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The Starship Enterprise is Made of Poplar

Last week marked the 45th anniversary of Star Trek's debut on TV. As part of the anniversary-related festivities, the Smithsonian is highlighting the original Enterprise model used on the show, which is part of the museum's permanent collection. (We're talking about the NCC-1701, naturally.) The model is 11 feet long and weighs 200 pounds. Surprise: it's partly made of wood -- poplar, to be precise. And the nacelle grills are brass! Who knew? Here's a bit from the collection notes:

Materials:
Primarily constructed of poplar wood, vacu-formed plastic, rolled sheet metal tubes for both the engine pods from the back of the struts to the start of the nacelle caps, and plastic for the main sensor dish and detailing (light covers, etc.). The front and rear of the engine pods or nacelles are of wood. The nacelle grill plates brass. Rolled steel wires were also inserted through its original pipe support for lights. ...

The model's principal designer, Walter "Matt" Jefferies, worked with concepts provided by Star Trek's creator Gene Roddenberry. At first, Paramount Studios constructed a rough 4-inch balsa and cardboard prototype. A 3-foot "pilot" model mostly of solid wood was then built by model-maker Richard C. Datin under subcontract to the Howard Anderson Company. Enlarging the plans for the 3-foot model resulted in the final 11-foot model shown here. The Anderson Company again turned to Datin who contracted it out to Production Model Shop of Burbank, California, with Datin supervising the construction while he did the detail work.

Paramount donated the model to the National Collection in 1974.

You can see another image of the model courtesy of Wikipedia. There's also a rather good Wikipedia page about the ship, including details of the various models created to represent it, including the poignant detail that model-maker Richard Datin passed away in January of this year. To the rest of you Trekkers: live long and prosper.

Image courtesy National Air and Space Museum.

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Warsaw Museum of Sport and Tourism
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The POW Olympics of World War II
Warsaw Museum of Sport and Tourism
Warsaw Museum of Sport and Tourism

With the outbreak of World War II prompting a somber and divisive mood across the globe, it seemed impossible civility could be introduced in time for the 1940 Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan to be held.

So they weren’t. Neither were the 1944 Games, which were scheduled for London. But one Polish Prisoner of War camp was determined to keep the tradition alive. The Woldenberg Olympics were made up entirely of war captives who wanted—and needed—to feel a sense of camaraderie and normalcy in their most desperate hours.

In a 2004 NBC mini-documentary that aired during their broadcast of the Games, it was reported that Polish officers under German control in the Oflag II-C camp wanted to maintain their physical conditioning as a tribute to Polish athlete Janusz Kusocinski. Unlike another Polish POW camp that held unofficial Games under a veil of secrecy in 1940, the guards of Woldenberg allowed the ’44 event to proceed with the provision that no fencing, archery, javelin, or pole-vaulting competitions took place. (Perhaps the temptation to impale their captors would have proven too much for the men.)

Music, art, and sculptures were put on display. Detainees were also granted permission to make their own program and even commemorative postage stamps of the event courtesy of the camp’s homegrown “post office.” An Olympic flag was crafted out of spare bed sheets, which the German officers, in a show of contagious sportsman’s spirit, actually saluted.

The hand-made Olympic flag from Woldenberg.

Roughly 369 of the 7000 prisoners participated. Most of the men competed in multiple contests, which ranged from handball and basketball to chess. Boxing was included—but owing to the fragile state of prisoners, broken bones resulted in a premature end to the combat.

Almost simultaneously, another Polish POW camp in Gross Born (pop: 3000) was holding their own ceremony. Winners received medals made of cardboard. Both were Oflag sites, which were primarily for officers; it’s been speculated the Games were allowed because German forces had respect for prisoners who held military titles.

A gymnastics demonstration in the camp.

The grass-roots Olympics in both camps took place in July and August 1944. By January 1945, prisoners from each were evacuated. An unknown number perished during these “death marches,” but one of the flags remained in the possession of survivor Antoni Grzesik. The Lieutenant donated it to the Warsaw Museum of Sport and Tourism in 1974, where it joined a flag recovered from the 1940 Games. Both remain there today—symbols of a sporting life that kept hope alive for thousands of men who, for a brief time, could celebrate life instead of lamenting its loss.

Additional Sources: “The Olympic Idea Transcending War [PDF],” Olympic Review, 1996; “The Olympic Movement Remembered in the Polish Prisoner of War Camps in 1944 [PDF],” Journal of Olympic History, Spring 1995; "Olympics Behind Barbed Wire," Journal of Olympic History, March 2014.

 All images courtesy of Warsaw Museum of Sport and Tourism. 

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President John Tyler's Grandsons Are Still Alive
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Here's the most amazing thing you'll ever read about our 10th president:

John Tyler was born in 1790. He took office in 1841, after William Henry Harrison died. And he has two living grandchildren.

Not great-great-great-grandchildren. Their dad was Tyler’s son.

How is this possible?

The Tyler men have a habit of having kids very late in life. Lyon Gardiner Tyler, one of President Tyler’s 15 kids, was born in 1853. He fathered Lyon Gardiner Tyler Jr. in 1924, and Harrison Ruffin Tyler in 1928.

We placed a somewhat awkward call to the Charles City County History Center in Virginia to check in on the Tylers.

After we shared this fact on Twitter in 2012, Dan Amira interviewed Harrison Tyler for New York Magazine. Lyon Tyler spoke to the Daughters of the American Revolution a while back. They were profiled by The Times of London. And Snopes is also in on the fact.

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