Monday, October 02, 2006

My Childhood Hero Didn't Screw Up After All

Growing up I always idolized Neil Armstrong. How could I not--I wanted to be an astronaut, and he was the most astronaut-y of them all.

So imagine my disdain when, many years later, I learned about the controvery regarding his first transmitted words after stepping on the moon. Did he say "one small step for a man", or "one small step for man"? If the former, there's no problem; if the latter, his comment makes no sense.

Listen to the tapes, however, and it seems he didn't say "a man". Or did he?

Now, after almost four decades, the spaceman has been vindicated. Using high-tech sound analysis techniques, an Australian computer expert has rediscovered the missing “a” in Mr Armstrong’s famous quote. Peter Shann Ford ran the Nasa recording through sound-editing software and clearly picked up an acoustic wave from the word “a”, finding that Mr Armstrong spoke it at a rate of 35 milliseconds — ten times too fast for it to be audible.


Mr Ford’s findings have been presented to Nasa officials in Washington and to a relieved Mr Armstrong, who issued a statement saying: “I find the technology interesting and useful. I also find his conclusion persuasive....”


Officials at Nasa have met Mr Ford to discuss his findings. They have now instructed their own analysts to run in-house tests.


I hope the Australian's right. And don't you just love the British construct of not capitalizing the entire acronym for NASA?

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

He's one elite h4x0r.

Anonymous said...

Or maybe it was ALIENS using a sophisticated frequency hopping spread spectrum piggypack terminal inputting stuff into our transmissions...

Darren said...

I don't read l33t very well. What did you say?

Anonymous said...

I said he's pretty cool =P

Darren said...

Muy bueno.

allen said...

One story that's definitely a myth is Neil Armstrong's supposed wishing of good luck to Mr. Gorsky from Tranquility Base.

Nick Mariette said...

Peter Shann Ford's "analysis" of Neil Armstrong's moon landing speech is completely unscientific, and not a proof at all (and Peter is more a CEO and ex news anchorman than computer programmer). (1). No speech researcher would make a scientific claim using Goldwave software (like making a blockbuster movie in iMovie). (2). The audio used was 11.025 kHz, 8 bit quality. (3). The "control phrase" (for mankind) has shorter syllables because it has more of them. (4). Peter Shann Ford didn't use the first tool of any speech researcher - the spectrogram. (5). Peter's "research" was reviewed by an astronaut who emphasised the finding was "persuasive", and "Ms. Rano Singh, a Physiotherapist with a Masters in Biomechanics". (6). The mouth diagram is from a description of Korean alveolars, and Korean does not have the American English approximant /r/. (this point from http://itre.cis.upenn.edu/~myl/languagelog/archives/003639.html#more)
(7). There was no peer review by real speech analysis researchers. I believe the whole thing to be a dodgy publicity stunt for Peter Shann Ford and his Control Bionics company. Read more here: http://blog.soundsorange.net

Darren said...

No-o-o-o-o-o-o! But I want this to be true!

As the article says, NASA is having their people analyze it. We'll see what they say. If it's as much of a slam dunk as Nick Mariette says, then it shouldn't take them too long to do so.