Sunday, 15 August 2010

Zubrin, Mars and Music

Sunny one day, wet and cold the next. This is good. The weather is always with us as a topic of conversation. Spring is just around the corner. So is next week's concert which has obsessed our little performing troupe for - it seems - months, to be played and sung to the mass audience of ... dozens, in that famous venue, the Warooka Uniting Church Hall. And you supposed that it was the Sydney Opera House at the very least.

Never mind. It just reminds me that I must spend some time this morning learning some of the evasive lines so that  my  nose isn't constantly buried in the songbook (thank goodness we are allowed that) and the audience sees mainly my bald  patch. So does the camcorder, which has an uncanny knack for using its automatic focus to zero in on such highlights.

Here's a link to an amusing but instructive talk by Dr Robert Zubrin. Who? Bob Zubrin is one of my heroes, engineer and scientist and maverick who knows more about missions to the planet Mars than most earthlings.
Below is the link to his presentation to the Mars Society advocating a cheaper solution to Getting There, noting that government funding is only likely to endure for a maximum of ten years, since politicians expect to be out of office by then. A "30 year plan" is pollie-speak for "We're not serious."

It might be even more amusing if you turn on the beta-test   (= experimental) software which activates a speech recognition program to produce scrolling text. To do that, click the red icon at lower right (looks like the letters CC but I think it's meant to represent a cassette tape image), then click Transcribe Audio on the pop-up which appears, then click OK. Because the system is imperfect, and because Zubrin's fast talking New York speech is mysterious at the best of times, the effect is enigmatic or hilarious. When the speaker says "Saturn Five rocket" the screen wording reads "Saturn died market", and when Dr Bob calls to his helper "Next chart", we see it as "Nick Charles"!

Actually I am impressed by how far advanced the voice recognition technology has come, although in this instance still short of useability. Go here for the talk. I joined the Mars Society when it began an Australian branch in 2001. Then, what with the general muddle of moving house twice in twelve months in 2002, I let membership lapse. Couple of months ago they contacted me and I rejoined. The Oz membership is 'bout 70, of whom maybe half are science professionals. And the rest of us along for the ride, possibly literally if they sell tickets soon. Or let me work my passage as dishwasher or resident entertainer. Could be just a one way trip. I can imagine: "Don't worry. We'll be back for you." Ha!

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