Research interests


Here is a list of projects requiring or deserving completion. I do not have enough time left in my lifetime to finish them all, even if I were sufficiently motivated to do so. They are enumerated in approximate order of interest and probable importance, but only the first two are truly active. The projects I undertook during the latter part of my professional career, while at Glasgow University, are generally towards the bottom of the list, as they are less interesting to me than others initiated when I was younger.

(1) I have had a long-standing interest in the philosophy of science, and read Popper, Feyerabend, Kuhn, and so on, in the 1970s and 1980s. I am especially interested in the interpretation of quantum physics, which is as much about metaphysics and philosophy as it is straight physics. After about eight years of intermittent study, following my early retirement from the university in 1998,  I wrote up a private summary paper entitled A geometric approach to energy, momentum and the de Broglie relations. It is the first part of my attempt to develop a deterministic but quasi-local (in contrast to Bohm), classical wave interpretation of quantum phenomena. Several years further on from that, I am still trying to incorporate spin into the theory. If I can do so successfully I will feel able to publish. Lee Smolin's recent book, The trouble with physics (Penguin, 2006) has been an inspiration, when I was beginning to think that it is all a waste of time. The chapter on Seers and Craftspeople is especially pertinent to people like me.

(2) Since retirement I have devised a new 3-D and 4-D (time-lapse 3-D) method of ultrasound imaging, based on seismic reflection principles. I obtained a US patent in 2004; the European application failed on a technicality. I formed a company, Kelvin Biophysics Limited (since wound up due to lack of funding), with Duncan Campbell, a Glasgow surgeon, to develop and commercialise the patents. Our principal project is in imaging through bone, and direct measurement of bone strength - a medical need for which no tool exists at present. We performed three rounds of experiments using a 25x22 array built for us by Strathclyde University. This operates at 2.2 MHz - only about a quarter of what we would like. The results to date demonstrate the feasibility and utility of using this way of imaging, and we are continuing to seek funding; however, I cannot provide any more details at present due to commercial restraints.

(3) Since my days as an undergraduate, in which I studied astronomy and physics for two years before specialising in geology, I have been interested in aspects of Earth rotation. This has led me into various by-ways between the main routes of geophysics, astronomy and archaeology, including:

  • Periodicity in triggering of shallow great earthquakes

  • Influence of Earth tides as part of the driving force of plate tectonics

  • True polar wander from archaeological evidence (the new science of Archaeoastrogeophysics !), which requires recalculation of astronomical parameters inferred from NW European megalithic sites (2000-1600 BC) by A Thom and his co-workers.

(4) Zoologist Lesley Dickie and I may have solved the problem of the provenance of the South American primates, which migrated there from Africa at around 26 Ma. Our solution does not involve rafting, the currently accepted notion, which we think is fanciful and speculative. We have simply linked current ideas on terrestrial mammal migration overland to some up-to-date plate tectonics. However, the solution to this specific problem involves a new general concept of the dynamic evolution of island arcs, which I need to demonstrate first, preferably with a computer animation.

(5) Some aspects of my work on the early opening history of the North Atlantic Ocean still deserve to be updated and published, even though I have not been active in that field for over twenty years. These include the geometry of lava extrusion of seaward-dipping reflector sequences, evidence that the southern Rockall Trough is oceanic, modelling of the total field magnetic anomaly over Anton Dohrn Seamount, and the fit of the continents around the North Atlantic [publications].

(6) The Kola SG-3 superdeep well crustal seismic reflection project, observed in March-May 1992, can still yield useful results. Only the vertical component CDP data has ever been processed and published. I intend to look at the 3-component data for the whole line, and also process the data in the vicinity of the well in 3-D mode and not just as a crooked 2-D line. Either or both of these methods may reveal better the sub-horizontal reflectors at 6-9 km depth, which were the main target of the experiment. There is also scope for innovative processing in the pre-correlation domain and in looking at every shot gather before sweep summation. I have corrected the field geometry (this is the second pass through this phase) and prepared to put all the raw data (c. 40 Gb) on line if and when needed [publications].

(7) I sailed on the first half of the SLICE project - the geophysical survey of the Scotia Sea carried out by the British Antarctic Survey on the RRS James Clark Ross in 1997 [publications]. My equipment was used to record the 96-channel CDP data with a 6000 cu. in. airgun source. While at sea I began to develop a new plane-wave migration method for deep reflections. This could prove useful in trying to image the subducting South American plate beneath the South Sandwich Islands. In addition, the method seems to have promise in improving the lateral resolution of very steep structures, as tested on a short segment of data over the back-arc spreading ridge.

(8) The 3-D seismic reflection trial survey that I planned and carried out for UK Nirex Ltd in 1994 must be one of the densest surveys ever recorded - a mean 130 CMP-fold over about 1 sq km, or about 4 traces per square metre. Roughly a cubic kilometre of rock (Nirex's Potential Repository Zone at Sellafield) was imaged. There is considerable scope here for investigating P-wave azimuthal anisotropy, and for trying to squeeze more resolution out of the 20-120 Hz sweeps [publications and reports].

(9) In 1996 I conducted a shallow high-resolution 3-D seismic reflection survey over a brownfield site in Glasgow, in an attempt to image old coalmine workings at 10-50 m depth. Again, this dataset could benefit from reprocessing. The key to all the land datasets mentioned above is, of course, better statics [report].

I have facilities at home for seismic data processing, including the  ProMAX-3D licence inherited from Glasgow University, and all the data for the geophysical projects mentioned above.

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