Monday, July 24, 2006

Blind spot?

"Experts are the most dangerous" - at least that was what I was told during my 3-day laser safety course with the Laser Institute of America. I was made to take the safety course before I started teaching Laser Technology to High School students at the Columbia Career Centre, Missouri in 1998.

I was reminded uncomfortably of this saying during one evening's entertainment at the Display Holography Symposium. An eminent scientist whom I had the greatest respect for, was showing off a new purchase - a 20mW green laser pointer - to the group of impressed holographers surrounding him. He was aiming his laser at distant trees in the garden of the castle where we were for the evening. Having had to apply recently for permission to do an outdoor beam show, I knew what damage a laser could do to a plane - or rather it's pilot, so I was concerned in case he missed the trees and went off into the sky, so asked him politely not to aim the pointer upwards. He ignored me and continued showing the laser off. I was furious.

The incident reminded me that many holographers I know either don't know, or don't care, about laser safety. After a Master's degree at the Royal College, I didn't know that a 5mW laser can give you a blind spot in a shorter time than you can blink and that you should use laser safety glasses.

Well, I'm sure that most holographers would scoff at that point - and I will hear loud protestations about my suggestion to wear glasses. (I know that they are expensive, but it is possible to use glasses with an optical density that allows you to still be able to see the beam!). Ok, I would yield to the arguement that it's a pain to have to wear the glasses - except for the fact that I've had a beam in the eye - (it was frightening) - and I know one of my previous employers has been hit in the eye a number of times and has two blind spots.

So big deal - we've all naturally got blind spots haven't we? But, a laser beam in the eye from a low powered laser can lose you up to two lines of visual accuity when doing those eye tests, reading off the lines - after being hit.

So, I would like to know - if you would want to argue with me about laser safety issues and say that I'm over-zealous. Have you been hit?

I think that it is almost impossible to re-train someone once they have established their bad habits - I have far too many. At least now I take my watch off whenever I go to turn a laser on - without even thinking about it. But I know that when I'm teaching or acting as a role model I am building habits that will last a lifetime.
That cartoon isn't so funny really, is it?

Please check out Rockwell Laser Industries for more info on the safe use of lasers.

Thursday, July 20, 2006


There's something really quite extraordinary about seeing eminent scientists, historic figures - ones that you are somewhat in awe of - 'goofing off'.

I never really got over dancing with Denisyuk and Benton in a Chicago night club (RIP to both) - or seeing Denisyuk in his swimming trunks at the Lake Forest Holography Symposium as he went for his morning dip in Lake Michigan.

So, it's with that sense of the surreal that I bring you these photos taken at Ruthin Castle Mediaeval banquet. Here is King Hans Bjelkhagan and Emeritus Professor of Optics Prince T. Jeong et al. Giggle... perhaps someone could kindly name everyone for me?

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Jon Mitton - Simply the best?

More holograms from the 7th International Symposium on Display holography's exhibtion at Bodelwyddan Castle.

Reflection hologram on glass. Animated 7" diameter circle. Steel and brass tilting wall display. (Thanks to Mark Diamond for this set of photos).

Ok, I'm biased - Jon Mitton is a friend - but these holograms of his are among my favorites.

Reflection hologram on glass. Animated. 7” diameter circle. Steel and brass tilting wall display.

The red image is of a caged ball, revolving.

'You will Obey', 1992.
Reflection Multiplex hologram. Silver Halide on glass.
The Jonathan Ross Hologram Collection.

Thanks to David Pizzanelli for the photos.

Monday, July 17, 2006

A brief aside - Run for Life

Please forgive me for using my work blog for a personal issue, but I’d like to thank those at the University of Southampton and those from the 7th International Symposium for Display Holography, who sponsored me in the Race for Life.

Taking part in the 5km race, along with 10,000 other women on Southampton Common on the 16th July, was probably one of the most moving experiences of my life.

I’m not one for the ‘fun-run’, but I thought that this was worth the discomfort of training for. The Race for Life is a charitable fund-raising event in aid of Cancer Research.

We were encouraged to write down the names of the people we were running in memory of, and display them on signs on our backs. If it wasn’t for cancer research, I shouldn’t be here – my Mother is a survivor, however her sister died from cancer at the age of 36. I have 3 friends struggling with cancer at the mo too, so I wrote all their names down on a sign which I pinned to my shirt.

I wasn’t the only one. As I jogged behind (and passed) different women during the event I had to wipe the tears away - it’s one thing to know that cancer kills one-in-three, but it’s another thing to be confronted by their names, their faces and the terms of endearment from those who loved and lost them - in their thousands.

Thanks again – for the sponsorship – and the opportunity to be one of the heard.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

A problem? Nah...

It's about time I reported on my presentations.

Firstly - James Gates & I gave a paper on our Holography Educational experiences - we're about to have more as we are doing 2 holography workshops with primary school children tomorrow at the Castle. Hum, we've been given a third floor room with thick carpets in which to make holograms!

Oh well, we love a challenge.

Anyhoo, our talk on Monday was about teaching holography to Foundation Year (Engineering & Physics) students using problem-based learning. Think of the Foundation Year as a pre-Undergraduate degree course taken at University.

During the week-long 'Photonics' module we showed the students how to make a hologram and gave them a problem to solve. We told them we'd booked a lecture theatre for them, and at the end of the week they would have a public audience for a mini-symposium on holography.

The students were to write a paper, make holograms - and exhibit them, give a presentation and produce a well-designed poster - all based on holography -theory and applications. Ha! Some of them paled - but most rose to the challenge! Double the number of students applied to take an Undergraduate degree in Physics from the Foundation course than previously had.

If you want to know more, buy the proceedings - or get in touch.

Augi, Augi, Augi - oy, oy,oy!

Oh, I know that those of you in the US won't know what the title of today's blog means - it's a Welsh ruby battle cry - usually spelt Ogi. I'm a big fan of August Muth's (Augi's) DCG holograms they are just amazing.

Immerse, 2006,
Empyrean Orb, Dichromate gelatin on glass, 2006
Internal Reflections, 2002

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Back a bit.

More about Fuji and other emulsions (yesterday - 11th July) - from Gates:

'You can feel a real buzz of excitement amongst the holographers that Fuji Hunt - a large film company - is showing such intest in the field. (Maybe the free pen has made me slightly biased!) [ed: we tried the Fuji film using red - for educational purposes - we were able to develop in 10 seconds using ascorbic acid, very useful when you are doing holography workshops!]

Sefra and Geola also presented their new ultra fine panchromatic emulsion which they developed for pulsed laser operation. The advantage of the new emulsion is its small grain size, which they claim to be 10nm.

Colourholographics also plugged their panchromatic emulsion - you can almost taste those Smarties!

The brilliant Jeff Blyth (consultant to Smart Holograms) also gave a talk on some of his latest work on improved sensitivity of dichromated gelatine.

After another tasty lunch in the street (the name of the dinning area) it was the turn of the digital holographers.

The session started with a fabrication system developed by Tesa Scribos from Germany. It's a neat system that can make small, unique holograms in one second - its main application is in security.'

....... more of everything to follow.

The Craft, the craft!

Can you believe these! Gorgeous. Glass Bowl (2004) and Delft Vase (2006), Inaki Beguiristain - multicolour reflection holograms - silver halide on glass, ooh.

More, more!

Here's Australian artist Martina Mrongovius, next to her work Memory Space, 2006 - a full colour reflection digital hologram which won the 7th International Display holography Symposium Geola prize - arranged by Jonathan Ross.

The Art, the art!

Random photos from the holography exhibition opening last night. I am going to put them up - then check the details later!

First ones by Fred Unterseher
Mandala 18R and next Mandala 037.

Eat, drink and be merry!

Partly in response to the sobering nature of the atmosphere of the first couple of days at the symposium - having been faced with the reality of our own mortality - gulp - and partly because everyone had sat for hours and hours listening to presentations - we really let loose last night and had a blast!


Thanks to Mark Diamond for the photo and Rob Munday for the specs!

Tuesday, July 11, 2006


Here in spirit. Denisyuk.

One of Hans Bjelkhagan's 30x40cm holograms, in the foyer of the Optic Technium.

The opening day of the symposium was really all about remembering Denisyuk, Benton and Leith - and missing them.

Small world

Last night at the BBQ I chatted to artist Ya-Ling Huang, and writer/holographer Odile Meulien Öhlmann. Ya-Ling works at the Graduate School of Visual Communication Design in Tainan, Taiwan and produces beautiful dot matix holograms.

Ya-Ling had given
a superb talk about art and education earlier in the day. She had been using holography to help primary-aged school children solve soma puzzles which help with spatial intelligence training. This training was thought to aid children with learning mathematics and science. Ya-Ling showed films of children looking at individual holograms and holographic illustrations (horse hologram) in childrens' books.

All three of us agreed that we needed to teach children holography at an earlier age.

Oh, and Ya-Ling and I had lived in the same town, Columbia, Missouri - where Fred Unterseher and Becky Deem now live. What are the odds.?.......

Show and tell

Rooms have been set aside for people to display their holograms.

Geola had some really nice colour holograms - there were, however, some I didn't like at all - the headless, topless woman, for example. I'm only going to include one of the 'nice' ones!

The turquoise and pink colour on these 8' x10' orchids by Geola is extraordinary. The digitally produced reflection colour stereograms have horrizontal parallax only.

There are also some wonderfully subtle, full colour reflection holograms made by Hans Bjelkhagan.

Amazing emulsions

Dr James Gates - or Gates - explains: -

'Tuesday morning we were greeted by Nicholas Phillips who was Chairing today’s session on holographic films and emulsions. One of the most interesting talks was the work on the Silvercross Project which aimed to produce emulsions with fine grain size. E. Mirlis presented an emulsion that they had developed with a 10nm grain size which vastly reduced the Rayleigh scattering effects and reduced that purple haze.

Greg Jackson from Fuji Hunt introduced their new Silver Halide holographic film. It’s a panchromatic film with a 45% diffraction efficiency and a resolution of 3000 lines/mm, but to the dismay of Nick Phillips, only had a grain size of 30-40nm. Well, you can’t keep everyone happy!'

Ooh, colour!

As I finished eating my dinner at the Symposium BBQ, I spotted a man standing on a chair holding a green spotlight above his head, a group of holographers huddled around the table beneath him.

It’s not normal behaviour around a dinner table is it? No - well, yes - for holographers.

Putting my napkin down I sauntered over to join the throng, Craig Newswanger of Zebra Imaging was showing holograms created by their new digital printing system. Loads of depth produced from satellite images, very bright reflection holograms, pixelly, but very appealing.


At the dinner table Wendy McLean - research scientist at Smart Holograms - dipped her hologram in a wineglass full of water and I watched, amazed, as the image on the holographic plate disappeared to reveal another beneath.

Jeff Blyth consultant to Smart Holograms, to me how they were also using holography to create a non-invasive method of testing blood sugar levels. The holographic emulsion could react to your tears – changing colour to indicate where blood sugar levels were too high. It was hoped that one day this research would be useful to diabetics. Good stuff!

Monday, July 10, 2006

Making history

Dr Sean F. Johnston, Science historian from the University of Glasgow, has written a book on the history of holography - a huge, gorgeous, hardback book. Holographic Visions: A History of New Science (Hardcover). It's now available on

I am - of course - rather desperate to know whether I'm in there - and I'll bet I'm not the only one!

I wonder whether Sean is going to have to write himself into the history of holography from now on?

Let the presentations begin

Walking into the stunning, hi-tech OpTIC building’s conference centre we were greeted by a huge (1.2m x 1.2m) holographic monster. Um, wow! The full-colour digital holographic creature was made by XYZ Imaging (?) and Geola. (I will double check).Technically fantastic, but rather nasty looking.

I counted about 90 in the audience as David Rimmer, the Director of the Technium OpTIC, Profs Hans Bjelkhagan and Tung Jeong, Symposium Co-Chairs, and Dr Martin Richardson the Art Chair – opened the event, welcoming us all.

TJ gave us an amusing history of his experiences as an educator in the early '70s - he had paid £1000 for a 1mW HeNe laser with a 3 month guarantee, but taught students who ended up working for Gabor. TJ then showed everyone Lake Forest Symposia photos from 1982. Audience members shouted out when they recognized someone. He welcomed new holographers into the community too. TJ will display those photos on the website – look out for them.

Next – reports from the nations.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Conference kick off!

The start of the Symposium...

In a small pub in North Wales – with World Cup Final cheering in the background – the great and the good of the holography world gathered (with absentees – sorry if you couldn‘t make it) and registration began.

Old friends lined up to sign in, greeted by Hans Bjelkhagen (one of the conference Chairs) and the Technium OpTic (Opto-electronics Technology and Incubation Centre) staff.

I was delighted to buy one of Kaveh Bazargan's conference proceedings Advances in Display Holography: Papers presented at the 7th International Symposium on Display Holography - as I checked in. Can you imagine, a beautifully type-set, fully edited, full colour printed hard-back proceedings handed to you at the start to a conference?! And with an Iñaki Beguiristain hologram on the front cover of a Welsh dragon with attractive, fringed wings. Fab!

Despite authors submitting their papers outrageously late (–um, this author included) Kaveh and his team at River Valley Press pulled off a minor miracle and produced a bit of a masterpiece.

So armed with my weighty proceedings and nifty conference shoulder bag which contained a copy of the aforesaid proceedings on disc (nice-one!), I ventured into the throng to network and take notes.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

The symposium -- almost there

Yawn – stretch - five hours driving from Southampton and James Gates & I arrive in St.Asaphs, North Wales. We turned up at the Bodelwydden Castle (overlooking the beautiful, green landscape around St Asaph) to see whether we could give Jonathan Ross a hand with the holography exhibition at the last minute. I am sorry to say that I was absolutely no help at all, Jonathan and Martin Richardson had been hanging the exhibition since last Thursday and it looked amazing. (Exhibition ‘review’ to follow.).

Back at the hotel we lurked in the bar and it wasn’t long before Iñaki Berunistein (of super pseudocolour reflection holograms fame) and Turkish holographer Huseyn Gundogdu ( came in and sat down for a chat. Kaveh Bazargan joined us and told us about how his company intended to record the conference presentations in multimedia format. The photo shows Kaveh with the conference proceedings he has produced. This will be available on after the Symposium.

We thought of the holographers who had died recently and mourned not just their passing, but also the fact that we didn’t even have them on film. :(

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

All aboard the Light Express!

Shattered - Dr James Gates (on the left) and I have just finished another Light Express Roadshow performance. The Light Express is our Photonics Schools' Outreach activity at the University and it's our Open Day - we've performed to over 4,000 students and members of the public this year - no wonder I'm tired.

The show includes a variety of spectacular demonstrations - using our new 3-colour diode pumped laser system - to try to entice more students to study Photonics - or Physics - at University.

It takes us about 3 hours to set up the show - it's rather like setting up a mobile disco, but with some serious safety considerations to contend with. The lecture - which I give - takes about 40 minutes and explains how vital lasers are to modern life - we focus on telecommunications and how lasers run the internet.

Now, back to finishing those presentations for the conference and I'm wondering whether we can use the Light Express laser system for colour holography.....

Don’t touch it!

Students from Woodlands School making holograms.

When you’re 13 – and full of curiousity - it’s difficult to follow instructions – at least that’s what I learnt yesterday doing a holography workshop with a group of school children from the Hundred of Hoo School in Rochester. I had been invited by their Head of Science (in my capacity as Schools Outreach officer at the School of Physics and Astronomy, University of Southampton) to run a couple of holography workshops during the school's Sci-art festival.

The whole school had a theme of ‘habitats’ to work with and all subjects and lessons were loosely based on the theme. There was an atmosphere of great excitement among students and staff because of the festival. I was there to teach the students about ‘light’ which is, after all, an important part of our habitat.

I brought in a holography rig - made by Mike Anderson – I call it the Martini holography rig - (any-time, any-place anywhere!) – with Slavich plates (PFG -03 and Integraf’s JD 4 developer) however we struggled to get good results. There was a drama workshop going on upstairs and we couldn’t stop the banging, crashing and chair scraping during our 25 second exposures.

I haven't worked with Year 8 students before - and it showed - the 18, 13 year-olds ran rings around me, however we did have a lot of fun. I asked the students to think of themselves as giants – every step they took and even their breath causing enormous vibrations. I asked them not to touch the table at the front of the classroom where the holography rig was set up – well they were so curious that I had to ask repeatedly for them not to touch the table. ‘No, really, don’t touch the table!’ ‘Step away from the table!’

We did eventually get satisfactory results – by removing ¾ of the students to a computer room where they worked on putting together posters on holography.

It’s useful to have two classrooms to work in while making holograms – one where the students can dry the holograms, while the others are shooting. Schools in England have the following materials that they can provide without any trouble – black paper, distilled water, overhead projector, scissors, black electrical tape and hair driers galore. I asked the students to cut black squares for themselves to act as backgrounds for their holograms to protect the emulsion.

This was an invaluable experience for the holography workshops with students next week on the last day of the conference. As I do holography workshops on my own, I need a supporting activity for the holograms - one which a teacher can help younger students with in an adjacent room while they wait for the holograms to be completed…..any ideas gratefully received!

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Six days to symposium!

So exciting! Six days to go 'til Dr James Gates and I head for Wales and the holography symposium. We'll be giving Martin Richardson and Jonathan Ross a hand as they put the finishing touches on the holog exhbition at the Castle.

I will be covering the arty and social side of the conference in this blog (thank you Chindu) and Gates - who is a nanotechnology specialist at the University of Southampton - will be covering the science. James has recently been lured into the dark world of holography - with the use of shiny things - and he I have been teaching holography to young Engineers and Scientists at the University. We will be giving a paper on our problem-based-learning holography project on Day One of the conference.

I will also be giving a paper on fine artists' use of text in holography - and will be doing two holography workshops with students from local schools on the last day.

To those of you who can't be here - you'll be missed! Please keep in touch and we'll keep you informed.