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  Apollo 11: Finding Armstrong's 'a' in 'one small step' (Page 1)

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Author Topic:   Apollo 11: Finding Armstrong's 'a' in 'one small step'
Robert Pearlman
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posted 09-30-2006 01:42 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Houston Chronicle: High-tech analysis may rewrite space history
High-tech detective work apparently has found the missing "a" in one of the most famous phrases ever spoken.

Astronaut Neil Armstrong's first words from the surface of the moon on July 20, 1969, now can be confidently recast, according to the research, as, "That's one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind."

Robert Pearlman
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posted 09-30-2006 02:12 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
James R. Hansen's response to the discovery:
Sometimes it takes a while for history to get its facts straight. In this case, thanks to some remarkable new technology, it only took a little over 37 years.

What astronaut Neil Armstrong said when he first stepped out onto the surface of the Moon on July 20th 1969, ranks, without question, as one of the most famous phrases ever uttered. A Google search on the internet today results in no less than 2.2 million hits for Armstrong's phrase. The only phrase that results in more is "To be or not to be," at 2.3 million hits, but that, of course, is a quote from Shakespeare, not a statement spoken as part of an actual, historical event. To put the magnitude of Armstrong's statement in perspective, two of the most famous quotes from American presidents -- Franklin Roosevelt's "We have nothing to fear but fear itself" and Jack Kennedy's "Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country" -- results in less than 200,000 Google hits.

But what exactly is it that Armstrong said? History credits the phrase as "That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind," but, as Neil Armstrong indicated upon returning to Earth after his Apollo 11 mission, he intended on saying, "That's one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind." In fact, that's what he thought he did say, though the "a" could not be heard, leading to a fascinating little space-age mystery that no audio or computer technology of the day could resolve. The technical and historical consensus became that Neil, indeed, fully intended to say, "That's one small step for a man," but, in the rush of the moment, forgot to say, or just did not say, the "a."

Naturally, when I interviewed Neil for my 2005 book, "First Man: The Life of Neil A. Armstrong", I wanted to hear what he had to say about those first words of his. What he told me was:

"I can't recapture it. For people who have listened to me for hours on the radio communication tapes, they know I left a lot of syllables out. It was not unusual for me to do that. I'm not particularly articulate. Perhaps it was a suppressed sound that didn't get picked up by the voice mike. As I have listened to it, it doesn't sound like there was time for the word to be there. On the other hand, I think that reasonable people will realize that I didn't intentionally make an inane statement, and that certainly the 'a' was intended, because that's the only way the statement makes any sense. So I would hope that history would grant me leeway for dropping the syllable and understand that it was certainly intended, even if it wasn't said -- although it actually might have been."

For Armstrong, as well as for historians and the historically-minded, the question of what Neil said or didn't say when he stepped out on the Sea of Tranquility is not petty or insignificant. Over the years, in many published versions of the Apollo 11 mission, Armstrong has been criticized for leaving out what some have called that "crucial indefinite article" and for "messing up" or "muffing" his immortal phrase. Even those in the mood for forgiving have written that "the cadence of Neil's words on tape suggest that the "a" was forgotten, not lost. A new book on the Moon landings even goes so far as to say that Neil's leaving out the "a" rendered his whole statement "meaningless."

The mystery of the missing "a" has finally been solved. Peter Shann Ford is a sort of Renaissance man. Born and educated in Australia, he began as a print journalist before moving over to Australian television as a reporter and news anchor. He joined CNN in Atlanta in 1981 and for over 10 years covered the U.S. space program for CNN and NBC and its affiliates. He was a news anchor on the team that launched CNN Headline News. Leaving television, he went into Australia's central deserts to research Aboriginal tribal lore, which led to his publishing a novel entitled, "The Keeper of Dreams." In 2000, he returned to U.S. television, covering the Olympics for NBC and, after 9/11, reporting from Pakistan and Afghanistan.

But the work that leads him here to us today lies in the field of audio technology and control bionics. As early as 1982, Peter Ford became deeply involved a team of researchers in Atlanta that were pioneering the development of microcomputers for rehabilitation and communication for people with disabilities. He began pursuing the goal of enabling people who could neither move nor speak -- nor, in some cases, see -- to use the newly-emerging microcomputer technology to control communications and electronic devices. Peter invented and wrote a program called "JoyWriter 2," which enabled people with neuromuscular and spinal injuries to replace a computer keyboard with a joystick. He coded in a three-dimensional imaging and robotics language that was developed by legendary programming pioneer Paul Lutus. More recently, Peter invented and developed "NeuroSwitch," a nerve-based communications-and-control system that uses nerve-based signals from areas of the human body that otherwise are too severely disabled to react or communicate. For the past four years, he has been working with world-renowned physicist Stephen Hawking; Hawking was, in fact, Peter Ford's primary "Beta tester" when Ford was writing the software for "NeuroSwitch."

Part of the technology that Peter has developed involves analysis of audio data and signals. Fortunately for posterity, when reading "First Man", my Neil Armstrong biography, Peter became interested in the mystery of the missing "a." He got an audio clip from NASA and, conducted a very thorough analysis, which has since been peer-reviewed by a number of experts in both electronic data analysis and the physiology of speech. He then got in touch with me.

Subsequently Peter has authored a remarkable paper entitled, "Electronic Evidence and Physiological Reasoning Identifying the Elusive Vowel "a" in Neil Armstrong's Statement on First Stepping onto the Lunar Surface." In it, Peter concludes that Armstrong did, in fact, say "one small step for a man." More specifically, his conclusion reads:

Astronaut Neil Armstrong's arrival on the Moon followed a distinguished career as a combat pilot, test pilot, commander of Gemini VIII for the first docking in space, and backup commander for Apollo 8. His professionalism, precision, and coolness under pressure were established long before and highlighted when he took control of the lunar landing from the autopilot, flew beyond a hazardous area, and landed Eagle manually. He recalls he formulated the sentence, "That's one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind" in the LEM in the hours between landing and stepping onto the lunar surface. It is a concise, eloquent statement for the ages at a unique milestone for our species. It seemed highly unlikely that he would utter it incorrectly. This paper proves, with an analysis and results that are independently repeatable, that he did, indeed, say the sentence completely and correctly.

At a private meeting held in the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C., Peter Ford and I, along with Dr. Roger Launius, head of the space history division at NASM, met with Neil Armstrong about his research discovery. Also at the meeting was Ms. Rano Singh, a biomechanics expert from Georgetown University. In the hour-long meeting, Peter presented all his data and answered many questions. In the end, Neil Armstrong was clearly persuaded by the evidence, as was everyone else that was there. His verbatim comments included:

"I have reviewed the data and Peter Ford's analysis of it and I find the technology interesting and useful. I also find his conclusion persuasive. Persuasive is the appropriate word."

Peter Ford will continue refining his data and analysis. His next step will be to analyze the audio track recordings made during the Apollo 11 EVA from the radio telescope dish at Parkes Observatory in Australia.

gliderpilotuk
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posted 09-30-2006 03:35 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for gliderpilotuk   Click Here to Email gliderpilotuk     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
An excellent piece of research.

I'd question the stats about the number of hits on this phrase though.

"I have a dream..." by Martin Luther King brings up more hits, as I'm sure do several others. This doesn't take away from the value and significance of Armstrong's well-chosen words though.

John K. Rochester
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posted 09-30-2006 10:16 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for John K. Rochester   Click Here to Email John K. Rochester     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I, for one m gld tht this is finlly clered up... becuse s you cn see by this sentence... missing letters cn be relly nnoying.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 09-30-2006 10:17 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
A small correction to the Chronicle's article:
According to Ford, Armstrong spoke, "One small step for a man ..." in a total of 35 milliseconds, 10 times too fast for the "a" to be audible.
That sentence should have read "...Armstrong spoke, "a" in a total of 35 milliseconds..." as is indicated in Ford's presentation. I have asked and am waiting for permission to reprint Ford's paper on collectSPACE.

cspg
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posted 09-30-2006 10:18 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for cspg   Click Here to Email cspg     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
A new book on the Moon landings even goes so far as to say that Neil's leaving out the 'a' rendered his whole statement 'meaningless.'
And that book would be?

KC Stoever
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posted 09-30-2006 10:19 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for KC Stoever   Click Here to Email KC Stoever     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Well, I for one am relieved that the long-rumored missing word was the indefinite article, "a."

Imagine this research revealing after years of speculation that Neil Armstrong had actually said:

"That's one small step for the man,one giant ..."

On edit, and seriously, as a professional editor, I was always troubled by the first construction, "one small step for man. . . ."

Neil was not "man" writ large, he was "a man"--specific and individual. This construction ("a man") then allows the speaker to set up the opposing or contrasting construction of "mankind"--universal and collective.

Without the indefinite article, the phrase loses much of its power. The small step and the giant leap are both performed by the collective, universal "man/mankind."

Matt T
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posted 09-30-2006 01:20 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Matt T   Click Here to Email Matt T     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Regardless of how the line was delivered, I've always felt that the intended version ("a man") maybe one of the best speeches ever found outside of theatre and film.

It's so good - actually no, it's so perfect that if I were a moon hoax believer I'd hold it up as one of the principle proofs that the whole thing was stage managed. It's just too good!

If anyone can think of a better speech that encapsulates the first step on the moon I'd love to hear it.

KC Stoever
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posted 09-30-2006 02:03 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for KC Stoever   Click Here to Email KC Stoever     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Agreed, Matt. I also like "Godspeed, John Glenn" for obvious filial reasons.

In fact, I would like to have heard a good academic paper, at the NASM conference, on these notable astronaut utterances.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 09-30-2006 02:38 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by cspg:
And that book would be?
Per Hansen, Dark Side of the Moon: The Magnificent Madness of the American Lunar Quest, by De Groot (NYU Press) to be released on 11/1.

There's a discussion about Dark Side here.

SRB
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posted 09-30-2006 03:43 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for SRB   Click Here to Email SRB     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I always thought that "One small step for man" was more universal and poetic than "One small step for a man". The "a" disrupts the elegant flow of the sentence, which made it harder for Neil Armstrong to say it clearly. You have to be in a poetic state of mind for "one giant leap for mankind" to make much sense anyway. To me the comparison of the universal "man" with "mankind" is a good balance. But, if Neil Armstrong is happy that he really (more or less) said it the way he wanted, that's the way it should be.

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posted 10-01-2006 12:07 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for fabfivefreddy   Click Here to Email fabfivefreddy     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The moon landing was a major accomplishmet, and the words Armstrong spoke were eloquently stated. As far as the letter "a" goes, the uncertainty of what was said in that split second left one feeling a sense of mystery. The mystery was part of the story. The story of man's greatest adventure. The mystery captivated us, just as the deep vastness of space captivated the astronauts that explored it.

That mystery has been unlocked now - and perhaps mankind's thirst for knowledge will continue to unlock the mysteries of the universe.

Moonpaws
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posted 10-01-2006 12:42 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Moonpaws   Click Here to Email Moonpaws     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Am I missing something here? When I saw Neil speak in San Jose a year ago, He admitted that he forgot to say "a". The context of the confession of the omission is as follows:

At the end of his speech, the MC had a page of questions in front of him that were prearranged. The MC started sharing the story about Mr. Gorski, which he then dispelled as a myth. He then shared the story about the missing "a" and said (in the words of Neil [something similiar but not verbatim]), "it was the most important thing someone could say, and I simply blew it".

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posted 10-01-2006 03:01 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for kucharek   Click Here to Email kucharek     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
It is also interesting to google for "one small one giant -mankind" to get all kind of new phrases inspired by Neil's quote but not the phrase itself.

I still search that Garfield comic strip I saw once where he pushes a vase from a board to break it and says something like "That's one small push for a vase, one giant leap for good taste".

1202 Alarm
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posted 10-01-2006 05:12 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for 1202 Alarm     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
"One step for man", "for A man", "yeeepeeee" or whatever, as long as it wasn't in Russian, that's fine with me.

cspg
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posted 10-01-2006 08:12 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for cspg   Click Here to Email cspg     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Robert Pearlman:
Per Hansen, Dark Side of the Moon: The Magnificent Madness of the American Lunar Quest
Thanks, Robert (and I'll be damned, I've posted the original message... BUT I didn't read the book!).

Rodina
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posted 10-01-2006 08:13 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Rodina   Click Here to Email Rodina     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I've never understood the focus on this one. Yeah, maybe he misspoke. He was on... the Moon.

We should all be grateful he didn't speak like this, because I surely would have.

Scott
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posted 10-01-2006 08:22 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Scott   Click Here to Email Scott     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Is the refined audio available anywhere online? This is fascinating.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 10-01-2006 08:36 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The audio itself wasn't refined, rather fed into software to graph and study.

For the initial discovery, Peter Ford relied on a 259 kilobyte, 24.113 second duration WAV file available for download from NASA's website.

Peter has agreed to share the paper he presented to Armstrong and others on collectSPACE, which we will be publishing soon. In addition to using GoldWave software, Peter's research also extended into the study of speech physiology.

cddfspace
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posted 10-02-2006 09:06 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for cddfspace   Click Here to Email cddfspace     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Rodina, that has to be one of the funniest "Onions" I have ever seen!

Scott
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posted 10-02-2006 12:24 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Scott   Click Here to Email Scott     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
From the Houston Chronicle: The Acoustic Evidence

mikepf
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posted 10-02-2006 03:42 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for mikepf   Click Here to Email mikepf     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Well, I for one thinks this deserves an autograph. It'd be nice if Mr Ford got one.
Neil, I believed in you all along! My address is...

fabfivefreddy
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posted 10-02-2006 06:16 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for fabfivefreddy   Click Here to Email fabfivefreddy     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Major news carriers are picking up the story now...

I e-mailed CNN and a couple of other papers. I am sure others did too.

Rick
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posted 10-03-2006 07:48 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Rick   Click Here to Email Rick     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I, for one, still don't believe Armstrong actually said "one small step for A man." The cadence of his sentence, to me, does not include any break for a missing word.

And, honestly, I've always thought that the tone of his voice as he says, "one giant leap for mankind" indicates that he caught his error. It's almost as if he's smiling as he concludes the thought, like he's thinking to himself, "Awww, man ... I messed that one up."

Finally, I think it's interesting to note that Armstrong says he finds Peter Ford's analysis "persuasive." That admits nothing as to whether he actually said "a man". The most crooked people around -- and I'm certainly not including Ford in this category -- are persuasive.

The most telling source would be Armstrong himself. He's the only person who knows whether he actually said "man" or "a man," and he's evidently not interested in settling the debate. More power to him. It gives the rest of us something to talk -- or in this case, post -- about.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 10-03-2006 10:06 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Robert Pearlman:
Peter Ford will continue refining his data and analysis. His next step will be to analyze the audio track recordings made during the Apollo 11 EVA from the radio telescope dish at Parkes Observatory in Australia.
There have been some questions raised about the source of the Apollo 11 audio transmission. Peter Ford and James Hansen have contacted John M. Sarkissian, B.Appl.Sc (Physics) Operations Scientist CSIRO Parkes Radio Observatory, ATNF, for a clearer idea of how the audio was sent and received. The following is Sarkissian's reply, articulated by Hansen:
The full spectrum of the radio signal transmitted to the Earth contained both the telemetry and the TV separately. The TV was frequency modulated (FM) on the carrier, and the sub-carriers, which were phase modulated (PM) at several different frequencies, contained the telemetry information, including the audio. So while the majority of the TV of the Moonwalk broadcast to the world was via the 64m Parkes Radio Telescope in Australia, the audio downlink broadcast to the world was exclusively via the Goldstone antenna.

Basically, there were three tracking stations receiving the signal simultaneously: Goldstone, Honeysuckle Creek, and Parkes. A controller at Mission Control in Houston then selected the TV signal that was broadcast to the world. During the first eight minutes and 51 seconds of the TV broadcast, the source of the TV that was broadcast to the world alternated between the Goldstone and Honeysuckle Creek tracking stations. The grainy TV images of Armstrong stepping onto the Moon were sourced from the NASA tracking station at Honeysuckle Creek outside Canberra. At eight minutes and 51 seconds into the broadcast, the TV was finally switched to Parkes. Since the Parkes TV picture quality was superior to the other two stations, NASA remained with Parkes as the source of the TV pictures for the remainder of the over 2.5 hour broadcast. Now, while the TV was through Parkes (and the other stations at the beginning), the audio downlink used for the broadcast was exclusively via the Goldstone station throughout.

Therefore, the audio that Peter Shann Ford used to analyse Armstrong's words were most likely sourced from Goldstone, not Parkes. That is, the TV pictures and the audio were sent separately on the one signal transmitted from the Moon.

fabfivefreddy
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posted 10-03-2006 11:11 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for fabfivefreddy   Click Here to Email fabfivefreddy     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
It hink it is important to understand that the "a" can have a long or short sound. For example "Ay" vs "uh".

Many of us in the midwest use the "uh" sound in sentences. Armstrong has a midwestern style- he could have uttered something that sounded like "That's one small step for "uh man" not the long "ay" you might expect. It would be interesting to see what the linguists say.

My brother responded with "who cares" when I told him about this topic. I told him that we space nuts are crazy for one thing. Also, it is a part of history that is fascinating to ponder.

KC Stoever
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posted 10-03-2006 12:23 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for KC Stoever   Click Here to Email KC Stoever     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I encountered the same "who cares" response from a friend over dinner Sunday night. My husband was a lot more interested in the issue, but he's more attuned to my enthusiasms.

My sense is that Americans as a rule have a kind of cultural contempt for discussions about language and what's considered syntactically ~proper~ or powerful. So those of us who do care about the story are probably in a kind of dweeby minority.

By the way, was I hallucinating last night, listening to Keith Olbermann's Countdown (tv was in the other room)? Didn't he have the "small step for a man" story at number one on his story countdown? I can't find mention of it in the provisional transcript of the show.

On edit: as for NA's delivery and midwestern regional accent, my take is that his "for a" would have sounded more like "for-uh."

mjanovec
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posted 10-03-2006 12:37 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for mjanovec   Click Here to Email mjanovec     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I might be in the "who cares" camp on this one. While I find proper grammar to be a good thing, I think the quote works as it was heard. At least, the population understands the meaning of the quote with or without the "a."

Even if definitive proof can be given that Armstrong did utter "small step for a man," that likely won't change the public perception (or their memory) of the quote. People will always recall it as "small step for man." The fact that the quote is so memorable (and so often repeated) will make it almost impossible to change the public's perception of it. The only way one could do so would be to uncover an audio recording where the "a" can be clearly heard. Otherwise, no amount of analysis of the recording will change how we hear it. If anything, the lost syllable will be nothing more than a footnote to the history of the moon landing.

Aztecdoug
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posted 10-03-2006 12:52 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Aztecdoug   Click Here to Email Aztecdoug     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I agree that I think we are left with One Small Step For Man. Once the Pop Culture gets ahold of something facts go out the window.

After all, the Apollo 13 quote Houston we have a problem was actually Houston we've had a problem.

This was an issue of tense, and in fact both are correct in the sense that they had a problem in the past, they had ongoing problems, and they had more coming there way.

KC Stoever
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posted 10-03-2006 12:59 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for KC Stoever   Click Here to Email KC Stoever     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by mjanovec:
I might be in the "who cares" camp on this one. While I find proper grammar to be a good thing, I think the quote works as it was heard. At least, the population understands the meaning of the quote with or without the "a."
Well, yes. Linguists have long noted that human beings are extremely astute listeners who often supply the proper meaning in instances where the speaker has dropped an all-important word (in this case, the indefinite article a). Readers, too, supply meaning even when words are dropped or transposed in written text.

Listeners knew instinctively that the contrast between "a man" and "mankind" was implicit in NA's construction. So listeners got it, even though the transmission dropped a word.

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posted 10-03-2006 01:33 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Paul Littler   Click Here to Email Paul Littler     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I was a small boy (12 yrs) when Armstrong walked on the Moon. I remember the discussion at the time about the missing "A" and my recollection is that Armstrong, on returning from the Moon, said he thought he had said the "A"and had certainly meant to.

I believed him at the time because if you listen to the complete phrase he says "one ..iant leap for mankind. I do not hear the G.

If you can lose part of the word Giant then you can certainly lose all of a little word like "a".

I heard Al Bean recently talking about his painting of Armstrong's first step. Having been there trying to take a first step in low gravity inside the suit himself, and also having swapped experiences with Armstrong, Bean said for those first few seconds Armstrong was holding on to the ladder whilst looking around and steadying himself while he got used to the gravity.

According to Bean all that about "I'm going to step off the LM now" and describing the surface as fine grained was all to give himself time to get his balance as he did not want to fall over on live TV in front of the entire planet. Wouldn't that have been a triumph?

If Armstrong was doing this I can understand why the mike in his helmet may have heard most but not all of what he said as he moved around inside his suit and turned his head to look around. Added to the static I can understand tiny bits of the message going AWOL.

So ever since I was a kid I thought he said the "A", if only coz the "G" isn't quite all their either.

Anybody hear the word "giant" in its entirety coz I sure don't.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 10-03-2006 08:08 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
One small step for 'a' man... and machine
Presented [here], with permission of its author, is Peter Shann Ford's paper complete with illustrations. He invites those who are inclined to download the same software and audio file that he used to reach his findings and test his conclusions.

fabfivefreddy
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posted 10-03-2006 08:59 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for fabfivefreddy   Click Here to Email fabfivefreddy     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I am certainly far from being an expert on this audio stuff. But I was wondering if it was possible for someone to "turn up" the volume on that "a" utterance so we can all actually hear the darn thing!

Matt T
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posted 10-03-2006 11:03 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Matt T   Click Here to Email Matt T     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I'll take a shot if you like, but 35ms isn't going to sound like much more than a bass heavy click.

As someone who works with digital audio everyday I'd raise a couple of points about the method used by Peter Ford.

Firstly this is a very limited fidelity recording. A CD recording (by no means the highest quality available but sufficiently accurate for most recording needs) has a sample rate of 44.1kHz and a bit depth of 16 bits. The sample rate sets the frequency response of the recording, or to use English, the clarity. Lower sample rates sacrifice the higher frequencies, giving a notably dulled (and potentially distorted) sound. False audio artifacts can be introduced if the sample rate is set at less than twice the highest frequency of the sound recorded.

The internet Armstrong sample is only 11.025kHz, a very limited quality recording unable to accurately reproduce frequencies over 5.5125kHz. Stick your fingers in your ears while hissing (don't try this at work ); this is a very crude illustration of the frequencies you are losing.

Now, clearly the radio transmissions themselves were of quite a limited fequency response, possibly as low as 5kHz, so there may be no frequencies to lose in the source material. Without knowing this for certain though it would seem sensible to seek out a far higher quality digital recording.

The other measure of recording quality, bit depth, may have more impact on Peter's findings though. The bit depth sets the maximum number of digital 'steps' between the loudest peak of a recording and silence. Clearly the more steps the better. To take an absurd example just two steps would give us either silence or full volume, with no possibility to capture swells and fades in volume. So by scaling this idea up, the greater the number of steps the more accurately the digital recording captures the changes in volume of the sound. This is bit depth.

16 bit recordings allow for around 65,000 steps; 8 bit (as used in the Armstrong sample) allow only 256. The main consequence of this is that the sound is, again, less accurate but also compressed. Dynamic compression causes the relative volume of the quieter and louder sounds in a source to be narrowed i.e. the quieter sounds will be become falsely louder than was the case in the original signal.

In the case of recordings from the moon this will bring up the background noise and static.

Phew!

So why does this matter? Because I don't entirely agree with Peter Ford's statement that using a denoising algorithm "...does not change critical voice characteristics" (see figures 5 and 6 of his findings). All noise reduction algorithms have some negative impact on the source recording. Particularly if the recording is of poor quality, with potential false sound artifacts due to a low sample rate, and increased background noise due to a low bit-rate.

Until the issue of the quality of the source recording is addressed I'd agree with Armstrong - the argument is persuasive rather than conclusive.

Novaspace
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posted 10-03-2006 11:32 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Novaspace     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I wonder if they can use some sort of algorithm to find the MISSING VIDEO!

spaceheaded
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posted 10-04-2006 06:41 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for spaceheaded     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
With all the focus on the missing 'a', I think I can finally hear it!

fabfivefreddy
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posted 10-04-2006 06:47 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for fabfivefreddy   Click Here to Email fabfivefreddy     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Now that is the coolest thing I have heard in a LONG time! Thanks Bill!!

spaceheaded
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posted 10-04-2006 09:02 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for spaceheaded     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Thanks, Tahir, glad you enjoyed it. I had created it 10 or 12 years ago.... must've been a slow day at the office. I used the built-in audio editor that came with the OS/2 system I was using back then; much better than the one that windows 3.1 had. If I remember correctly, I picked up the "uh" from Neil's earlier (or later?) comments about the lunar dust, etc.

fabfivefreddy
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posted 10-04-2006 09:52 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for fabfivefreddy   Click Here to Email fabfivefreddy     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Thanks, Bill. You fooled me well!

I was wondering why we can't hear the original recording with the new evidence from this study.

Seems to me that you could turn up the 'a' in the recording and amplify it.

Why can't someone do that? I am ignorant about this sound stuff.

Glint
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posted 10-04-2006 10:44 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Glint   Click Here to Email Glint     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by spaceheaded:
I used the built-in audio editor that came with the OS/2 system I was using back then; much better than the one that windows 3.1 had.
That's cool. I still have Warp 3 running on one my home boxes. Use it to run a couple of old DOS programs I like that didn't port to newer machines, probably because they have direct hooks into the BIOS. DOS programs (and many Windows ones as well) ran better under OS/2. Best of all worlds. Go Borg!


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