Last night I watched the first part of a new series on PBS called “Origins.” I like PBS because it makes me fell smart without having to read. I can read, obviously, I just don’t like to. Watching PBS lets me feel superior to the people watching Trading Spouses without necessarily doing any more work than they are.
Neil Degrasse Tyson, director of the Hayden planet here, hosts the show in New York City. I’ve seen him around before, and heard him on NPR (which I also listen to because it makes me feel smarter) this morning. He is a very smart fellow, but also entertaining, which is what inspired me to watch tonight, as much as my general interest in popular science.
Despite all the elegant and beautiful science going on in the universe, the thing that struck me the most watching the show was some simple footage of the moon landing. The moon landing happened in 1969, which sounds like forever ago, even in geological time. In reality, the moon landing was just 7 years before I was born and putting it in that perspective makes it sound like it was not all that long ago to me.
But when you look at the pictures of the technology around the NASA control room, you may as well be seeing pictures from the Victorian era. The folks in the control room at NASA were watching the footage from the Eagle module sitting on the surface of the moon. They were watching on 13” Black and White television sets with dials to change the channels. They had built a spacecraft that could put people on the moon, but they didn’t have the technology to broadcast the signals coming back from the moon in color!
Neil Armstrong was able to broadcast his famous “Small Step…Great Leap” comment from the moon, but no one had ever heard of a cellular telephone. They had sent people into space, but it’d be another decade before people would be playing Space Invaders in their local arcade. A computer as powerful as the one in your car would have been as big as your car.
There were no CDs. There was no VCR. There were no Fiber Optic wires. There were no pocket calculators. There was no leaf blower. There was no Internet. A word processor was an actual person. There was no tab on a can of soda. There were no Post-It Notes!
Is that not the craziest thing you could ever imagine? A bunch of guys got together and decided we should go to the moon. Against all logic these guys were somehow able to do it, and do it 10 years before Sony built the first Walkmen?
The universe is pretty frickin’ amazing. But we humans, no matter how insignificant we might be in that universe, you gotta admit we are pretty frickin’ amazing too.
Well we have all those things now but the voice transmission at drive-thru restaurants still sounds like it's coming from the moon. Consequently they've never gotten my order exactly right, down to the number of straws and napkins.
by anna at September 29, 2004 7:39 AM
What made you pick leaf blowers for your list of things they didn't have in 1969?
by Adam L. at September 29, 2004 9:14 AM
They also didn't have The Godfather! ::gasps:: It's like it was the stone age or sumfin.
by fcsuper at September 29, 2004 4:10 PM
At Least they had "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly."
Isn't it funny how we define our generation (X and Y) by the media we consume?
by MrBlank at September 29, 2004 4:55 PM
Of all my examples, i think the leaf blower is the most illustrative. No one had thought of, or they couldn't figure out how to make, a friggin' leaf blower, but they could fly a couple people to the moon! Am I the only one who thinks that is insane?
by mg at September 29, 2004 9:20 PM
I have a leaf blower. It is also a leaf vacuum. I can never figure out if I'd rather suck or blow. Oh wait, that didn't come out right.
by anna at September 30, 2004 7:43 AM
Wait, you have two differnt devices to blow or suck leaves? Do you think our forefathers could ever have invisioned a land with so much freedom you can decide to alternatively push or pull leaves? God bless America.
by mg at October 1, 2004 6:06 PM
No, one thing does it all. It sucks, it blows.
by anna at October 1, 2004 6:43 PM
Oh. We might as well be living in Russia then.
by mg at October 1, 2004 7:02 PM
I am certain they faked the moon landing. Who'd be the wiser?
by anna at October 4, 2004 7:10 PM