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Hubble's photo's too sharp?

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#1 Orpheus


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Posted 03 April 2003 - 01:11 AM

Sorry I haven't been around much lately. Things to see, People to do, and all that.

Some of you might recall my rants )on my now-defunct site, and in SS-BBS AU) about NASA completely doctoring photos: adding nonexistent vivid colors, turning green to red, enhancing details, and the like. I linked several interviews with the touch-up staff (artists, creating appealing compositions  with no conception of the scientific  implications of the alterations).

Part of my outrage came from the sense that they didn't respect reality (it's not exciting enough for them) and another part from concern over what this meant about the outlook of the underlying agency. To me. reality is the best. Period. Enhancement is good and often useful, but it should never be the primary image released to the public. Do that, and you're just reiterating the "race to space" hype that left the public dissatisfied, and has kept humanity off the moon for the entire lifetime of many EtU readers

I don't want a lifelong "space dreamer" to arrive on-system and think "is that all there is?"

However, I've always fully admitted that this was mostly a personal philosophical issue, since (I presumed) the images sent to scientists were "undoctored".  I was still pretty unhappy, because the images available to the public are so predominatly doctored that the 'amateur' scientist was effectively excluded (which includes me: my doctorates are in "unrelated" sciences that share a fundamental physico-chemical basis) . I've always been a fan of the amateur scientist, and the more 'outsider discoveries' have been made in the astro-sciences  than any other general field.

Then today, I read this article on how analysis of Hubble photo would require a revision of space-time theories. Now I wonder -- are the photos being sent to scientists also (accidentally, innocently) enhanced? Are we entirely closing the door on serendipitous discoveries by the public or allied scientists outside the Charmed Circle? Frankly, given the options of a) a known but largely underpublicized  artistic enhancement of almost all publicly available images; and b) a complete revision of the current spacetime quantum physics; I have no qualms over putting my money on the former. The kind of quantum effects being called into question won't be remedied by a minor fix to the theory.

I don't know what to say. I'll bet the resolution of this quandary gets slapped on page 99, either by the reporters, or by the selective memories of the public (whether it's NASA-related or not). Does anyone recall when the "dominant visible spectrum of the Universe' was reported to be a (generally expected) blue-green, instead of the initially reported pale salmon pink? That's about as big a shift as the visible spectrum will allow, and has immense astrophysical consequences, but since it was phrased in terms of "color", the layman and allied science response was a giant yawn..

What? Don't we deserve real data? Or are we space enthusiasts mere children to be soothed by pretty pictures? Let's fill our favorite SF shows with gratuitous sex and pointless firefights! -- They're pretty too!

Edited by Orpheus, 03 April 2003 - 01:12 AM.

#2 Christopher

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Posted 03 April 2003 - 02:24 AM

Hmm, I'm not sure about that.  The issue is that the images are too sharp, i.e. have too much resolution.  I'm not sure that it's possible to add much resolution to an image.  From my own crude efforts at photo enhancement, if you start with a low-resolution image the best you can do is soften it up somewhat, blur the jagged edges.  You can't actually add more information beyond the pixel resolution you have.  In TV we constantly see "image enhancement" that's capable of taking a block of 20x30 pixels and sharpening it into a crystal-clear, detailed image, but of course that's faked.  You can only do so much to enhance an image by interpolating from the data you have.

Besides, the article seems to say that the blurriness should be caused by "quantum foam," and string theory already calls the existence of quantum foam into doubt.  So this sounds to me like evidentiary support for a hypothesis that's already been arrived at mathematically.
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#3 Delvo

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Posted 03 April 2003 - 03:11 AM

Ordinarily, I agree that doctoring images is a problem, but I really don't see how in the world you are getting any suggestion of that from this article. It looks pretty simple to me: Some have thought that there should be quantum blurring. Some have not. Hubble's good enough to answer the question.

Where's the big deal here?

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