Monday, March 16, 2015

How Far the Mighty Fall ...

So Leica has done a remarkable job of surviving several near deaths and predictions of doom, often by making fancy limited editions -- some classy (35th anniversary of Leica Historical Society of America, for example) and some not so much.  But this ... well, this is a bit much.

This here's the "Leica M Kumamon," and according to, it "is based on the famous Leica M Digital Range Finder (Type 240). On the front, it has a smaller logo and KumaMon symbol. On the lid on, we have a very large Kumamon logo and the words with “Leica Kumamon x” indicates that this version is specifically made ​​for Kumamon mascot."

Kumamon, Wikipedia explains, is the mascot for the Kumamoto Prefecture in Japan, created as part of a tourism campaign.  Contrary to what I originally thought (or rather feared), it is not a cartoon face of an African, but rather a little black bear.

I have this vision of David Douglas Duncan suddenly looking into the clear blue sky of Southern France and softly saying he felt a disturbance in the Force ...

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Deep Thoughts

It's one of those profundities of adolescence that you suddenly come to realize that time -- or at least the way we mark time -- is an artifice, something we just mutually agree on for our general convenience.  There is no universal requirement, no rule of physics that says this is one o'clock, or that is Tuesday.  We simply name it so because otherwise we have a hard time keeping track of stuff.

But it's actually much more mind blowing that that.  Lately, a couple of articles addressed the actually physics of it -- the rule that would say why this is Tuesday -- and it turns out that there is a problem with time, or at least with the way we perceive it.

Einstein in 1921 by F Schmutzer

As one article points out, according to the science of it, there really is no time.  According to Brainy Quote, Albert Einstein said, "The only reason for time is so that everything doesn't happen at once."  He famously had to stop using time as a constant to make the math of his Theory of Relativity work.  Now, physicists say (because of that math Einstein did) everything actually does happen all at once.  Or, rather, everything that has happened, is happening, and will happen already exists as a dimension, like height or distance.  It's just there

But here's the thing: We only move along the dimension in one direction.  It's as if you could only go up, but never down again, or if you drove to Cleveland along the interstate, there was only one lane and no return.  Why can't we move up and down time like we go from here to there and back?

Ludwig Boltzmann

A piece on the BBC website says it apparently has something to do with entropy and a guy named Ludwig Boltzmann.  Boltzmann was a classic example of the man before his time.  He argued for the existence of atoms before the consensus of scientists agreed as well as a number of other basic principles that we now consider obvious truisms (and he was ostracized for his beliefs).  He died in 1906, 10 years before Einstein published and won the Nobel for Relativity and physics generally came around to agree with pretty much everything Boltzmann said.

As the article explains it: "According to thermodynamics, every object in the world has a certain amount of entropy associated with it, and whenever anything happens to it, the amount of entropy increases. For instance, if you put ice cubes into a glass of water and let them melt, the entropy inside the glass goes up."  But like time, entropy only works in one direction, and the two, Boltzmann thought, might be related.  Time moves in that way because it's forced to by entropy.  Or rather we move through time that way because of entropy, because time doesn't move, just our place in it. Or ... well, one can end up in the thick weeds fairly quickly, especially (as the BBC piece explains) if you start getting into the math of it all, which often still insists that time is a dimension like all the others and we ought to be able to move in either direction on it.

This is a lot more complicated that getting a Delorean to 88 miles an hour ... but I think it's a lot more interesting.