Explorer Bill's Science Friction

Explore my world of science fact, science fiction, fantasy and whatever else I've dug up along the road of life.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Bill Interviews Moon Man 'Buzz' Aldrin

I have finally found a long lost copy of a letter I wrote to friends about my interview with Buzz Aldrin while I was a news reporter for the Springfield Daily News of Springfield, Ohio. There is also a news story about this meeting somewhere else in my files, but this will do for now. I deliberately used science fiction fan lingo in this letter like that used in the 1950s. The photo of Buzz and I hangs on the wall here in my office at home.

I sent copies of this letter to Coulson, Gaines and Tabakow on January 14, 1971 (three Ohio fans of the time):
The Letter
Springfield, Ohio

Dear Bob:

It began last Friday night when for some reason or other, I watched “Destination Moon” once again on Channel 10’s Chiller, marvelling at how closely they predicted the actual moon landing. Then all weekend I was consumed with an above normal mania for space flight.

Lightning struck on Wednesday. I was at work and the editor said four astronauts were at nearby Wright-Patterson AFB and were going to hold a press conference. It was then 9:30 a.m. He didn’t know which astronauts – as if that mattered to me!
To my feverish delight, after a quick trip in a press car to the base, I found that Colonel “Buzz” Aldrin was one of the four!


I was grimly determined I would fiercely elbow TV cameramen and TV newsmen out or the way so that one of the Star begotten could ask A REAL SPACEMAN!!! a few questions and just stand humbly in his presence.
But I didn’t have to shove the TV boys aside. They were a bit awed at having such a super colossal news maker at hand, and almost behaved as if it were possible for them to be timid.

Yessir, I walked right up to THE SECOND MAN EVER TO SET FOOT ON ANOTHER WORLD, the man who was ONE OF THE CREW OF THE FIRST SPACESHIP LAND ON THE MOON, and interviewed him right there on the spot. Buzz and I talked for three or four minutes, I’d judge. For the results, see the enclosed clipping.

I know I asked him more questions and got more answers than appears in the article, but I was so wildly delighted to talk to the MOON MAN I just didn’t get everything written down.  In the flesh, Aldrin had the “look of eagles” of a man that’s been WAY UP THERE.  Our photographer earned my eternal gratitude by snapping a photo of me interviewing “Buzz”

Fannishly yours,

Bill Conner
End of the Letter

Bill Interviews Arthur C. Clarke

         Science Fiction's Arthur Clarke's Wrong Call
         Balanced  By His Prediction Of The Internet    

Who would have thought that an infusion of illegal immigrants in America would become a "hot potato" issue during the frist decade of the next millenium? Certainly not the late science and science fiction author Arthur C. Clarke, "Mr. 2001."

Clarke in 1969 envisioned a world where "universal liesure" would exist and a bored population would be created by a population of unemployed humans who would be replaced by robots and machines that would do all the work?
To prove Clarke did make such a wrong prediction, I used my personal "time machine" to go back to October 6, 1969. Well, all I really did do was roll out a file folder drawer from my office file cabinet. At the time was a reporter and science columnist for the Springfield Daily News, Springfield, Ohio. On that date, Clarke was in town to give a talk student's at Springfield's Wittenberg University. Earlier in 1969, Clarke and movie producer Stanley Kubrick had won an Oscar nomination for their science fiction movie "2001: A Space Odyssey."
The title for my Clarke interview published in the newspaper was "By 2001 We Must Dis-invent Work." He startled the overflow crowd in the largest room of the Wittenberg student union by saying that "society will have no place for anyone as ignorant as mid-twentieth century college graduates." Forseeing an idleness problem, Clarke suggested "education combined with entertainment will be needed" to prevent boredom, while he noted that "uneducated people are bored to death if they can't work."
Clearly, Clarke had tuned his crystal ball to the wrong channel in 1969 when he forsaw an age of "universal liesure" here in the new millennium. His prophecy that "only a few managment level jobs will be left" and that to get one "a person would have to be more highly educated" is laughable today. Our many immigrant workers here in America today seem able to learn sufficient English to get lower "entry level" jobs.

Was Clarke reading too many of the robot stories of Issac Asimov, a fellow member of the Asimov-Clarke-Heinlein "Big Three" of science fiction in the 60s and 70s? Perhaps. However, Clarke, now deceased, did make one highly accurate prediction in 1969 that more people should have paid attention to back then. He told me there would be a time "in the near future" when virtually "every man on earth will own a communications console enabling him to communicate with everyone else on the face of the earth and have access to every available recorded fact in a sort of "global library" via satellite. 
Clarke thus clearly predicted the use of personal computers and of the worldwide web "www" on the Internet. He saw this prediction as one made possible by communications satellites. Clarke, of course, was the originator of the idea of having the satellites in his geosynchonous orbit as outlined in his 1945 technical paper on the subject. It was unclear to me in 1969 how this would work, but it is clear now that he was predicting personal computers linked to the World Wide Web.
However, Clarke didn't see the eventual superiority of today's global network of undersea cables and land lines for worldwide communications. These eliminate the old annoying delay for two-way voice communcations imposed by the speed of light over the up and down distance to Clarke's 11,500 mile geosynchronous orbit. Satellite links are only necessary now for TV and radio communications in remote places beyond the reach of the worldwide cable network.  I certainly saw this coming after joining the public relatios staff a the Labs.
As a science fiction reader and fan since grade school, I was just delighted to have Clarke to interview in 1969. Just as I did with Gene Roddenberry, I was able to spent an hour with this superstar of science and science fiction. And I found him not overly impressed with himself as a seer of the future or as a superstar of science fiction. Neither was he. I recall he introduced himself and amused his audience by opening with the remark that "I'm here to talk about a subject that doesn't exist and of which I know nothing."
Now forty years later, we live in an over polluted and over populated world. Such a future was predicted in some science fiction stories many decades ago, but certainly did not provide science fiction fans with that old "sense of wonder" about the future. This was what did the best job of selling science fiction books, TV shows and movies; and this was the basic thing the fans wanted.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

“Explosive Effect” Of Computer Web
Predicted By Roddenberry In 1976

Gene Roddenberry, creator of Star Trek, told Explorer Bill in January 1976 that he believed “a wonderful future lies ahead for mankind.” This was the essence of his message to a sellout, overflow crowd of students and others January at the Wittenberg University Union in the evening of January 23, 1976 in Springfield, Ohio. Roddenberry stopped in Ohio en route to the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C. to present a model of the Star Ship Enterprise.
It is the same message he had been sending to the youth of ‘America through his TV series Star Trek for nearly 10 years then, and this may account for much of the immense popularity of his television series. “Nothing can compete with the adventure and challenge we humans have ahead of us,” Roddenberry said.

The question he is most asked on his personal appearance tours, Roddenberry said is “why does Star Trek receive such incredible support from its fans?” Scholars have written papers to earn their Doctor of Philosophy degrees in efforts to answer this question, he replies. But one reason he cited Thursday night is that Star Trek characters are authentic hero images. They believe that there are things worth dying for, if necessary.”

People are hungry for such images to admire and emulate in this day of national leaders who retire in disgrace from public office or private positions because of faulty morality and public disclosure of their misdeeds. “This old idea of personal integrity” is one that “people want back again,” Roddenberry said. The Star Trek series “was our effort to prove something about TV audiences--that they can think beyond the petty prejudices that afflict mankind. We were trying to say that humanity will reach maturity and wisdom when it accepts diversity.”

Another question Roddenberry is frequently asked is, “What do Star Trek fans have in common? He said the answer is “a youth of the mind.” Roddenberry’s talk at Wittenberg dealt with topics other than Star Trek. One of these he said was “the explosive effect of electronic communications “which is happening right now.” This is the latest of three great evolutionary steps” in the history of life on earth, and noted that one of the first was the appearance of the first living cell and the second was the emergency of conscious intelligence.

“Computers are capable of doing in seconds what organic human brains can take hours and days to do. We have increased our thinking power a thousand fold. We are beginning to build thinking machines. We will eventually use computers as part of our thinking apparatus,” he predicted, explaining that such a device for computer-assisted thinking might even be implanted somewhere in the body, such as pacemakers are for the human heart today.

Star Trek’s originator, amplifying his remark about man’s forthcoming evolution, said it will involve a union of machines and human flesh. “I don’t mean the Six Million Dollar man, he said, there’s a limited utility in being able to knock something down with your fist.” But we are beginning to incorporate man-made appliances and machines into our bodies, and one of the earliest examples of this was eyeglasses. Space suits of today are an ‘improved skin’ for new environments such as outer space and the surface of the moon.

The mechanical and electronic improvement of biological man will see fallible natural organs of the body replaced with more reliable synthetic organs. “Why should our hearts, kidneys and lungs wear out if we can replace them with machines,” he asked. “How long will we continue to retain our present physical bodies?” Assuming for the sake of speculation the UFOs are really the ships of visitors from other worlds, Roddenberry said NASA space scientists say that the occupants of UFOs are probably a form of machine life.

Such intelligent extraterrestrial machines might not look like the common conception of robots as seen on TV or drawn by science fiction artists, but may be “incredibly lovely and graceful.” would have the obvious advantage of simply turning themselves off during voyages through space lasting decades or centuries, he said, and such voyages would seem to them to be instantaneous. “Is this our future?” he asked. “Is it good or bad?”

Science fiction, such as Arthur C. Clarke’s novel “Childhood’s End,” provides some of the answers to these questions. Stressing the importance of science fiction as a medium for the philosophic examination of humankind, Roddenberry said, “It is a remarkable device for looking at the human animal.”

Explorer Bill, at the time science columnist and news reporter for the Springfield Daily News, spent an hour interviewing Roddenberry in a room adjoining the packed auditorium while his audience was watching a Star Trek film of “blooper outtakes” from the filming of various episodes. Roddenberry told me he admired Arthur C. Clarke’s novel “Childhood’s End” as a wonderful, optimistic look at mankind’s future. A newcomer to the lecture circuit, he told me he was reluctant to accept speaking engagements until he was encouraged by Clarke, who told him how fine an opportunity such tours are to meet people, experience first hand their reaction to his work, and to interact with them intellectually.

Roddenberry said the next stop on his tour, scheduled for Friday, was the University of Maryland in the Washington, D.C. area, where he also had a luncheon date with an official of the Smithsonian Institution’s aviation museum. Roddenberry’s trip to the Washington area was to be present as an 11-foot model of Star Trek’s “USS Enterprise,” the starship of “Commander Kirk,” was placed on display at the museum, alongside Charles Lindberg’s “Spirit of St. Louis,” Apollo spacecraft and other famous aerospace ships.

An estimated 1,000 persons jammed into the largest room available in the Wittenberg Union to hear Roddenberry. Some sat on the floor, some sat on tables at the rear of the room and others stood. About 100 persons had to be turned away at the door, a Wittenberg official said. One of the most successful dramatic series ever to appear on television, Star Trek was showing as a rerun on more than 140 U.S. stations and in 42 foreign markets, said he was sometimes “frightened by the way some of the more rabid fans worship Star Trek, its cast and its originators.”
Roddenberry delighted his Wittenberg audience by announcing that a Star Trek movie will be filmed beginning in July and he said it is hoped this will be available for release in theaters by the end of the year. The series may also may return to television, but not as a once-a-week production, which he said is too exhausting for him to wish to resume. Instead, he wanted to do a series of 90-minute TV movies shown on a network several times a season, alternating with other shows. (Instead, of course, a series of Star Trek movies were made with great success.)

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Explorer Bill's Science Friction: Ohio's "New" Snake Effigy

Ohio's Newly Found Effigies
While looking at some of my prehistoric iron furnace sites, I by chance found two ancient effigies, an animal and a snake, in September 2008. The animal is 990 feet long from nose to ear. The snake is 880 feet from its head to its body as measured along the east-west line. I visited the site north of Kellenberger Road in Ross County last October but nothing is visible there from the road except for higher ground to the north.
I sent a printout of this high altitude view to a National Park Service ranger at nearby Hopewell Culture National Park, Chillicothe, Ohio. He sent this on to other Park Service people and their consensus was that it is merely a natural configuration. I strongly disagree! I believe this is one more of a number of prehistoric serpent mounds in Ohio, including one on the banks of the Little Miami River in the valley below Fort Ancient just found in recent years.
August, 2009: I certainly believe the Kellenberger Road images are both real and prehistoric. These always seem to be located along navigable rivers and creeks. Ohio's streams and creeks were its highways for travelers in the prehistoric past. Also, it is asking too much of coincidence for two such "natural" large scale images to be found one above another and in good north-south, east-west alingment!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Henge Field

Here is Explorer Bill at Stonehenge in April 2006
It was a chilly, windy day, but those archaeological vibes I felt kept me warm. While in England my wife and I also visited the Roman baths at the town of Bath with our son, Dennis, and his wife, Karen. Books about the Romans are among my favorites because they went to far places and did great things in the ancient world.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Glass Covered Stones Are "Diagnostic"
Stones such as these, coated with glass, partly or fully, are "diagnostic" for the presence of a prehistoric pit iron furnace. Stones such as these Explorer Bill has found and collected ever since 1963. This collection came from "the Garrett Site," a spot along the North Fork of Paint Creek on the outskirts of Chillicothe, Ohio. Prehistoric furnace workers used stones to hold up the ore and charcoal that filled the upper part of the furnace bowl. The furnace bowls were dug into mounds, hillsides and creek banks. As the furnace smelts the iron ore, it melts silicon out of the ore. As the liquid glass then flows down into the furnace bottom it coated the hearth stones below with glass. After a furnace "burn" the bowl was cleaned out and reloaded with ore and charcoal to make more wrought iron.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Did I Discover Lost City?

Mysterious Spruce Hill, Ross County, Ohio

Faint Traces Of A Prehistoric Lost City?

Early settlers in Ohio's Paint Creek valley found a table top hill surrounded by earthwork walls and evidence of high temperature fires and furnaces built into the walls. Evergreen trees dot the hillside facing the creek valley, so it was given the name "Spruce Hill." In 1963 I accompanied amatuer archaeologist Arlington H. Mallery as he revisited the site where he had claimed to have found a prehistoric iron furnace 1949. Mallery also explored other sites in Ross County, Ohio in 1949-50 and claimed to have found prehistoric iron furnaces in an "Indian" mound in the valley of Deer Creek.

During the spring and summer of 1963, while beginning my career as a newspaper reporter, I accompanied Mallery as he returned to the field, to obtain material from one of his iron furnace sites for carbon 14 dating. I dug into the site and obtained the material he sought. However, Mallery wasn't able to get the carbon sample dated because his old age caught up with him -- he was 86 years old and was experincing difficulties with his memory.

I began my own work in the field in 1989 and have been at it ever since. Photos and more information about Spruce Hill can be found by visiting my web site "America's Mysterious Furnaces." Spruce Hill is a prehistoric hill fort and according to historic evidence, traces of a "lost city" were found in a valley southwest of the hill fort by the first settlers of the area.

However, a closeup image I downloaded from Goggle Earth, when printed out in high contrast, shows a remarkable grid of north-south and east-west lines which strongly suggest there was once a town or village there. This would then be prehistoric, becuase evidence of a such "lost city" up on the hilltop did not show up prior to the availability of online satellite imagery.

Clearly, the faint grid lines visible on the black and white image above suggest the fromer existence of a prehistoric town on Spruce Hill! Perhaps there were two towns, one in the valley and another up on the hill.

Did they exist at the same time, or did one come after the other? Was the hilltop site used as a place of refuge for the village in the valley? Gardens and crops could be tended from the valley village site, while to plateau village site could have been used when the villagers were threatened by enemies.

Ever since my first visit to the hill in 1963, I've enjoyed this archaeological treasure and have felt fortunate it was recently rescued from the awful fate of being the site of a hilltop suburb! It is now safely a part of the U.S. Park Service's Hopewell Culture National Park. For more about Spruce Hill visit "America's Mysterious Furnaces."

Rechecking the view of Spruce Hill on Goggle Earth, I found that the north-south grid lines are very true to the compass, suggesting astromical sophistication of those who created the grid. Also, I viewed other table top hills in the area and found none with similar grid lines.

Using the Google Earth ruler tool, I found the length of one N-S line is about 2,500 feet. Many nearby fields, of course, both in valleys and on hilltops, showed faint images of plowing patterns, but nothing similar to the Spruce Hill pattern vertical and horizontal pattern.

Spruce Hill can be found using Goggle Earth starting at Chillicothe, Ohio and by following U.S. Route 50 west to Bourneville, Ohio. Spruce Hill is south of the village and south of Paint Creek. Paint Creek flows along part of the west side of the plateau.

Ever since the early 1800s, there has been talk of a "lost city" at or near this mysterious site. Now, thanks to Google Earth, I believe I have found finally found fascinating evidence that the lost city was once existed on this hilltop!

Friday, December 5, 2008

Explorer Bill, the Archaeologist
Here I am in 1963 sitting in a re-excavated prehistoric pit iron furnace with my old mentor, Arlington H. Mallery, on the left. We're sitting in a re-excavated iron furnace pit out in Ross County, Ohio near the village of Austin.

I have been a digging archaeologist since 1990 and my field work has been mostly in the countryside around Chillicothe, Ohio my hometown. I've achieved most of the goals I set for myself in trying to solve the mystery of the prehistoric small pit iron furnaces, including the one most important -- the excavation of a complete pit iron furnace from the surface on down. The boy followed to the site that day from a nearby farm house and left before we could get his indentity.

The details of my field work are to be found in my website "America's Mysterious Furnaces." There's no need to list the URL, it's been online since 1997 and it comes right up by just putting the title in a serach box. I couldn't have accomplished all this by myself. Those who joined in the work are to be found depicted and/or mentioned on the site.

Chillicothe and the countryside around the town is an archaeological wonderland. It was the hub of two prehistoric mound builder cultures, the Adena and the Hopewell. I believe evidence I and others have found and studied provide certain proof these furnaces were the work prehistoric European visitors to America who survived for a while until eliminated by native Americans.

The full details of all this I hope to provide in my book "Iron Age America," which has yet to be published. My completed manuscript still awaits a willing publisher.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Photo: Huge Snake Effigy?

Huge Snake Effigy On Ross-Pickaway County Line
As if the animal effigy in Central Ohio wasn't sensational enough by itself, there is a huge snake effigy just above it! I've been fortunate to have made a number of important archaeological discoveries in the past 18 years, but my discovery of the animal and snake effigies in Ross/Pickaway counties this year rank up there near the top! If this really is a prehistoric effigy, it's got to be one of the world's largest!
Here are its measurements: snake, nose to tail (southeast direction) is 1,248 feet, top bend to down bend on the east is 704 feet, and down to where the snake tail seems to reach the animal's back, 919 feet. These measurements are possible thanks to Goggle's toolkit that includes a ruler that adjusts to the particual scale you are viewing.


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About Me

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Columbus, Ohio, United States
Author of "Iron Age America," a book about the presence of Europeans in North before Columbus "discovered" it. Native of Chillicothe,Ohio. Former newspaper reporter, science columnist, member of the public relations staff of Bell Labs headquaters in New Jersey,and editor of a Washington, D.C. weekly satellite telecommunications newsletter. My profile photo was cropped out of a larger photo that shows me with Stonehenge in the background. I spent a week in England in April 2006 and had a wonderful time there.