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Portfolio: "seeing the unseen"
Scientific Filming - "Schlieren Imaging of Underwater Bio-Marine Observations"


Introduction
Mussels are hard working filter feeders, but with the naked eye there is little evidence to see the work done. With scientific knowledge of physics, there is a method to exploit variabilities in density within a fluid medium called Schlieren. It was wondered if the principle could be applied to make visible the water plumes expelled by a mussel, whilst it works.
The thinking behind the idea considered it would be possible. The learning of how to achieve this then followed, with three months of increasingly finely tuned experiments.
scientific filming - cavewallmedia.co.uk scientific filming - cavewallmedia.co.uk


Development and continued application of Schlieren process.
The initial project comprised, the development of the scientific technique and the subsequent results. This was to be submitted as my Hons Project, for my BSc.Underwater Science Degree.
The subsequent 2 minute film part (shown below) was produced several years later, having studied media in spare time and my interest in the scientific application was even stronger. I'd also, now, got a bit of movie making equipment to add to the scientific gizmo gadgets.


Scientific Filming - "Mussels At Work"
(Short 1:59 min video)

Mussels at Work from Cave Wall Media (.co.uk) on YouTube.


The 'Hons' bit... 'My' bit... story.
I'd always considered the Hons bit of the Degree as 'my' bit and was determined to have it reflect the way I like to explore in thought, then in application, something intrigueing, even if it means going 'out-on-a-limb'... and from the out-set, it became clear that, 'out-on-a-limb' is exactly where I was heading...

A key problem was that a tutor could not be found who would endorse and support the idea. Apparently, it was a problem that I seemed to be mixing three disciplines... Physics, Biology and Media... and these were three separate faculties (all with their own ongoing politics problems).
So I resolved to just get on with it, and would see who was interested in the visual results (if it worked!) when I was done.

Another key problem was that the desired equipment could not be found in the uni... A resolve for this problem meant not only going out-on-a-limb, but reaching even further into the perilous area of the twiggy bits (with the utmost risk of plumetting out of the 'tree' completely)... But, I did my calculations...
... Do a standard Hons project and continue to a standard (boring) 2:1 Degree... or drop to a 2:2, but go for the desired Hons project... the 'me' Hons project...

I decided that Degrees are more common nowadays, so I opted for the 'me' Hons project as being a far more valuable and individual component than just getting a box-standard 2:1... so here's how the plan looked...
... I need the cash to get the equipment...
... But all my time available is being taken up with the final module of the Degree... It is split into two coursework tasks... a 40% and a 60% task... I have completed the former and got 70%... so here's the deal... 70% of the 40% = just below a module fail... but as my other marks are ok, this module will be 'lifted' to a minimum pass... I will now not do the 60% part... Write it off... With this module now rendered in at a 40% minimum pass, this will drop my degree to a 2:2, BUT, now allow me time to go out to work and get the money to buy the equipment...! and get me a 'me' Hons project.

Equipment.
Absolute precision test mirror (50mm diameter)... £50
Absolute precision main mirror (only 150mm diameter)... but nearly £300
My own (constant result) Digital Imaging Unit... £700
Bits n Bobs... £300
The uni has the digital imaging equipment, but could not guarentee the use of the same unit. As my measurements were to be very precise, I could not afford a "variable" to be in the recording equiipment, so it was critical to get my own, so that this part remained a constant.

... and so it was... Off to the data centers, the building sites, the factories and the free-ads to sell all my beloved diving equipment.

Failure and Success.
The test mirror arrived and I practiced systems in small arenas. The main mirror arrived and I built the bigger version of the learned system. The digital imaging unit arrived and I then spent all the time tweeking a system and recording the progress as I searched for a visual signature...
2 months into the project, with no success in getting any visual signature at all, it crossed my mind, that I have just blown my degree.
With no Hons project, perhaps no degree at all, plus some numpty sounding story containing hard-to-fathom-reasoning... it is pretty much a failure in its total form... my mouth went dry, my eyes burned, I locked my door and studied the pine table top from less than 1cm away as my head rested face down on it for the best part of an hour.

... Two weeks later, at 3am in the morning I was dancing round the lounge, having just obtained the first, albeit very faint visual signature... it was going to be alright.

The system was finely tuned. The visual signatures increased. The results were written up. The project was layed out and presented in a written and illustrated document... Then I went to find the new physics tutor and showed some pics of the project.
When he expressed an interest to use them in his lectures, I dropped the need for a deal... He could, with my pleasure, if he would mark it... mark it? for what?... for my Hons project!
... He did, along with someone to verify it... and it was awarded 80%...
... I slept solid for a week.


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