Letter From the Editor

Angelo Alaimo - Editor-in-Chief
Posted on: June 23, 2010

Hello everyone, thanks once again for picking up The Iron Warrior and turning to page 2. Midterms are winding down as the term enters its final stretch. The following has been said many times before but I must re-iterate: time flies very quickly during the term.

I must say, this past hell week, only my second, wasn’t pretty. My marked and returned work term report is the only good news I can gather from the past week.

In this issue, as you have already likely seen from the front cover, we bring you an exclusive look from inside Engineering 5. If you haven’t seen the inside spread of photos from the building, go check them out now on pages 8/9!

Before beginning the term, I had several issue features I wanted to cover in my issues as Editor-in-Chief. Getting into Engineering 5 and getting my readers an inside look before the building opens was one of my major goals for the term.

After an email to the dean’s office, all the details were in check for Jon Martin and I to be given a tour by Sue Gooding, Operations Manager for the Faculty of Engineering.

Our tour lasted over an hour and half to walk through every single floor of the building, starting from the second all the way to the sixth concluding with what Sue called “The Gem” of the building which is the student team design center.

I couldn’t agree with her more. The amount of space given to students in this building is extraordinary. Essentially, the first two floors of this building are for student teams and students. The large number of upgraded facilities for engineering student teams will benefit their future projects immensely.

I won’t drone on and on about the building here as you can just read the article, but I can tell a lot of thought went into implementing this building and I can’t wait for it to open in the coming months.

Apart from the E5 feature, The Iron Warrior brings you an interview with Chemical Engineering Professor Leonardo Simon who recently won a Top 40 under 40 award for his research.

In the past couple weeks, City council voted on the next step for Northdale which we discussed back in Issue one, so a short update on the matter can be found in this issue.

I know you’ve likely heard the recent announcement suspending the Warrior’s football team from competitive play due to doping allegations. This story quickly hit national media from coast-to-coast and even international media with The Daily Bulletin linking to a story from The New York Times. The football team held a press conference last Thursday in an attempt to overturn the administrations decision, but to no avail. Other campus media have done a good job in reporting this story so we have brought you quick update on the happenings of the press conference.

Also on the topic of doping, the PCP this issue brings an interesting topic regarding whether or not drug testings should be mandatory for all varsity athletes across the country.

The logo from for The Iron Archives this issue comes from an issue in 1992 where production of the newspaper switched over to computers. The Iron Archives is quite long this issue but a good read indeed.

Moving onto the sports side of things, we have a new column for you sports fans summarizing the happenings in the sports world. With the world cup now well underway, I have never seen POETS so full apart from at OTs.

Also on the sports side, Kirsten Hoedlmoser brings another excellent article in her series to get you running. This issue, the article talks about eating right, providing a quick brief on foods to eat and foods to avoid.

On the entertainment side, The Brew Man Group, or should I say 1/2 of the pair,  reviews two herbal beers. Our gaming column, The Future of Gaming, brings an overview of the E3 expo summarizing the major announcements as of press time.

Moving on from the contents of this issue, there is a topic that I want to speak about that has been bugging me for the last couple weeks: Megapixels.

As I think i’ve mentioned somewhere before, photography is one of my biggest hobbies. I’ve been an avid photographer for many years and have taken tens of thousands of photographs. As my skills of a photographer has progressed, I have seen technology improve dramatically in the realm of photography.

Early consumer digital camera resolution generally fell in to the 1-3 megapixel range. Somehow, manufacturers got into a race to see who could pack more megapixels into a digital camera. Soon enough, your 5-megapixel compact simple could not take as good of pictures as next year’s 12-megapixel model. Or so you thought. For a long time, higher resolution is believed to give one better, more detailed images, and that may have been so in the early days of digital photography.

The fact is, camera’s don’t take the picture, the person behind it does. If one doesn’t know how to operate a camera and doesn’t have at least a basic understanding of photographic principles, it’s very unlikely good images will result.

What are megapixels anyway? Essentially, images are an array of pixels m-by-n, just like what Math 115 taught us. A pixel, in it’s simplest form,  is a small square (several micrometers wide) on a sensor which measures the intensity of light by accumulating charge and then transferring it to a processor which assembles an image. An image sensor has millions of these pixels (hence the mega) that work with each other to produce images. For example, a one megapixel sensor has a resolution of 1000 x 1000 pixels thus equalling 1-million pixels.

The general population, swayed by marketing, thinks more mexapixels = better pictures. The truth is, it’s a big lie! More mexapixels in some cases actually equal even worse images than lower mexapixel sensors.

More pixels on a sensor equal to a higher pixel density. With a constant amount of light, each pixel has less light to accumulate per pixel. So if we had a 3 MP sensor and a 8 MP sensor side by side and took an image with all settings constant, the 3 MP image will look brighter than the 8 MP image. So what does this mean in the real world? Well, if you have a high resolution sensor like the 8 MP sensor described in the previous sentence, the image signal generated  by the sensor will need to be amplified (gained) in order to reach the brightness of the 3 MP sensor. When a signal is amplified, random noise gets introduced into the signal as a byproduct. Ever see those odd coloured grainy patches in images you’ve taken at night? That’s noise.

Noise is a negative thing to see in images as it detracts from what is actually being photographed. Thankfully, cameras have processing techniques to remove this noise from images in order to give a clearer end result, but at what expense?

Detail.

Higher resolution sensors are supposed to give more detail for an image, but if there’s an abundance of noise, and then the image has to be de-noised thus destroying the detail; where is the net benefit? Generally, there is none. In fact, some lower resolution sensors actually have much more detail than higher resolution cameras.

This past week, I roamed around campus with my DSLR taking some random pictures. As I was walking someone began to walk beside me and asked me “How many megapixels does that camera have?” I replied with the amount, but went on a rant about how it’s not about megapixels, and someone should not look at resolution to determine what camera to purchase. If I was to buy a compact today, I would try to get as low megapixels as possible on the largest sensor size possible. Having low pixel density would be my main goal before I would consider any other features.

Thankfully, the megapixel race has slowed down considerably in the digital compact world, but history is repeating itself in the mobile phone world as a new smartphone seems to be released each week with a high resolution camera numbering in the 8+ megapixel range. Funny, sensors in mobile phones are generally way smaller than digital compacts, so you can imagine how much marketing crap goes into the phones. Why would I ever buy a 12 MP camera phone that has a sensor smaller than half my pinkly finger nail that will probably produce an image full of red/green/blue splotches. Why would anyone buy one?

Of course, sensor design will improve over the next few years which will likely focus on noise mitigation which will allow even higher resolution cameras without this effect, but until then, be wary of the way cameras are marketed – especially for mobile phones.

Alright, enought of that. Enjoy the rest of the issue, as always, if you have any comments or questions, please send them my way at:
iwarrior@engmail.uwaterloo.ca