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    One Small Step - Two Small Strips ( Or Maybe Three )
    By Patrick Lockerby | May 7th 2013 01:33 PM | 5 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
    About Patrick

    Retired engineer, 60+ years young. Computer builder and programmer. Linguist specialising in language acquisition and computational linguistics....

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    One Small Step - Two Small Strips 
     ( Or Maybe Three )



    The news that Neil Armstrong's EKG is up for auction has been reported across the world.  Having more than a passing interest in how language is used, I was looking at the different ways that writers have dealt with this story when the article by PC mag caught my eye.  The image they posted was not the same as the one from RR Auction.

    Here is one of the images I used in my news blog, from RR Auction's web page.



    Here is a screen grab of the PC Magazine news article.



    I traced the PC Magazine version of Neil Armstrong's EKG back to its source: Heritage Auctions of Dallas Texas.


    How come there are 2 EKGs each of which is stated to be Neil Armstrong's EKG at the exact moment of stepping onto the Moon?  Is a 'moment' or an 'instant' of such a great duration that it can span these two entirely different EKGs put together?  Note also that they cannot be fitted together to recreate a continuous section of an EKG recording.  The implication is that there is at least one more intermediary EKG strip.


    Did you get that?   There must be at least three unique EKG strips!


    A problem with provenance

    What I think is most likely to have happened is that a considerable length of EKG was snipped into sections which were then signed by Neil Armstrong and handed out to a number of people as souvenirs.  There can be only one section for the exact moment of stepping onto the Moon.  Other sections must be - however short an interval of time - from before or after that exact moment.

    But it is still not that simple.  Is it possible to say that any specific point on Neil Armstrong's EKG trace is a record of the exact moment of that first step?  Not unless somebody marked the trace with a pen at the time - and we have no record of that happening.  Sources of possible error in the recorded mission event times mean that nobody can say for sure that any snippet of Neil Armstrong's EKG is 'the one true tape'.

    [Based on the times of transmissions prior to 109:24:12, Neil started to say "I'm going to step" at 109:24:12, stepped firmly on the surface at 109:24:17, and started "That's one small step" at 109:24:23. Readers interested in the exact timing of events in these transcripts should note that there are notable inconsistencies in the times given in the original NASA transcripts. Clearly, over longer intervals, times in the original transcripts are only suggestive. Discontinuous jumps in the original transcripts occur at notable mission events and elsewhere, probably at the end of tapes or tape segments used by individual transcribers. Over intervals of several minutes, the best audio clips can be used to get relative accuracies of 2-3 seconds.]

    NASA Apollo 11 One Small Step
    It is a very strange world and a very strange language if 'unique' means 'plus or minus at least 2'.  One does not expect a widely used English word to be in need of error bars.  You know, error bars: the reinforcing bars of concrete science.


    Legal disclaimer:

    nothing in the foregoing article should be taken as meaning or implying that I would not buy one of these almost but not quite unique  items at the drop of a hat if I were rich.

    Comments

    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    The implication is that there is at least one more intermediary EKG strip.
    Did you get that?   There must be at least three unique EKG strips!
    ....It is a very strange world and a very strange language if 'unique' means 'plus or minus at least 2'.  One does not expect a widely used English word to be in need of error bars.  You know, error bars: the reinforcing bars of concrete science.
    What an interesting article Patrick with some fabulous links and great detective work! 

    I have a picture frame on the wall in front of me, containing 4 photographs of Buzz Aldrin on the Moon, all taken by Neil Armstrong. One shows Buzz Aldrin coming down the ladder, another shows Armstrong and Apollo 11 reflected in Buzz's face mask, a third shows Buzz setting up equipment and the fourth shows him standing and looking at the American flag, with obvious footprints on the ground between him and Armstrong. 

    I've had these photos on the wall in my kids 'den' for many years, so it was fantastic to be able to read the amazingly detailed transcript and description of what took place before, during and after these photos were taken, in your link NASA Apollo 11 One Small Step. Also, I can't help wondering what happened to Buzz's EKGs? 

    I think its rather ironic, that this Apollo 11 landing transcript that you linked to, shows that one of the first things Neil Armstrong did when he was climbing onto the ladder was put out the garbage, which will still be lying in that spot probably, unless it was incinerated by the Apollo 11 the take-off? 

    Catarina Amorim wrote a Science20 article here, called 'Social Skills Are Key to Bacterial Evolution' and in the comments section, we discussed the possibility of the bacteria in these waste bags still being viable because according to this NASA article 'space historians will recall that the journey to the stars has more than one life form on its passenger list: the names of a dozen Apollo astronauts who walked on the moon and one inadvertent stowaway, a common bacteria, Streptococcus mitis, the only known survivor of unprotected space travel.' :-
     As Marshall astronomers and biologists met recently to discuss biological limits to life on Earth, the question of how an Earth bacteria could survive in a vacuum without nutrients, water and radiation protection was less speculative than might first be imagined. A little more than a month before the forthcoming millennium celebration, NASA will mark without fanfare the thirty year anniversary of documenting a microbe's first successful journey from Earth.

    The Surveyor probes were the first U.S. spacecraft to land safely on the Moon. In November, 1969, the Surveyor 3 spacecraft's microorganisms were recovered from inside its camera that was brought back to Earth under sterile conditions by the Apollo 12 crew.

    The 50-100 organisms survived launch, space vacuum, 3 years of radiation exposure, deep-freeze at an average temperature of only 20 degrees above absolute zero, and no nutrient, water or energy source. (The United States landed 5 Surveyors on the Moon; Surveyor 3 was the only one of the Surveyors visited by any of the six Apollo landings. No other life forms were found in soil samples retrieved by the Apollo missions or by two Soviet unmanned sampling missions, although amino acids - not necessarily of biological origin - were found in soil retrieved by the Apollo astronauts.)

    How this remarkable feat was accomplished only by Strep. bacteria remains speculative, but it does recall that even our present Earth does not always look as environmentally friendly as it might have 4 billion years ago when bacteria first appeared on this planet.

    At that time I had just watched a 'Smarter every day' YouTube answering the question 'Is there poop on the Moon?' and the answer was a resounding 'yes'. Not only poop and the trillions of bacteria it contains but also urine, food waste, used towels and paper, cameras, batteries and much more were left behind by the astronauts. At the end of the YouTube video the presenter goes to a science museum and cuts open one of the 60 year old poop bags that did return from the space mission to investigate its contents. It would be interesting to know what was happening to the trillions of bacteria that we have left behind on the moon wouldn't it? Have they managed to start to colonize the moon yet or have they just formed bacterial endospores? Wiki describes how resilient these endospores can be :-
    Certain genera of Gram-positive bacteria, such as Bacillus,  Clostridium,  Sporohalobacter,    Anaerobacter and Heliobacterium, can form highly resistant, dormant structures called endospores.
    Endospores show no detectable metabolism and can survive extreme physical and chemical stresses, such as high levels of UV light, gamma radiation, detergents, disinfectants, heat, freezing, pressure and desiccation.[72] In this dormant state, these organisms may remain viable for millions of years,[73][74] and endospores even allow bacteria to survive exposure to the vacuum and radiation in space.[75] According to scientist Dr. Steinn Sigurdsson, "There are viable bacterial spores that have been found that are 40 million years old on Earth — and we know they're very hardened to radiation."
    Could the rudiments of bacterial life now be evolving on the Moon, thanks to man's visits there?

    The universetoday website reports that there is definitely water on the moon :-
    Three different spacecraft have confirmed there is water on the Moon. It hasn’t been found in deep dark craters or hidden underground. Data indicate that water exists diffusely across the moon as hydroxyl or water molecules — or both — adhering to the surface in low concentrations. Additionally, there may be a water cycle in which the molecules are broken down and reformulated over a two week cycle, which is the length of a lunar day. This does not constitute ice sheets or frozen lakes: the amounts of water in a given location on the Moon aren’t much more than what is found in a desert here on Earth. But there’s more water on the Moon than originally thought. Read more at :-   http://www.universetoday.com/41212/yes-theres-water-on-the-moon/#ixzz2FOPiVz6y
    Also, I wonder if Neil Armstrong's camera will ever be auctioned one day or maybe it is all in pieces now after scientists extracted the space travelling bacteria?
    My article about researchers identifying a potential blue green algae cause & L-Serine treatment for Lou Gehrig's ALS, MND, Parkinsons & Alzheimers is at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine
    rholley
    Helen,

    We didn’t have a telly when Neil Armstrong landed, so perhaps I missed a lot, though it’s fun to watch documentaries dealing with the space programme.

    I remember two SF stories relating to (then future) moon landings.  In one, an astronaut survived on the unlit side of the Moon, while the Sun went nova and wiped out all life on Earth.  He returned to Earth, whose atmosphere had reverted to a “primitive” condition, and put out some Petri dishes.  On one of them, some micro-organisms, possibly brought back by himself, had started to grow.  With these, he (hopefully) re-seeded life on Earth.  (Note: we now know that our Sun is not the type of star that goes nova.)

    The other one was rather facetious.  Someone had made a suggestion that the Moon was covered in organic molecules in a pre-biotic state.  One of the crew had taken with him a ripe Limburger sandwich (Once it reaches three months, this cheese produces its notorious smell because the bacterium used to ferment Limburger cheese and many other smear-ripened cheeses is Brevibacterium linens, the same one found on human skin that is partially responsible for body odour and particularly foot odour.)  Some of it had got onto the surface, and started biotic processes, which left their smell in the space capsule, and as a result of which “the Moon is now made of green cheese.”

    (Limburger was not widely available in Britain at the time, so this is how I learned about this notoriously smelly cheese.)
     
     
    Robert H. Olley / Quondam Physics Department / University of Reading / England
    logicman
    What an interesting article Patrick with some fabulous links and great detective work!

    Thank you, also, for a comment that deserves, imho, to be posted as a blog.  What you have written is clear, educational and well within the boundaries of science.

    Hank ?

    More stuff for you -

    http://lsda.jsc.nasa.gov/books/apollo/s5ch1.htm

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mobile_Quarantine_Facility

    .

    .



    Yes, NASA was worried that aliens* might harm us.

    *  viable terrestrial microorganisms released during Lunar Module depressurization; and ... microorganisms present in the LM waste water system.

    The project planners didn't want a surprise from anything like the Andromeda Strain.
    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    Thank you, also, for a comment that deserves, imho, to be posted as a blog.  What you have written is clear, educational and well within the boundaries of science. 
    Thank you for this vote of confidence Patrick. I have currently lost my ability to write blogs at Science20 but I hope that one day I will be able to write blogs here again and then I will do my very best to write clear, educational blogs that are all well within the boundaries of science. In the meantime I am happy to make comments on the many great blogs that you and other Science20 contributors write. Sorry if my last one was a bit long but I find your blogs very stimulating, please keep up the great work!
    My article about researchers identifying a potential blue green algae cause & L-Serine treatment for Lou Gehrig's ALS, MND, Parkinsons & Alzheimers is at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine
    rholley
    I have heard that, following the Crusades, Western Europe (where they were very much into relics) ended up with three Heads of John the Baptist.




    Now here’s a story from Ireland.

    Before non-stop Transatlantic flights, planes would stop at Shannon in Ireland.  One enterprising man used to sell bones he had dug up to gullible American tourists. 

    “Hello Sir.  Would you like to buy this skull?  It’s a great historical treasure, the skull of Brian Boru, king of All Ireland.”

    “Hey, you sold me his skull when I came this way fifteen years ago!  Besides, this is the skull of a nine-year-old.”

    “I see that you are an intelligent and observant man, Sir!  This was his skull when he was a boy.”
    Robert H. Olley / Quondam Physics Department / University of Reading / England