Conjugate variables redefined
In this post I'm going to provide the first part of a recipe for generating 2D images. It's going to be somewhat algorithmic. I may occasionally mention what a particular step implies, but for the most part I'm going to step through a sequence of events, produce a final recipe for you to follow, then go back and explain what some of the parts mean physically. This isn't the traditional approach to learning about k-space; most text books assume that you need to understand what it all means before you get to learn "the rules of the game." As is my wont, I'm coming at it backwards. My hope is that you will then be able to go back to your text books - I'll tell you where to look for subsequent explanations - and cement a decent understanding of the "why" of k-space, not just the "how."
Conjugate variables revisited
In Part Five of this series I introduced the Fourier transform and conjugate variables. The post focused on the most common pair of conjugate variables: frequency and time. If we have the time domain representation and we want to transform it into its frequency domain equivalent, we apply a (one-dimensional) FT, and vice versa.
But there is another pair of conjugate variables that is more useful and intuitive for imaging applications. (In this case your intuition for one of the variables may not develop until the end of this post, or later! Bear with me.) Whether it's maps, MRIs or architectural plans, the axes of an image are best described in terms of length. If we choose the centimeter as our unit of length, then FTing an axis in cm will yield an axis in 1/cm. You happen to have an intuitive notion of time, frequency and space from everyday life. Don't worry about what the reciprocal of real space means, just accept for now that it exists. We call this reciprocal space k-space because another term for 1/cm is the wavenumber, and the wavenumber is given the symbol k.
Representing pictures in reciprocal space
Let's take a random picture, in this case it's a digital photograph of a Hawker Hurricane plane. It's clearly a 2D picture. We have a digital version of it so we can do mathematical operations on it with a computer. If we do a 2D (digital) FT of the picture we get its representation in 2D k-space: