Thursday, December 26, 2013

The Heisenberg Principle

The television series Breaking Bad has gained popularity beyond what one might have expected, if like me you stumbled across it on Netflix and had no idea anyone else was watching the story of the physics teacher providing for his family by cooking....methamphetamines! The principal actor's costume of trilby hat, sunglasses and lantern jaw has become an equally popular image, seen here on a power pole.

I was ambling down Southard Street when Cheyenne and I came across a place to sit for a while on a hot December morning. Cheyenne was ready and the bicyclists were vacating a good place to sit, so we sat.

The overhang at Mangia Mangia, an Italian restaurant has benches for waiting patrons but in the early hours of the morning, relatively speaking it was a spot to pause.

The corner of Southard and Margaret Streets is a busy intersection it turns out and I turned my camera on them, as they flashed by. What occurred to me when I spotted the Breaking Bad face was there was an uncertainty principle at work here. Maybe.

" Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle states that there is inherent uncertainty in the act of measuring a variable of a particle. Commonly applied to the position and momentum of a particle, the principle states that the more precisely the position is known the more uncertain the momentum is and vice versa. This is contrary to classical Newtonian physics which holds all variables of particles to be measurable to an arbitrary uncertainty given good enough equipment. The Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle is a fundamental theory in quantum mechanics that defines why a scientist cannot measure multiple quantum variables simultaneously. Until the dawn of quantum mechanics, it was held as a fact that all variables of an object could be known to exact precision simultaneously for a given moment. Newtonian physics placed no limits on how better procedures and techniques could reduce measurement uncertainty so that it was conceivable that with proper care and accuracy all information could be defined. Heisenberg made the bold proposition that there is a lower limit to this precision making our knowledge of a particle inherently uncertain."

So, if we accept that the individual cyclists are not in fact human but actually represent packets (quanta) of light then we can observe their motion but not be exactly certain where they are.

Inversely the picture of the quantum in motion can show where it was when the picture was taken but not where it was going to be.

On the other hand because this is the real world and cyclists cycling are generally speaking adequately provided for by Isaac Newton's pre-quantum rules we can accept that we see the cyclists come and go and we also known where they are as they move past us and probably where they will also go after they slide out of the frame.

The fact is its a great fantasy to make more money than you could ever spend and to do it in short order. The reality is that mechs is awful and rots people inside out and you can't think of that while you watch the crazy antics of the New Mexico teacher turned drug baron.

Like quantum mechanics, good for physicists versus Newtonian laws which work for ordinary people every day, television spins a nice yarn when written well but real life frequently doesn't.

All this powerful cogitation took place on a street corner one sunny morning and no one noticed. The planet continued in its orbit and people came and went about their business and eventually my dog got her breath back and off we ambled one more time. I can honestly say I was stone cold sober as I sat there and in my defense I can only say I was taking pictures with my phone and my mind wandered. All because of a face painted on a power pole.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Gun Running In Key West

Happy Christmas! I prefer Festivus myself with the airing of grievances but anyway, now we are past the holly and the ivy thing lets get on to today's essay. I think a movie is the thing for the cold dark midwinter that hovers outside your door. Hemingway, gun running and Audie Murphy, perfect company on Netflix streaming for Christmas/Festivus.
Howsoever that may be this is light entertainment not high art, so you can afford to not be completely attentive during the show. Better in fact you do not always pay close attention, as we shall see.
Hemingway's 1937 story has inspired lots of movie spin offs. Bogart met Bacall on the set of To Have And To Have Not, a movie made in 1944 patriotically set in Martinique a French island run by Nazi collaborators. Nowadays the star power of the movie makes it the most popular version of the original story. This one stars Audie Murphy the World War Two hero turned actor.
It most emphatically does not star Key West. The movie is mostly interiors and scenes at sea, which is your first clue the producers cheaped out. California is a versatile movie background, the Mojave desert for Afghanistan, Long Beach for Miami, Carmel for Cornwall and so on, but unfortunately because I know the state well I tend to get annoyed by movie makers' short cuts. This is not, nor ever was Key West:
Photographing the TV screen is not easy or effective so bear with me, but anyone who has been to Key West knows there are no hills anywhere. Certainly not as an inadvertent background to the harbor. I think you can see the slope in this grainy close up, between the boat in the foreground and the white forms in the middle ground:
I suppose this could double as a Key West street, but it's a shame when they short change us.

Don Siegel directs a solid cast of unknowns these days. Patricia Owens is Murphy's loving much younger wife and they sparkle together on the screen.
Everett Sloan plays Murphy's drunken deck hand, to much less comedic effect than Walter Brennan did in the Humphrey Bogart film ("Was you ever stung by a dead bee..?").
The happy couple, broke as one should be in Key West. After all eighty percent of the people were in the (first) Great Depression which was when the story was set by Hemingway.
It's a cute movie, plenty of humor and in atmosphere close enough to the original story.
Oops, excuse me, there they go again.
Until Gita Hall steps in and wants to tempt baby face Audie off the straight and narrow.
No one is what they seem...and strange blondes who offer you lunch, or something, are trouble.
But our hero is a man of steel...
...lacking authenticity a billboard will do. Am I a spoil sport?
On the other hand this set doesn't do a bad job of recreating depression era Key West.
And slowly the plot unravels.
A movie of which you have never heard. My gift to you. Cancel your cable and save a bundle by subscribing to Netflix. Oh, and it's advertising free.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Key West Cemetery 2013

Dogs aren't allowed in the Key West cemetery and considering the sort of ill mannered inconsiderate world we live in that's probably a good thing. Not everyone is as obsessive as I am about carrying plastic bags, I find.

So that morning Cheyenne walked in Big Pine with me until she had had quite enough and let me know in no uncertain terms. "Is she all right?" an anxious cyclist paused to ask...of me leaning casually up against my car reading a book on my phone. "I think so," I replied looking at my snoring dog, totally relaxed, not a care in the world...I figured she couldn't be better, walked as far as she wanted with breakfast waiting at home and my soft couch to complete her nap in. Yeah, I think you could say she was "all right."

So when I went to town later I had no dog but I arrived early so I did have time on my hands before I met my wife for drinks and dinner.

Naturally I pondered where to go and the cemetery came to mind immediately. Below we see Mario Sanchez's refurbished tomb. The Key West intaglio artist who died not so long ago is getting an exhibition in Cuba soon as the Southernmost City and La Habana try to work out closer ties, over the objections of the Miami Cuban community for whom a life in the US has been no compensation for losing the revolution of 1959.

The Ley West cemetery has been featured on this page before in various formats and I always enjoy a walk there as it is as much a repository of history as it is a serene place in which to contemplatethe mysteries of life and death. Key West Diary: Famous Dead People and the are plenty of less well known people buried above ground and with photographs in a style I associate with my childhood in Italy:
Cuba has suffered more than one revolution over the years and there is a section devoted to the Cuban martyrs confirming what I mentioned earlier about the ties across the Straits of Florida.

Beyond being a lovely peaceful spot in the middle of the city, the cemetery retains it's primary function of being the active last resting place of the residents of. Key West. Over the years complaints have been legion about the state of disrepair of the cemetery with overgrown grass fading paint and tumbledown tombs lending the place an agreeably gothic air. However what made the cemetery look mysterious also grieved the relatives of the people buried there so finally the city has funded improvements and as you will see in the pictures the cemetery is looking quite spiffy while retaining its old look.

Indeed I found a new mausoleum under construction. The water table is close to the surface here so, like New Orleans the Key West cemetery is famous for its above ground crypts.

It is in the center of the island which is also the center of the city today but in the 19th century this area was on the periphery of the city which covered the land north of Truman Avenue, which used to be known as Division Street, as it divided the city from the hinterlands. So the graveyard now lies directly under the flight path to the airport...


The photographic possibilities here are endless and visitors are always here wandering and looking. I fit right in!



You can't keep a wild chicken down in Key West, anywhere it seems. Notice how trim the grass is though.

Scooters and dogs are banned from the cemetery for bad behavior, cars and bicycles aren't though bicycle tours have been banned on the grounds of clogging the paths. I think it's too bad as the more people see what lies in the cemetery the more they might appreciate the city's dense cultural past, a side to Key West not clearly displayed where most visitors hang out.

I nod in the direction of this small plaque every time I pass the main gate pillars. An old friend from boating days.

I had been trying to get to the ceremony for the homeless and poor buried in the pauper's section but I was late. Members of the Navy walked out as I arrived, they were carrying the folded flag from the ceremony when the presiding minister Reverend Braddock was called away suddenly to assist a pedestrian in medical distress and all the activity and life faded away and I was left alone among the graves.

Outside the severe wrought iron fencing life went on, but until the gate was closed at six I was secure and snug in the world away from the world that is the Key West cemetery.