this is worrying as you feel as if you could potentially be wasting your time – and their money. I saw this meeting as more of an opportunity than an interrogation, as I needed the feedback. I am glad I do not have to prepare for it anymore though as I am bored of preparing presentations for the meantime. On that note, I have been asked to present a poster at the end of the month; another couple of weeks not working on my actual work is upon me. I should reframe my thinking, and see it as an opportunity to improve my communication skills; at the moment I see it as a chore.

If you have read some, or all, of my previous posts. Firstly, Thank you! Secondly, you will see that I have been complaining about not knowing what to do, and wondering if I am doing enough work. Well, ladies and gentleman, I now have too much to do; it took 18 weeks for this to occur, what a joyous 18 weeks. If experience is anything to go by, the time will start to pass a lot quicker! I have been preparing for another presentation that I have coming up next week, so my week has been quite boring. However, I did manage to do something other than prep presentations; I have started work on my first academic paper, mostly just the research but I did manage to write my first line, which as we know, is a start. A lot of the research involved looking for journals I could publish in; it looks as if anyone can start a journal as many journals had websites I would describe as home-brewed. There were not many that I will consider for publishing; I think that sticking to the big players – those owned by Elsevier etc. – is the best strategy for me at this point. Writing this paper will be a massive undertaking, and I expect it will take a year.

I have finally finished Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace, to be honest, I don’t recommend it. Unless you want an endurance challenge, I don’t think it was interesting enough for me to recommend it over other books. I will be running back to non-fiction for a while; I am unconvinced that reading fiction is a good use of my time. I have mentioned in the past that I have been writing code as part of my PhD; I have come across a few barriers recently regarding the installation of python packages. I have had a little bit of luck, but I am still stuck, however, I will continue to work on the problem as it is deep-rooted now, and I want the satisfaction of solving the problem. A less mature version of myself would have given up, and gone with another, a lesser method of achieving the same goal – measuring the colour of leaves objectively. I think this resilient mindset is something that is worth cultivating. It may be a cliché, but I believe that the work is much more important than the result. It is just important to take time to appreciate what you’re doing and enjoy the ride, as the happiness from the result is very short acting.

1. I need to find some more opening phrases.

Note

As with all these posts, they are roughly 4 months behind the present. Interesting how all the problems I had at this point are the least of my problems 4 months down the line.

My experience of blogging over the last three months on WordPress – The good and the ethically questionable.

This is going to be a review of my experience of blogging and the word press platform, and how I have gone from 0-750+ followers in three months. I will pre-warn you that not everything I talk about is going to be in the realm of good ethical behaviour.

Things I have learned:

  • Tags are important

    • Ethically correct: Use all the tags you can and make them as relevant to your post as possible. This will get you views from the type of people you’re interested in.

    • Ethically dubious: Some tags have more viewers than others, for example, I am PhD student, and I include the tag PhD in my posts; however, this only has around twenty posts in it per day, so if I were feeling roguish and all I cared about were views, I would drop this for a tag with more traffic as views are views right? No – more on this later.

  • Featured images are important

    • Only because it makes your post stand out more; in the early days I experimented by posting with and without a featured image, and sure enough, the featured image posts got slightly more views.

  • Good posts don’t necessarily get the most views.

    • You have all the seen the amazing poets and writers here on WordPress that have fewer than ten followers; and then there are the typical bloggers with their 10 best things you need for x, with a generic list of things, 8/10 you already have. They provide very little and have tons of likes and follows. Hopefully, you already knew the world wasn’t fair or just.

  • I get more views on the days when I post, so more post equals more views.

  • I am blogging from the UK, but the vast majority of my readers are from America, USA! USA! USA!

  • The most important thing – in my experience – for views? Interaction with the community.

I will come back to the last point in much more gory detail in a minute, but first some ‘proof’ of how my blog has grown.

After my last post where is talked about upgrading, I did just that, and now I am on the personal plan. My favourite thing about this is not having any ads on my site. Immediately after upgrading, I had my best day for likes (at the time) ‘BOOM!’.

Site stats - BOOM!

Now, this was not because I upgraded, but because I had got better at creating eye-catching posts and more followers, so I should expect to see many of these types of messages as the blog grows.

Below are a few other milestones that WordPress thought I should be aware of.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Does having more followers equal more views? Yes and no. Yes, I get slightly more views now I have over 600 followers than when I had 100. However, I do not get anywhere 6x more viewers I get perhaps ten more views.

Why the discrepancy? Well, that is because people (mostly) follow you because they think you will follow them back and increase their followers. Therefore, you can end up with a ton of followers, but no one cares about your posts. I do not know how many people you can follow per hour, but I would bet my entire net worth on the fact that you would gain a huge amount of followers if you followed every blogger you could, just from the ‘follow for follow effect’. I do not do this as I signed up to WordPress with an email address I care about – maybe a rookie error – and don’t want my inbox full of spam. How am I so sure this will work?

This is where we get into the dark arts and the ethical black hole that is marketing. I did a little experiment with likes. I liked as many posts as I possibly could – it turns out you can like 120 posts per hour—and found that from 120 likes I would get roughly five follows and 20 views. This may be a revelation to some of you and to others it may be a secret you wish I had not said.

Looking into this ‘like’ dilemma more, you might wonder if you should do this or not. My question is, why does WordPress set the limit at 120/hour? I highly doubt they think anyone could read 120 posts an hour, so there must be another reason. Have they not thought about the issue and set an arbitrary limit? Highly unlikely. I think the fact you’re allowed to like this many posts per hour is to keep people on the site, I mean who doesn’t get encouraged when someone ‘likes’ your content? The more encouragement you get, the more you write, the more views you get, the more ads WordPress can serve. I may be a bit cynical on this, but it does seem to encourage liking random posts to boost your stats. The limit of 120 must be to stop bots driving tons of views. This is the reason I say that engagement is important is largely from my results with the above experiment. I would be interested to know if anyone has tried to see how many follows you can do before you get capped by the WordPress speed limit? Scrap that, I tried it, and found that you can like 60 before getting an error. Why do they allow 60 follows an hour? Well, they do need a limit, to discourage bots, and it needs to be high enough that you never run into a barrier and can’t follow someone you want to under legitimate use. Again, I imagine this number has been arrived at by a lot of data analysis, rather than someone saying ‘errr what shall we set the follow limit at Jeff?’, ‘just make it half the number of likes’.

Comments… As I have stressed, engagement is key to views. Leaving comments on other peoples sites leaves a persistent portal from their website to yours. This too is to be abused by the fiendish marketeer. I have only had one comment marked as spam on my site by WordPress so far, and it was quite suspicious. It was very generic ‘hey I like your content!’ and then I clicked on the profile of the site who commented and I saw that the site had well over seven thousand followers and was much less than one year old. The content was entirely average. Well… don’t hate the player hate the game. Once again please leave a comment if you know the speed limit for comments, I may make a fake profile and test it for myself before this gets released. Comments are my favourite metric for how well a blog is doing as this is the ultimate engagement on the site and it is the only notification I receive. Due to all the dark arts, I have described in this post, I no longer receive any notifications other than comments as the others do not mean anything to me. The reason I started this site was to get feedback to learn, so comments are all I need.

Regarding visitors and views, I have found that I get a 50 % difference. For every two views, I get one visitor; I am guessing this means that half of the people come to my site look at more than one page. I don’t see anything wrong with this statistic so I shall move along.

My feeling toward the dark arts is somewhat conflicted as it is clearly encouraged by WordPress by the fact that from the reader tab you can like, comment, follow and share a post without even reading it. All you will see is the image, the title and the first few sentences. This surely can’t be enough time to form an opinion on the post? Ethically I don’t think you should disingenuously like, comment, follow etc. On the other hand, if you want your blog to grow, you cannot just expect good writing and time to get traffic.

Now I am going to talk about one of my biggest hatreds that I have found about the community, it is actually my only hatred: blogger awards. I recently got ‘nominated’ for a sunshine blogger award. I can understand the people who made these ‘awards’ as they have created something to drive traffic to their site, with only idiots thinking they have achieved something. However, it seems that 90% of the community values these things, I see posts all the time where people are genuinely thanking the people who nominated them. I have even seen people proudly display these awards on their blogs! I guess most people do not see through these thinly veiled devices that drive traffic.

All I have spoken of above are symptoms of problems rooted in the larger society, where people see celebrities make a post about some product and earn loads of money from doing so. This inspires everyone else to do the same and suddenly everyone is trying to sell anything, including their dignity, for a punchers chance at fame and fortune. And me? I’m the worst of all, I tell myself I am better than them by disguising my attempts to get that passive income as a learning opportunity. I’m cognisant of the problem and still buying the ticket for the ride.

You may think that I haven’t enjoyed my time on WordPress, but this is not true, I have had many great engagements with people commenting on my blog and best of all have been the book recommendations. My reading list has increased massively, and I hope this continues. I can’t stress enough how much enjoy reading your comments; thanks for that!

I have not seen any other bloggers address these issues so it would be great to get your opinion (engagement bait). Feel free to ironically link your blog in the comments.

 

P.S

I have just seen this in notification settings. This a button that contains an ethical conundrum! A deal with the Devil I wonder?

no email button

I guess that is how you follow everyone and don’t get spam in your inbox.

 

A profound title – Week seventeen as a PhD student

Well, I did it, I have made a website where all of these posts will be open to comment. Of course, you already know this, as you would not be reading this if I hadn’t already done so. My experience so far is that there is a large number of people that have fitness-related blogs. I know this because as soon as I posted my ramblings, many fitness bloggers clicked ‘like’ on my post without even reading the post. I am excited to see what comes from this little online experiment.

In PhD student news, this week, I had to stop with one of my experiments as it was not working as intended. I measured the ion leakage from membranes of spinach leaves as a potential marker for shelf life; the problem was, that it took a long time after the best before date – two weeks until there was any useful difference. What I mean by this, is that I could distinguish day fourteen from day one, but not day seven from day one; as the date on the pack ended at day four, this is not ideal. From this experiment, I believe that the shelf life of spinach – from this season (Italian winter), is far too conservative. My take home from this is that you should use your judgement when assessing if your product is good for eating.

One big thing I have learnt this week is that networking, and actually talking to people are very close to the top of the skill tree. At the beginning of last week, I did not know where I was going with my next experiments. I got talking with one of the postdocs1, and he suggested I ran the same experiment he was running on my samples. This is great for me for many reasons: firstly I will learn a new technique; secondly I have something to do, thirdly I have made a new contact, and hopefully, he can be an ongoing resource for me. So, there we go, the power of networking.

It feels as if I have been preparing and presentations for two different events I have coming up exclusively this week. If you think my writing is weak, you should see my speaking. I am hoping that if I become a better writer, my speaking will improve along with it. After the next two weeks, my speaking engagements will be over for a while, and I can concentrate on my research more. One thing you should know about being a PhD student is that you will almost certainly have to give a presentation every few months, so you may as well get good, that is my thought on the matter anyway.

I had a lab-group meeting this week; I am getting much more confident speaking within the group. I think I am starting to relax into being in the position I am: progress! I am desperate to not be in the seventy-percent of people who experience mental health issues during a PhD. My approach to this is to try and balance my life as much as possible: no all-nighters. This should be an enjoyable time, and I will optimise my life for happiness and not ‘being successful’. I think this is the only logical way to live.

I have a question with regards to my writing. Do you like this style of post? Or, should I do less of this bloggy stuff and more informative articles related to my field?

1. Post-doctoral researcher.

Learning to write – Conjunctions

This is last post of this mini-series on the basic elements of English. Next week I have an epic I have been working on about the dark arts of driving traffic to your WordPress site.

Conjunctions

Conjunctions allow us to create complex sentences.

Without conjunctions. Our sentences. Would be short, jarring affairs.

As we have come to expect from this series of post on different parts of speech, conjunctions have a few different categories. These are, coordinating, correlative and subordinating conjunctions.

FANBOYS – coordinating conjunctions

This is the mnemonic you should remember for the coordinating conjunctions. For, And, Nor, But, Yet and So.

Coordinating conjunctions connect two or more independent clauses of equal grammatical rank.

By equal grammatical rank I mean that both sides of the coordinating conjunction should be main clauses (can stand alone). For more information on this look here.

If the conjunction separates two main clauses there should be a comma before the conjunction.

If the conjunction separates two items there is no need for a comma.

Incorrect: A, and B.

Correct: A and B.

I think you can come up with your own example sentences, so I shall move on to the next classification of conjunctions.

Correlative conjunctions

correlative conjunctions are pairs of conjunctions that work together.

I am writing, but I’m also listening to music.

He writes not only a blog but also a newspaper column

subordinating conjunctions

subordinating conjunctions connect independent and dependent clauses (a clause that can stand alone and one that can’t).

I feel tired because I did not sleep well last night.

I fell hungry as I skipped breakfast.

subordinating conjunctions do not have a comma separating them unless the subordinating clause comes first.

Correct: I feel tired because I did not sleep well last night.

(Independent clause) (conjunction) (dependent clause)

Correct: As I did not sleep well last night, I feel tired.

(dependent clause) (comma) (independent clause)

look here for a full list of conjunctions

Bonus category!

Compound conjunctions

Compound conjunctions are several conjunctions that act together.

I will keep writing so long as you keep reading.

Thinking about starting a blog – Week sixteen as a PhD student

Early this week I had a strong urge to publish my journaling of the PhD experience; I thought I would make a WordPress site and just publish them on a weekly basis anonymously.

How would you know whether it happened or not? If you stumbled across this before this post, in your timeline, I would have made the site earlier. If you stumbled across it today, then you would assume I made the site a while back as there are some posts before this one. Well, I planned to make it on the weekend, and of course, I didn’t. Maybe next weekend? As I don’t have anything to lose, I will commit to getting it done by next weekend. The worst that can happen is that no one reads it and I don’t get any better at writing than I would have, had I not published this stuff. I assume that I would improve much better if other people were critiquing the writing.

What have I been working on this week? Well, I have to give a three-minute thesis at an internal conference. So I have started to write and make the slides for that. I attended a course on ‘presenting your research in three minutes’ presented by a very high-quality presenter; she is a science communicator and a stand-up comedian so you can guess she was comfortable with public speaking. It did help give some structure to my presentation, and it brings me up to seven out of five of the courses I need to take this year. Next week I have my eighth, which is about writing a literature review; I will probably register for more of them in the summer as I can’t turn down free education it would seem.

Most of this week was work, as usual, hedonic adaptation deeply rooted in at this point. A grinding situation has started to develop. I have been thinking that I need to create another stream of income as I want to increase my savings rate, and hopefully pad out my C.V. with respectable commendations. Ideally, it will be something I can do with flexi-time as I don’t want to detract from my primary objective. Another income stream will be another goal of mine added to the ‘Life.txt’ document I have. The reason I have been thinking about this is that I calculated how much money I could theoretically have by the end of my PhD; If I could increase that by roughly ten-thousand, I will be in a much more stable position. I noticed that a lot of my peers are doing some form of part-time work while doing their PhDs; I am sure they need the money more than I do as most of them are living in the typical student fashion, however, if they can do it…

My two biggest time sinks this week has been random Twitch browsing and playing video games, combined, they probably took twelve hours from me. I am unsure what I am going to do about this.

P.S This was written on the 28-1-18, and it looks like I did make a blog.

Learning to write – Determiners

What is a determiner? Determiners are a class of words which include: articles, possessive adjectives (my, his, her, its, our, your, their), demonstratives (this/that, these/those) and quantifiers.

The essence of determiners is that they tell us if a noun-phrase is specific or general. Therefore they must come before a noun.

As we looked at articles last week in this post, we will not go over them again here.

Possessive adjectives

Possessive adjectives show what belongs to, or is related to something else.

my, his, its, our, your, their etc.

My writing is improving.

The man jumped out of his skin when a spider presented its fangs.

Demonstratives

demonstratives differentiate between things that are near and far because that is important to have a category for words that do this…

Near: this, these. Far: that, those

It seems that that doesn’t necessarily indicate Far. What is that on your face!

What shall we do this weekend? (close)

Do you recall what the weather was like that weekend we went to France? (Far)

Quantifiers

From the name, it should be easy to guess what these do.

They come before a noun and tell us about the number, or quantity of the noun in question.

No, none, either, neither, any, both, few, little, etc.

How many new followers will I gain due to this post? Any? None?

As Bilbo Baggins said: ‘I don’t know half of you half as well as I should like, and I like less than half of you half as well as you deserve’

The above is an example as to why the English language is so complicated. I am a native English speaker and do not understand anywhere near all of it. It seems as if there is a lot of overlap in these categories.

For example that could be a pronoun, demonstrative, adverb and a conjunction. The key would be where it appears in the sentence and what it precedes as to what category of speech it would fall under.