October 1, 2006

"Mr Armstrong spoke it at a rate of 35 milliseconds — ten times too fast for it to be audible."

Who speaks 10 times too fast to be audible? That's just nutty. But I want to believe Neil Armstrong really said “That’s one small step for a man," so I'm glad an Australian computer guy found evidence of the "a." Now, if somebody could figure out some halfway plausible method of establishing the absence of "ein" in President Kennedy's "Ich bin ein Berliner," we could finally be free of the indefinite article problems of the 1960s.

24 comments:

Peter Metcalfe said...

The ein problem isn't really a problem. It's a german convention to leave out the indefinite article if you are indicating that you are a
member of the group and to include the indefinite article if you are merely indicating likeness with that group.

A reference explaining this in fuller detail is here

Ron said...

Indefinite article problems of the 1960s?

Great guns, Ann, more excitement is needed...maybe another of those long-gone blog dinners, more driving, a hot date of some kind...something!

Neil Armstrong's still around...why not just ask him?

Verif. word: "puiqy." Is this "pukey" in pidgeon French?

Johnny Nucleo said...

But even though "One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind," doesn't really make sense, it is still iconic. I think it is because of the audio.

If there was no audio and you just read Neil Armstrong's first words on the Moon - whatever they were - I think you would think, "Eh. Okay, but not great." It's the audio - that creepy, cool audio - that makes them great.

I love the Berliner thing. Now when somebody trying to be smart tells me that story, I will tell them the truth and embarrass them and make them look dumb.

Steven said...

Not strictly "too fast to be audible". The average American English spoken syllable lasts 75 milliseconds, while the average French one takes 50 milliseconds. But that's average -- a syllable of a single short vowel is quite plausible to be spoken for a length of 35 milliseconds. That would be heard quite plainly spoken on Earth by someone in the same room.

But run it through the long chain of 1960s electronics used to transmit his voice from the suit through intermediaries to Earth, plus the distortion of the atmosphere and magnetosphere on the signal, and enough "noise" might well be introduced to muffle such a brief sound to the unaugmented human ear.

Maxine Weiss said...

I'm sensing a theme to these posts

the word...."Audible"

Peace, Maxine

Troy said...

How do we know he didn't say "One small step for THE man." as in the Fed bureaucracy that got him there? Or "Da" man as in "Whodaman"?

I saw Armstrong's commencement at USC last year -- he's slowing down -- I heard everything.

HaloJonesFan said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Eli Blake said...

Troy:

You say you saw Armstrong's commencement at USC LAST YEAR?

That explains everything. He didn't know English grammar back in the 1960's, having not yet gone to college.

Neil Armstrong, professional student....

Who'd of thunk it?

And it really does show you how dangerous those early spacecraft were. They had to get somebody with no education to agree to get in one.

I know. One mistake and I'm merciless. But then look at what this post was all about.

I think I'll go to the kitchen and get a Berliner.

HaloJonesFan said...

Well, I dunno...listening to the audio, it sounds like "that's wun smahl step...furr man..." I know that Americans tend to slur vowels into the preceding word, though, so it's possible that it was "...furra man..." and we're just confusing his article "a" with the end of his "r" sound.

I've often had trouble trying to enunciate when you have an ending vowel and a starting vowel together...it just tends to become one long "errufunnuthugnuttupusunuth".

HaloJonesFan said...

As for the Berliner thing: If someone said that they were a Hamburger, we would not think that they seriously meant it as "I am a processed meat product made of ground beef formed into a patty". It would just be a funny way to say it.

Peter Metcalfe said...

On the Berliner is jelly donut, I never saw a Berliner sold as such when I was in Berlin nearly a deacde ago. The closest I ever found a Berliner to Berlin was in Luebeck (which is famous for being the home of marzipan - apparently there was this siege and the bakers ran out of flour, so they tried to bake break using almonds).

But during the Armin Meiwise case (the case of consensual cannibalism), the fact that the victim came from Berlin allowed Bild to run the whole sordid story under the headline "Cannibal devours Berliner".

john dickinson said...

I personally like it better as "small step for man."

Troy said...

commencement address -- oops...

lvmovy -- Love Movie -- chick flick or porno -- depends on one's POV I guess.

George said...

When Apollo 16's spacecraft commander John Young stepped on the moon, he said:

"There you are, mysterious and unknown Descartes highland plains. Apollo 16 is gonna change your image. I'm sure glad they got ol' Brer Rabbit here, back in the briar patch where he belongs. "

Was there some garbling there?

Ann Althouse said...

George: Wow, I thought you were kidding. Why don't I remember that? It sounds so insane! But the place where he was really was called the Descartes Highland Plains, so he wasn't making an allusion to the philospher, and everyone's supposed to know the Br'er Rabbit story.

Smilin' Jack said...

Well, I know the Br'er Rabbit story, and I still don't know what the hell Young was talking about.

As for Armstrong, I don't buy it. He spoke every other word very slowly and deliberately...why would he slip in a 35 ms "a"?

Joe said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Joe said...

This strikes me as a case of finding what you're looking for, damned be the evidence.

amba said...

Young obviously was space-happy. Or should I say "spaced out."

Cat said...

I heard the "I'm a jelly donut story," from a young friend who just finished her Jr. year abroad. It's the "Americans are so stupid, JFK..." story. Tiresome. Now I have an answer for her.

I didn't realize it was so widespread.

Ann Althouse said...

Amba: Didn't everyone talk like that in the 70s? Sounding normal wasn't such a strong requirement.

Mike said...

Oh, come on! I listened to Armstrong's words live, at the time, and many times since then (I'm a science nut). There's no "a" there. Period.

Steven said...

Mike, you heard them 'live' through a transmission from Armstrong's suit to the lander to the orbiter to a relay station to Houston to the networks to your local station to your receiver to your ears. All signal-degrading analog links. Ever made a copy of a copy of a copy of a copy of an analog tape?

There are all sorts of sounds the human ear cannot hear, but which can be found in computer-assisted waveform analysis. The claim here is that there was sufficient distortion to render the "a" inaudible to the human ear, but that analysis by computer can pick up remaining traces to show it was there. Which means it's completely consistent with both Armstrong saying 'a' and you not hearing it 'live'.

Mike said...

Steven - I know about analog. I know about signal-to-noise ratio. There wasn't an increase in noise where the "a" should have been. There wasn't a pause where the "a" should have been (thus requiring the ridiculous "he said it really fast" theory). Go back and listen yourself. No "a". No way.