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New York Tribune via Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain
New York Tribune via Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

15 Glowing Facts About the History of Radiation

New York Tribune via Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain
New York Tribune via Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Strange Glow: The Story of Radiation, written by Georgetown professor of radiation medicine Timothy Jorgensen and released this month, is a fascinating account of how radiation has both helped and harmed our health. While much of the book is concerned with explaining radiation risks so that consumers can better understand them (one takeaway fact: airport scanners expose you to less radiation than waiting in line for them does), it’s also full of intriguing, if occasionally horrifying, facts and anecdotes about the history of the "strange glow" that has transformed our lives.

1. X-RAYS MOVED FROM THE LAB TO THE HOSPITAL IN RECORD TIME.

Montreal resident Toulson Cunning had an unfortunate Christmas Day in 1895: For reasons Jorgensen does not relate, Cunning was shot in the leg. The injury occurred just a few weeks after German professor Wilhelm Conrad Roentgen noticed a faint glow on a fluorescent screen in his lab while experimenting with cathode rays and a glass vacuum tube. Roentgen’s first paper on the subject, “On a New Kind of Rays,” was published in a local journal on December 28, 1895, and was rapidly picked up in the both the scientific and popular press. A professor at McGill University in Montreal soon replicated the experiment, and after hearing about it, Cunning’s doctor asked for an x-ray of his patient's leg. After a 45-minute exposure, the image was still somewhat faint, yet clear enough for surgeons to see the bullet and remove it—thus saving Cunning’s leg from amputation barely six weeks after Roentgen’s discovery. As Jorgensen tells it, “Never before or since has any scientific discovery moved from bench to patient bedside so quickly.”

2. THE STANDARD UNIT OF RADIOACTIVITY IS NAMED FOR ITS ACCIDENTAL DISCOVERER.

Henri Becquerel. Paul Nadar via Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Henri Becquerel, his father, and his grandfather were all chairs of the Department of Physics at the Musee d’Histoire Naturelle in Paris, and all conducted experiments on fluorescence and phosphorescence—you might call it their family obsession. The men had even amassed a vast collection of fluorescent minerals to use in their studies.

Becquerel was intrigued Roentgen’s discovery of x-rays, and wondered if any of the minerals in his collection might emit them. He tried a series of experiments in which he sprinkled flakes of various fluorescent materials onto photographic film wrapped in black paper, leaving them outside in the sun to stimulate the fluorescence. To his surprise, the only one that seemed to expose the film at all—whether there was any sunlight or not—was uranium sulfate, which left a faint impression of its granules. Becquerel soon discovered that this property of uranium didn’t have anything to do with x-rays or even fluorescence: It was uranium’s own special type of radiation. By trying to understand fluorescence, Becquerel had discovered radioactivity. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1903, alongside Marie and Pierre Curie, for his discovery, and the standard international unit for measuring radioactivity is today named the becquerel in his honor.

3. POLONIUM IS NAMED FOR MARIE CURIE’S HOMELAND, POLAND.

Marie Curie's notebook containing notes of experiments, etc. on radioactive substances. Image: Wellcome Images // CC BY 4.0

The Curies eventually outstripped Henri Becquerel when it came to radioactivity research—to start, they were the ones who introduced the term “radioactive." The pair showed that uranium ore contained at least two substances more radioactive than uranium itself, both previously unknown to science—radium, derived from the Latin for ray, and polonium, named for Marie’s native Poland, then under Russian control.

The Curies would go on to work with so much radiation (and make so many key discoveries) that there was a concern after Marie's death from aplastic anemia in 1934 that her skeleton might be radioactive. When tested during a reinterment in 1995, it wasn't, although her papers still are. (Pierre had died much earlier, in 1906, after an accident with a very non-radioactive horse cart.)

4. MANY OF THE PIONEERS OF RADIATION RESEARCH WERE PRETTY CONFUSED.

Many of the earliest discoverers of radiation and radioactivity didn’t have a great understanding of how their discoveries worked. For example, Becquerel believed for a while that radioactivity was a type of fluorescence, while Marie Curie proposed that uranium and similar elements could absorb x-rays and release them later as radioactivity. Even Guglielmo Marconi, awarded the 1909 Nobel Prize for his work on radio waves, “freely admitted, with some embarrassment, that he had no idea how he was able to transmit radio waves across the entire Atlantic Ocean,” according to Jorgensen. Classical physics said that radio waves shouldn’t have been able to go nearly that far; it was only later that scientists understood that radio waves can cross the globe because they bounce off a reflective layer in the upper atmosphere.

5. RADON WAS THE FIRST RADIOACTIVE ISOTOPE LINKED TO CANCER IN HUMANS.

Radon, produced when radium decays, was first proposed as the cause of lung cancer among German miners in 1913. World War I interrupted further study of the subject, however, and the link between radon and cancer was only accepted after a thorough review of 57 studies published up until 1944.

6. THE PUBLIC LEARNED ABOUT THE DANGERS OF RADIOACTIVE SUBSTANCES THANKS TO THE “RADIUM GIRLS.”

"Radium Girls" at work. Wikimedia // Public Domain

In the 1910s, young women in Connecticut, New Jersey, and Illinois who painted glow-in-the-dark watch dials with radium-laced paint became known as the “Radium Girls.” Perhaps ironically, the wristwatches were specifically marketed to men, who until then had been more likely to wear pocket watches. The glow-in-the-dark dial was popular among soldiers, and thus seen as adding a touch of manliness.

Unfortunately, the women who painted the dials frequently sharpened their paintbrushes by twisting the fibers in their mouths, ingesting small bits of radium as they worked. According to Jorgensen, over the course of a year workers would have consumed about 300 grams of paint. Not surprisingly, the workers began dying of cancer and bone disease, and “radium jaw” became a new type of occupational disease. The watch companies were forced to pay out thousands of dollars in settlements, and the girls began wearing protective gear, including fume hoods and rubber gloves. Sharpening their brushes in their mouths was also banned. But it was too late for some: “By 1927, more than 50 women had died as a direct result of radium paint poisoning," according to NPR.

7. BUT RADIUM WAS STILL SOLD AS A HEALTH TONIC.

Radium ad from 1916. Wellcome Images // CC BY 4.0

Despite the press the Radium Girls received, radium remained on the market as a health-giving tonic. One noted victim was industrialist and amateur golf champion Eben McBurney Byers, who was prescribed Radithor (radium dissolved in water) by his doctor. He proceeded to drink about 1400 bottles of it over the next several years, losing much of his jaw and developing holes in his skull as a result. He died in 1932, about five years after starting his Radithor habit, and now rests at a Pittsburgh cemetery in a lead-lined coffin—reportedly to protect visitors from radiation exposure.

8. THE MANHATTAN PROJECT RAN A SECRET RADIATION BIOLOGY PROGRAM CALLED THE "CHICAGO HEALTH DIVISION."

When the Manhattan Project began in 1939, the effects of radiation on human health still weren't well understood. Staff modeled their protective fume hoods and ventilation systems on the ones used to protect the Radium Girls, but to bolster their knowledge, they also started a new radiation biology research program, code-named the Chicago Health Division. The impetus for the project came from its own physicists, who were concerned about their life expectancy.

9. YOU CAN THANK A RADAR ENGINEER FOR YOUR MICROWAVE.

Raytheon Radarange aboard the NS Savannah nuclear-powered cargo ship, installed circa 1961. Image by Acroterion via Acroterion via Wikimedia // CC BY-SA 3.0

Radar, which often uses microwave signals, was developed in secrecy by several nations in the years before WWII. In the U.S., a secret lab at MIT worked on improving radar deployment, and contracted with a company called Raytheon to produce magnetrons (microwave signal generators) for their labs.

One day, a Raytheon engineer working on the project, Percy Spencer, noticed that a candy bar in his pocket had completely melted while he was working with a radar apparatus. Intrigued, he focused a microwave beam on a raw egg, which exploded. He later realized he could also use the microwaves to make popcorn. It wasn’t long before Raytheon lawyers filed the patent for the first microwave oven, which they called the Radarange.

10. EXPOSED X-RAY FILM HELPED HIROSHIMA SURVIVORS FIGURE OUT THEY'D BEEN HIT WITH AN ATOMIC BOMB.

When the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, the populace had no idea what kind of bomb had hit them. Doctors at the Red Cross hospital got their first clue when they realized that all the x-ray film in the facility had been exposed by the radiation. (It would be a week before the public learned the true nature of the weapon that had devastated their city.) With no need for the exposed film, hospital staff used the x-ray envelopes to hold the ashes of cremated victims.

11. HIROSHIMA AND NAGASAKI SURVIVORS HAVE BEEN KEY TO UNDERSTANDING RADIATION’S EFFECT ON HEALTH.

In the months after the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings in 1945, scientists realized the events provided an important opportunity to study the effects of radiation on human health. President Harry Truman directed the National Academy of Sciences to begin a long-term study of the bomb’s survivors, which became the Life Span Study (LSS). The LSS has been tracking the medical history of 120,000 atomic bomb survivors and control subjects from 1946 up until the present. Jorgensen calls the LSS “the definitive epidemiological study on the effects of radiation on human health.”

Among other results, the LSS has provided an important metric—the lifetime cancer risk per unit dose of ionizing radiation: 0.005% per millisievert. In other words, a person exposed to 20 millisieverts of radiation—the amount in a whole body spiral CT scan, according to Jorgensen—has a 0.1% increased lifetime risk of contracting cancer (20 millisieverts X 0.005% = 0.1%).

12. THE U.S.’S LARGEST NUCLEAR WEAPONS TEST INCLUDED A MAJOR MISTAKE.

The Castle Bravo blast. US Department of Energy via Wikimedia // Public domain

On March 1, 1954, the U.S. conducted its largest-ever nuclear weapons test, code-named Castle Bravo, at the Bikini Atoll in the Marshall Islands. The hydrogen bomb that exploded—nicknamed “Shrimp”—released more than twice the energy scientists had predicted: 15,000 KT of TNT instead of the anticipated 6000 KT. According to Jorgensen, the extra punch was thanks to an error in the calculations of physicists at Los Alamos National Laboratory, who failed to understand that two, not one, of the lithium deuteride isotopes would contribute to the fusion reaction. The mistake, combined with some unreliable winds, produced fallout in a much larger zone than expected. Among other effects, it contaminated a Japanese fishing boat, Lucky Dragon #5, which led to a diplomatic crisis between Japan and the U.S.

13. THE BIKINI ATOLL WAS RESETTLED—TO DISASTROUS EFFECT—THANKS TO A VERY BAD TYPO.

Before the Castle Bravo tests, the inhabitants of the Bikini Atoll were asked to relocate to another nearby atoll for a project that would benefit all of humankind (according to archaeologists, this ended close to 4000 years of habitation on the atoll). The island of Bikini wasn’t resettled until 1969, until what Jorgensen calls a “blue-ribbon panel” estimated that their risk of radioactivity exposure would be low enough to be safe. Sadly, the panel based its advice on a report with a misplaced decimal point, which underestimated the islanders’ coconut consumption a hundredfold.

The problem wasn’t discovered until 1978, when the islanders were evacuated again. Many have suffered from thyroid and other cancers, and the U.S. has paid more than $83 million in personal injury awards to the Marshall Islanders since then; according to Jorgensen, however, millions remain unpaid, and many of the claimants died while waiting for their settlements.

14. A PENNSYLVANIA HOME HAD ONE OF THE HIGHEST RADON CONCENTRATION LEVELS EVER RECORDED.

In 1984, Stanley Watras repeatedly set off the radiation detector alarms at the nuclear power plant where he worked. Investigators eventually realized his work wasn’t the problem, and traced the contamination via his clothes to his home, which was discovered to be sitting on a massive uranium deposit (radon is produced as part of the uranium decay chain). The Watras family house was found to contain about 20 times as much radon gas as a typical uranium mine. The discovery led the U.S Environmental Protection Agency to survey other homes, and to discover that many in America had hazardous levels of radioactive gas.

The Watras family was told they were seven times more likely to die of lung cancer in the next 10 years than the average person, and that their young children might not live until adulthood. The risk proved to be overestimated: 30 years later, none of them have died of lung cancer. The house was later used as an EPA laboratory for radon remediation technologies, and the family was able to move back in. Stanley and his wife still live there, according to Jorgensen.

15. THE RISK OF NUCLEAR POWER PLANTS HAS BEEN DIFFICULT TO ESTIMATE.

In the early 1970s, an MIT professor of nuclear engineering named Norman Rasmussen headed a federal committee charged with determining the risk of a nuclear reactor core accident. The report concluded that the odds of such an accident at a commercial nuclear power plant were 1 in 20,000 per reactor per year.

The Rasmussen report, as it came to be known, is now seen to have severely underestimated the odds. Just four years later, in 1979, the Three Mile Island accident occurred, in which a nuclear reactor partially melted down. Later studies have estimated other odds, but based on data from the International Atomic Energy Agency, Jorgensen estimates that the accident rate is closer to 1 in 1550 operational years. With 430 operational nuclear reactors in the world, Jorgensen writes, we could reasonably expect a significant reactor core accident once every 3 to 4 years—at least based on accident rates in the past.

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12 Things You Might Not Know About MAD Magazine
Mad Magazine
Mad Magazine

As fast as popular culture could erect wholesome depictions of American life in comics, television, or movies, MAD Magazine was there to tear them all down. A near-instant success for EC Comics upon its debut in 1952, the magazine has inspired generations of comedians for its pioneering satirical attitude and tasteful booger jokes. This month, DC Entertainment is relaunching an "all new" MAD, skewering pop culture on a bimonthly basis and in full color. To fill the gaps in your knowledge, take a look at these facts about the Usual Gang of Idiots.

1. NO ONE KNOWS WHO CAME UP WITH ALFRED E. NEUMAN.


Jamie, Flickr (L) // Boston Public Library, Flickr (R) // CC BY 2.0

MAD creator Harvey Kurtzman was in the offices of a Ballantine Books editor discussing reprints for the fledging publication when he noticed a grinning, gap-toothed imbecile staring back at him from a bulletin board. The unnamed figure was ubiquitous in the early 20th century, appearing in everything from dentistry ads to depictions of diseases. A charmed Kurtzman adopted him as MAD’s mascot beginning in 1954. Neuman later become so recognizable that a letter was delivered from New Zealand to MAD’s New York offices without an address: the envelope simply had a drawing of Alfred.  

2. THEY HAD TO APOLOGIZE ALMOST IMMEDIATELY.

MAD was conceived during a particularly sensitive time for the comics industry, with parents and watchdog groups concerned over content. (It didn't switch to a magazine format until issue #24.) Kurtzman usually knew where the line was, but when he was laid up with acute hepatitis in 1952, publisher William Gaines and others had to step in for him. Gaines thought it would be funny to offer a fictional biography of himself that detailed his father’s Communist leanings, his past as a dope dealer “near nursery schools,” and bouts of pyromania. When wholesalers were shocked at the content and threatened to boycott all of his titles, Gaines was forced to write a letter of apology.  

3. THEY PREDICTED JOHN F. KENNEDY'S ELECTION IN 1960.

But it was a cheat. In the run-up to the 1960 Presidential election, MAD printed a cover that featured Neuman congratulating Kennedy on his victory with a caption that read, “We were with you all the way, Jack!” But the issue was shipped long before votes had been tabulated. The secret? It was a dual cover. Flip it over and Neuman is celebrating Richard Nixon’s appointment to office. Stores were told to display the “right” side of the magazine depending on the outcome.

4. ALFRED BRIEFLY HAD A GIRLFRIEND.


MAD Magazine

A character named Moxie Cowznofski was introduced in the late 1950s as a female companion for Alfred. She made only a handful of cover appearances, possibly due to the fact she looked alarmingly like her significant other.

5. THEY DIDN'T RUN ANY (REAL) ADS FOR 44 YEARS.

From the beginning, Gaines felt that printing actual advertisements next to the products they were lampooning would not only dilute their edge but seem more than a little hypocritical. After some back-and-forth, MAD cut ads starting in 1957. The decision was a costly one—most print publications survive on such revenue—but led to the magazine’s keeping a sharp knife against the throat of seductive advertising, including cigarettes. Faced with dwindling circulation in 2001, Mad finally relented and began taking ads to help pay for a switch to color printing.

6. "SPY VS. SPY" WAS CREATED BY A SUSPECTED SPY.

Cuban cartoonist Antonio Prohias was disenchanted with the regime under Fidel Castro when he began working on what would become “Spy vs. Spy.” Because Prohias’ other newspaper illustrations were critical of Castro, the Cuban government suspected him of working for the CIA. He wasn’t, but the perception had him worried harm might come to his co-workers. To get out of the situation, Prohias came to America in 1960. With his daughter helping translate, he stopped by Mad’s New York offices and submitted his work: his sneaky, triangle-headed spies became regulars.

7. THERE WAS ONE FOLD-IN THEY WOULDN'T RUN.

Artist Al Jaffee, now 94, has been with Mad almost from the beginning. He created the famous Fold-In—the back cover that reveals a new picture when doubled over—in 1964 after seeing the fold-outs in magazines like National Geographic, Playboy, and Life. Jaffee has rarely missed an issue since—but editors backtracked on one of Jaffee’s works that referenced a mass shooting in 2013. Citing poor taste, they destroyed over 600,000 copies.  

8. THEIR MOVIE WAS A DISASTER.

With the exception of Fox’s successful sketch series, 1994’s MAD TV, attempts to translate the MAD brand into other media have been underwhelming: a 1974 animated special didn’t even make it on air. But a 1980 film venture, a military school spoof directed by Robert Downey, Sr. titled Mad Presents Up the Academy, was so awful William Gaines demanded to have their name taken off of it. (Renamed Up the Academy, the DVD release of the movie still features someone sporting an Alfred E. Neuman mask; Mad parodied it in a spoof titled “Throw Up the Academy.”)

9. THE APRIL 1974 COVER HAD PEOPLE FLIPPING.


MAD Magazine

MAD has never made a habit of good taste, but a depiction of a raised middle finger for one issue in the mid-’70s caused a huge stir. Many stores wouldn’t stock it for fear of offending customers, and the company ended up accepting an irregular number of returns. Gaines took to his typewriter to write a letter of apology. Again. The relaunched #1, out in April 2018, pays homage to this cover, though it's slightly more tasteful: Neuman is picking his nose with his middle finger.

10. THEY INVENTED A SPORT.

MAD writer Tom Koch was amused by the convoluted rules of sports and attempted to one-up them in 43-Man Squamish, a game he invented for the April 1965 issue. Koch and artist George Woodbridge (“MAD’s Athletic Council”) prepared a guide that was utterly incomprehensible—the field was to have five sides, positions included Deep Brooders and Dummies, “interfering with the Wicket Men” constituted a penalty—but it amused high school and college readers enough to try and mount their own games. (Short on players? Try 2-Man Squamish: “The rules are identical,” Koch wrote, “except the object of the game is to lose.”) For the less physically inclined, Mad also issued a board game in which the goal is to lose all of your money.  

11. WEIRD AL WAS A GUEST EDITOR.

In what must be some kind of fulfilled prophecy, lyrical satirist “Weird” Al Yankovic was named as a guest editor—their first—for the magazine’s May 2015 issue. Yankovic told Entertainment Weekly that MAD had put him on “the dark, twisted path to becoming who I am today … I needed to pollute my mind with that kind of stuff.” In addition to his collaborations with the staff, Yankovic enlisted Patton Oswalt, Seth Green, and Chris Hardwick to contribute.

12. FRED ASTAIRE ONCE DANCED AS ALFRED E. NEUMAN.

In a scene so surreal even MAD’s irreverent editors would have had trouble dreaming it up, Fred Astaire decided to sport an Alfred E. Neuman mask for a dance number in his 1959 television special, Another Evening with Fred Astaire. No one seems to recall why exactly Astaire would do this—he may have just wanted to include a popular cultural reference—but it was no off-the-cuff decision. Astaire hired movie make-up veteran John Chambers (Planet of the Apes) to craft a credible mask of Neuman. The result is … well, kind of disturbing. But it’s a fitting addition to a long tradition of people going completely MAD.

Additional Sources:
Harvey Kurtzman: The Man Who Created Mad and Revolutionized Humor in America.

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10 Tantalizing Tidbits About Star Trek: The Next Generation
Paramount Pictures
Paramount Pictures

by Kirsten Howard

When Star Trek: The Next Generation debuted in September 1987, no one was quite sure what to expect. After all, this was a new Enterprise with a new crew trying to revitalize a franchise that had only lasted three seasons the last time it was on television. And while the movie series was still bringing in solid box office returns, William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy would play no part in this new Trek.

The Next Generation was a gamble for Paramount, and for the first few seasons, it looked like one the studio was going to lose. But once the series got over some initial behind-the-scenes chaos, it blossomed into one of the most popular sci-fi TV shows of all time. Even as bigger and shinier installments in the franchise continue to come out, this is the definitive Star Trek for countless fans. So lean back in your captain's chair and enjoy 10 facts about Star Trek: The Next Generation.

1. THE SHOW GOT OFF TO A ROCKY START.

Things were tumultuous at best behind the scenes during the first season of the show, as writers and producers clashed with creator Gene Roddenberry over themes, characters, and ideas on a weekly basis. The in-fighting and drama became such a part of the show's legacy that William Shatner himself chronicled all of it in a 2014 documentary called Chaos on the Bridge (which is currently streaming on Netflix). In it, producers, writers, and actors recounted anecdotes about the difficulties they had dealing with Roddenberry's somewhat overbearing mandates, including his infamous rule that there never be any direct conflict between the Enterprise crew members (unless one was possessed by an alien, of course) and his habit of throwing out scripts at the last minute. This led to 30 writers leaving the show within the first season, according to story editor and program consultant David Gerrold.

As Roddenberry’s health began to deteriorate after the first season, his influence over the writers waned, freeing up ideas that were departures from the creator's original vision. He would pass away in 1991, but his presence would never completely leave the series. For years, a small bust of Roddenberry sat on executive producer Rick Berman's desk with a blindfold wrapped over its eyes. "Whenever they come up with a story I don't think Gene would like," Berman said, "I blindfold him when we discuss the story."

2. GENE RODDENBERRY REALLY DIDN’T WANT A BALD CAPTAIN.

'Star Trek' creator Gene Roddenberry
Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

For years, William Shatner had cast the mold by which all future Star Trek captains would be judged. And it was that image of the confident, swashbuckling James T. Kirk that Roddenberry wanted to preserve when bringing a new captain in for The Next Generation. So when Berman wanted to cast Patrick Stewart as Captain Jean-Luc Picard, the issue was clear: he was no Shatner.

Roddenberry was completely unconvinced that Stewart was right for the role, with Berman saying the Trek creator didn’t like the idea of “a bald English guy taking over.” But after countless auditions with other actors, Berman continued to bring Stewart up to Roddenberry, who eventually caved and agreed to bring him in for a final audition under one condition: he wear a wig. So Stewart had a wig Fed-Exed from London and auditioned for Roddenberry and Paramount Television head John Pike one final time. 

That audition was enough to win Roddenberry over, and Stewart was finally brought aboard as Picard with the wig cast aside. Roddenberry would eventually go on to fully embrace Picard’s follicular shortcomings, and according to Stewart, when a reporter at a press conference once asked him why there wouldn’t be a cure for baldness in the 24th century, Roddenberry responded by saying, “No, by the 24th century, no one will care."

3. ONLY ONE PERSON HAS EVER PLAYED HIMSELF IN STAR TREK HISTORY.

Stephen Hawking was visiting the Paramount lot during the video release of the film A Brief History of Time when he requested a tour of the Next Generation set. After making his way onto the iconic Enterprise bridge, he stopped and began typing into his computer. Suddenly, his voice synthesizer spoke: “Would you lift me out of my chair and put me into the captain's seat?"

Hawking asking to be removed from his chair was basically unheard of, so his wishes were granted immediately. Later, with writers having become aware that he was such a huge Trekkie, Hawking himself was written into the sixth season finale episode “Descent – Part I” by Ronald D. Moore, who would later go on to reimagine the Battlestar Galactica universe.

4. A WHOLE EPISODE WAS WRITTEN FOR ROBIN WILLIAMS.

Late actor and comedian Robin Williams was also a huge fan of the show and was desperate to appear in it, so an episode of the fifth season—"A Matter of Time"—was drawn up by Berman to allow Williams to shine at the center of a mystery about Professor Berlinghoff Rasmussen, a time-traveling historian from the future visiting the past to observe the Enterprise crew completing an historic mission.

Unfortunately, when it came time to shoot the episode, Williams found himself unavailable to appear in the episode. So Max Headroom star Matt Frewer was cast as Professor Rasmussen instead.

5. PATRICK STEWART APPROACHED BEING TORTURED ON SCREEN VERY SERIOUSLY.

In the episode “Chain of Command, Part II,” Picard has been captured by Cardassians and is subjected to a variety of torture methods by his interrogators. As a member of the human rights organization Amnesty International, Stewart did not want to shy away from the realities of torture, so he watched tapes sent to him that included statements from people who had been tortured and a long interview with a torturer explaining what it was like to be the one inflicting pain on others. Stewart also insisted on being completely nude during the first torture scene, so as not to betray the experiences of those who had undergone similar horrors.

6. THEY USED SOME PRACTICAL EFFECTS.

The transporter effect on the show may look completely computer generated, but in fact it’s all done quite organically. First, a canister is filled with water and glitter and then a light is shone through it. After stirring the liquid briskly, the resulting few seconds of swirling glitter are filmed and then superimposed over footage of the actor standing in the transporter area, with an added “streak down” effect to blur the glitter further.

7. LORE WAS SUPPOSED TO BE A WOMAN.

Android Lieutenant Commander Data had many adventures during the series, on and off the Enterprise, but his evil twin brother, Lore, stands out for many fans as one of the show’s greatest antagonists. Surprisingly, Lore was originally created as a female android character for the show, but the actor who plays Data, Brent Spiner, came up with a different idea: an evil twin nemesis in the shape of a long-lost brother.

8. THERE WAS AN OPEN SUBMISSION POLICY ON SCRIPTS.

When Michael Piller took over as head writer on the show in 1989, an open submission policy was launched where absolutely anyone could submit up to two unsolicited scripts for consideration. Opening up the possibility of writing for TV to people outside of the Writers Guild of America and talent agency pool was unheard of at the time, and over 5000 spec scripts were received a year at one point. "Yesterday’s Enterprise," one of the show’s most popular episodes, was based off a spec script from the open submission policy.

9. SOME SCRIPTS WERE RECYCLED FROM THE SCRAPPED PHASE II.

A still from 'Star Trek: The Next Generation'
Paramount Pictures

A decade before The Next Generation debuted, there was a failed attempt at a revival called Star Trek: Phase II. Though a first season was mapped out, it never saw the light of day, and the movie series was produced in its place. However, the scrapped scripts and concepts lived on in various Trek projects over the years. For the second season premiere of The Next Generation, producers reclaimed the script for "The Child" as a way to get a story quickly into production during the 1988 writer's strike. The season four episode "Devil's Due" was also taken from the backlog of Phase II scripts. 

More elements from Phase II would influence Trek for years, such as the pilot being reworked into Star Trek: The Motion Picture and the now-familiar elements of the Japanese-inspired Klingon culture being introduced in the shelved episode “Kitumba.”

10. THE TRANSPORTER IS THE BEST OF BOTH WORLDS.

In what was either a cost-cutting move or a sly Easter egg (or both), the ceiling of the Enterprise's transporter room in The Next Generation is actually the floor of the transporter room from the original series. That's far from the only recycling that went on between the Trek series. The orbital office complex from Star Trek: The Motion Picture was reused as the Regula I station in The Wrath of Khan, which was then itself reused as a number of different space stations on The Next Generation (plus Deep Space Nine and Voyager).

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