Author Topic: Why the hoax theory fails out of the starting gate  (Read 15835 times)

Offline gillianren

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Re: Why the hoax theory fails out of the starting gate
« Reply #15 on: February 22, 2012, 11:11:48 PM »
I suspect I will not be the last one to Jupiter.
"This sounds like a job for Bipolar Bear . . . but I just can't seem to get out of bed!"

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Offline Abaddon

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Re: Why the hoax theory fails out of the starting gate
« Reply #16 on: February 23, 2012, 03:55:02 AM »
I suspect I will.

Offline Glom

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Re: Why the hoax theory fails out of the starting gate
« Reply #17 on: February 23, 2012, 03:56:53 AM »
Last one to Jupiter's a rotten egg!

Given the radiation levels at Jupiter I suspect the opposite.

Offline Echnaton

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Re: Why the hoax theory fails out of the starting gate
« Reply #18 on: February 23, 2012, 02:40:08 PM »
Last one to Jupiter's a rotten egg!

Given the radiation levels at Jupiter I suspect the opposite.
One way or the other, I'll make ever effort to post trivial comments so as not to be the last one there.  All this white space make me giddy.
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Offline raven

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Re: Why the hoax theory fails out of the starting gate
« Reply #19 on: March 04, 2012, 03:00:46 AM »
Oh well, I needed to work on my tan anyway. ;)
Back on topic, the most common reason given by conspiracy theorists for faking the moon landing was to one up the Russians. But this is equally a reason to actually go to the moon.
It's also somewhat fascinating to look at the hisotry of hoax claims. Thanks to the magic of Google Books Bill Kaysing's book is available in (almost?) its complete entirety and I have found no mention of the increasingly common claim the computers of the time were not up to the task.

Offline cjameshuff

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Re: Why the hoax theory fails out of the starting gate
« Reply #20 on: March 04, 2012, 01:23:48 PM »
Oh well, I needed to work on my tan anyway. ;)
Back on topic, the most common reason given by conspiracy theorists for faking the moon landing was to one up the Russians. But this is equally a reason to actually go to the moon.

And given that the Russians had no shortage of motivation to detect and expose any hoax and the sheer scale of the project, faking the trip would be a rather poor substitute for actually doing it.


It's also somewhat fascinating to look at the hisotry of hoax claims. Thanks to the magic of Google Books Bill Kaysing's book is available in (almost?) its complete entirety and I have found no mention of the increasingly common claim the computers of the time were not up to the task.

Yet they can never say exactly how they fell short...meanwhile, people are flying emulated AGCs in simulations, building replicas, etc. There is a great amount of detailed information out there about the exact construction and capabilities of the hardware and software, how heavily loaded it was, etc.

36 kilowords of ROM and 2 kilowords of RAM, with 16 bit words...I've worked on smaller systems. They fit them in single chips these days, with flash program memory and SRAM, but embedded processors are often of similar size. You can fit a lot of functionality in that memory when you don't even need to handle a text interface (the closest the AGC got was lighting up labeled displays and giving numeric readouts) or handle a bunch of user-installable hardware and software with fancy autoconfiguration.

Offline Glom

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Re: Why the hoax theory fails out of the starting gate
« Reply #21 on: March 04, 2012, 02:29:37 PM »
36 kilowords of ROM and 2 kilowords of RAM, with 16 bit words...I've worked on smaller systems. They fit them in single chips these days, with flash program memory and SRAM, but embedded processors are often of similar size. You can fit a lot of functionality in that memory when you don't even need to handle a text interface (the closest the AGC got was lighting up labeled displays and giving numeric readouts) or handle a bunch of user-installable hardware and software with fancy autoconfiguration.

People don't realise that the GUI is everything.

Still, I'm glad with modern computing power, we do use enhanced visuals in our avionics, EFIS etc.  Having an interface that is intuitive is really helpful.

Offline gwiz

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Re: Why the hoax theory fails out of the starting gate
« Reply #22 on: March 05, 2012, 05:39:52 AM »
36 kilowords of ROM and 2 kilowords of RAM, with 16 bit words...I've worked on smaller systems.
When I started work the single digital computer for our design office in a company making jet fighters (they had some analogue machines, too) was a Ferranti Pegasus.  It was the size of several fridges and filled with glowing vacuum tubes.  It had an impressive total of 64 (that's really 64, not 64k) 40-bit words of memory backed up by a magnetic drum, same principle as a hard disk, different shape.  We had the upgraded version with a 7 kword drum rather than the basic 4 kword.   
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Offline ineluki

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Re: Why the hoax theory fails out of the starting gate
« Reply #23 on: March 05, 2012, 10:17:22 AM »
Thanks to the magic of Google Books Bill Kaysing's book is available in (almost?) its complete entirety and I have found no mention of the increasingly common claim the computers of the time were not up to the task.

Ahh the gold old days when people were able to do something without an iPhone.


Offline ka9q

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Re: Why the hoax theory fails out of the starting gate
« Reply #24 on: March 05, 2012, 12:52:16 PM »
You can fit a lot of functionality in that memory when you don't even need to handle a text interface (the closest the AGC got was lighting up labeled displays and giving numeric readouts) or handle a bunch of user-installable hardware and software with fancy autoconfiguration.
Exactly right. As an example of the utterly primitive user interfaces of the Apollo computers, I like to quote Buzz Aldrin's technobabble immediately after Eagle landed on the moon:

"413 is in".

That refers to his manually poking a value into Abort Guidance System memory location 413 (octal) to tell it that the LM had actually landed. (The AGS was even more primitive than the Primary Guidance and Navigation System that used the Apollo Guidance Computer.) Maybe it takes a computer engineer like me to appreciate it, but this phrase beautifully illustrates the vast improvements in man/machine interfaces that have occurred just during my lifetime.

My problem is that even terms like "poking memory" require a lot of explanation, or else they whiz right past many people who weren't even born until after most personal computers had GUIs.

I like to say that the very best user interface is the one that does not need to exist at all because its function is performed automatically. That would certainly apply to telling any lunar lander designed today that it has indeed landed on the moon.

Offline sts60

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Re: Why the hoax theory fails out of the starting gate
« Reply #25 on: March 05, 2012, 03:54:09 PM »
I like to say that the very best user interface is the one that does not need to exist at all because its function is performed automatically. That would certainly apply to telling any lunar lander designed today that it has indeed landed on the moon.

*cough* Mars Polar Lander *cough*

Offline cjameshuff

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Re: Why the hoax theory fails out of the starting gate
« Reply #26 on: March 05, 2012, 05:20:49 PM »
When I started work the single digital computer for our design office in a company making jet fighters (they had some analogue machines, too) was a Ferranti Pegasus.  It was the size of several fridges and filled with glowing vacuum tubes.  It had an impressive total of 64 (that's really 64, not 64k) 40-bit words of memory backed up by a magnetic drum, same principle as a hard disk, different shape.  We had the upgraded version with a 7 kword drum rather than the basic 4 kword.

One of my current personal projects is a tiny Forth system intended to fit on microcontrollers as small as a few kB of flash, 128 B of RAM, and 32 8-bit working registers. I should be able to fit all the interpreter's variables in the registers, leaving the full 0.00012 MB of RAM available for the running program.

Somewhat more typical is an iPod dock I'm actually getting paid to write code for...256 kB flash, 16 kB RAM, and that much is only necessary due to the complexity of the communications protocols between the iPod and the dock and between the dock and the main system and reuse of code from larger systems because it already exists.

Offline ka9q

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Re: Why the hoax theory fails out of the starting gate
« Reply #27 on: March 06, 2012, 05:45:33 AM »
I like to say that the very best user interface is the one that does not need to exist at all because its function is performed automatically. That would certainly apply to telling any lunar lander designed today that it has indeed landed on the moon.

*cough* Mars Polar Lander *cough*
Ah hem, I assume you're referring to the microswitch design on the legs...well, inasmuch as there was no pilot on board, there couldn't be a pilot/machine interface, could there?

Edited to add: but this could be seen as a reasonable argument for another feature of the Apollo user interface mentioned in Aldrin's spiel: "Descent engine command override off". That's a really cool-sounding buzzphrase referring to a set of manual switches in parallel with the computer-controlled relay that fired the descent engine. They didn't totally trust the computer to not shut down the engine early, so this essentially required the astronauts to actively agree with the computer before this could happen. Since an early engine shutdown is what killed MPL, it might have made a difference -- had there been a pilot.

Nothing in my argument excuses flying untested buggy designs. There were so many problems with MPL, and so little data, that the board could not say that the microswitch problem actually killed it. They could only say that if the mission actually made it that far, then it would definitely have failed at that point.

A moderate amount of human supervision to detect and hopefully intervene when major problems appear in an otherwise automated system is a perfectly reasonable thing. But a design that requires a steady stream of highly arcane and error-prone commands -- like manually poking values into a computer memory -- before it can even work at all is a different story. It's all about having machines do what they do best, and having people do what people do best, and not forcing one to do the other's job.

« Last Edit: March 06, 2012, 06:01:57 AM by ka9q »

Offline sts60

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Re: Why the hoax theory fails out of the starting gate
« Reply #28 on: March 06, 2012, 11:42:18 AM »
Oh, I agree with you.  I just couldn't resist.  The MPL problem was really the same old one about sacrificing good system engineering and integrated test because of lack of $.

Of course, MPL could have used a pilot - ideally one that could hold his breath for a long time while waiting for the bus home.

Offline ka9q

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Re: Why the hoax theory fails out of the starting gate
« Reply #29 on: March 07, 2012, 06:09:31 AM »
And it was a clever retort, because I had forgotten that MPL's problem had specifically to do with knowing that it had landed so it could shut off the engine.