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Leonard Stringfield, Ufologist

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Nicap.org

How to spot a UFO from the ground: Look up. Do you see something that you cannot identify? You have spotted a UFO. Leonard Stringfield did a little better than that. Back in his Air Force days, he was a passenger on a cargo plane flying from Ie Shima to Tokyo on official business when he looked out of the window and saw something he could not identify. Several somethings. Several “brilliantly white, like burning magnesium” somethings.

“I remember looking out through one of the portholes,” he wrote, “and to my surprise, seeing three unidentifiable blobs of brilliant white light, each about the size of a dime held at arm’s length.” Leonard Stringfield had spotted a whole squadron of UFOs. If that wasn’t enough, the UFOs (presumably) caused the plane’s instrument needles to move like wacky waving inflatable arm flailing tube men. Then the cargo plane’s engines faltered, and it started losing altitude. But when the pilots ordered everyone to prepare to bail, the UFOs ascended into the clouds. The plane recovered, the instruments settled down, and everyone survived. 

Stringfield discounts theories that the UFOs were some kind of secret new aircraft. “No nation, in defeat or in victory, in my opinion, would have been so foolhardy as to use a secret weapon during the delicate period of surrender.” He concluded that the objects “could not have possibly been earthmade.” It’s probably a coincidence that space aliens might have been interested in humanity’s first offensive use of atomic weaponry. (Hiroshima and Nagasaki had only just been bombed three weeks before.) But maybe the aliens were a scouting party. I don’t know. What I do know is that Leonard Stringfield didn’t let this thing go. Not after he received word a few years later of strange bodies recovered from suspicious wreckage in a tiny town in New Mexico. 

He started a newsletter called ORBIT where he could get the word out and maybe collect a few stories. His modest plans changed when a major radio broadcast mentioned his work. “Twenty-four hours later—with the first impact of mail—the life of Leonard H. Stringfield was changed! What had been a simple pursuit erupted into the brute of big business. I ate my dinner at the telephone and entertained guests while I typed. Bookkeeping nearly replaced romance, and my only rest was in the sanctum of the bathroom.”

Six thousand letters had suddenly poured in, and ORBIT went big. Even the Air Force wanted a part of it. Stringfield’s first book, Inside Saucer Post, 3-0 Blue [PDF], details his cooperation with the Air Defense Command, in which he was to report any sightings that might warrant the military’s attention. He notes in the book that his house was designated a “UFO reporting post” (its codename was 3-0 Blue) and his telephone line was made secure. (The Air Force would later disavow the partnership, though Major General John Samford, director of the National Security Agency, wrote Stringfield thanking him for “the interest which you and your organization, as well as others, have taken in the Unidentified Flying Object program... A continuation of this assistance is indeed welcome.”) 

The thing about Leonard Stringfield is that he wasn’t some kook living in an RV with the windows covered in tin foil. He was systematic and did sober, serious investigations and built an impressively detailed database of unexplained sightings. He was instrumental in forming a community of UFO observers and in establishing and keeping honest the organizations that formed around the phenomenon. Among the associations of which Stringfield was a part: Civilian Research, Interplanetary Flying Objects (CRIFO, which he founded); National Investigations Committee on Aerial Phenomena (NICAP, which is still around); the Mutual UFO Network (MUFON, which is of course still active as any fan of the X-Files can attest); Center for UFO Studies (CUFOS); and the University of Colorado UFO Project.

He died in 1994 of lung cancer. In 2012, his 60 volumes of papers were donated to MUFON, which is now in the process of digitizing them. If the mystery of UFOs is ever solved, we can thank Leonard Stringfield for his hard work. If it isn’t solved, we can’t say he didn’t try.

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History
A Brief History of Time
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You may have heard that time is a social construct, but that doesn’t stop it from having consequences in the real world. If you show up to a party 10 minutes before it’s scheduled to start, you’ll likely be the first one there, and if you arrive to an interview 10 minutes late, you likely won’t get the job. But how did humanity agree on when and how to observe certain times of day?

In their new video, the It’s Okay to Be Smart team explains how humans “invented” the modern concept of time. The increments we use to measure time, like seconds, minutes, and hours, come from the ancient civilizations of the Egyptians and the Babylonians. Early clocks, like sundials and water clocks, were pretty crude, so people couldn’t pinpoint a time like noon down to the second even if they wanted to. But as clocks became more accurate, the problem wasn’t being unable to tell time accurately, but deciding which clocks qualified as “accurate” in the first place.

In 1884, President Chester A. Arthur organized the International Meridian Conference with the intention of deciding on a uniform definition of time to be followed around the world. The attendees ended up choosing the meridian running through Greenwich, England as the official Prime Meridian, and all clocks would be measured against the clock in the town’s observatory. Greenwich Mean Time is still used as the standard world time today.

Check out the full story below.

[h/t It’s Okay to Be Smart]

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Big Questions
Why Do Baseball Managers Wear Uniforms?
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Basketball and hockey coaches wear business suits on the sidelines. Football coaches wear team-branded shirts and jackets and often ill-fitting pleated khakis. Why are baseball managers the only guys who wear the same outfit as their players?

According to John Thorn, the official historian of Major League Baseball since 2011, it goes back to the earliest days of the game. Back then, the person known as the manager was the business manager: the guy who kept the books in order and the road trips on schedule. Meanwhile, the guy we call the manager today, the one who arranges the roster and decides when to pull a pitcher, was known as the captain. In addition to managing the team on the field, he was usually also on the team as a player. For many years, the “manager” wore a player’s uniform simply because he was a player. There were also a few captains who didn’t play for the team and stuck to making decisions in the dugout, and they usually wore suits.

With the passing of time, it became less common for the captain to play, and on most teams they took on strictly managerial roles. Instead of suits proliferating throughout America’s dugouts, though, non-playing captains largely hung on to the tradition of wearing a player's uniform. By the early to mid 20th century, wearing the uniform was the norm for managers, with a few notable exceptions. The Philadelphia Athletics’s Connie Mack and the Brooklyn Dodgers’s Burt Shotton continued to wear suits and ties to games long after it fell out of favor (though Shotton sometimes liked to layer a team jacket on top of his street clothes). Once those two retired, it’s been uniforms as far as the eye can see.

The adherence to the uniform among managers in the second half of the 20th century leads some people to think that MLB mandates it, but a look through the official major league rules [PDF] doesn’t turn up much on a manager’s dress. Rule 1.11(a) (1) says that “All players on a team shall wear uniforms identical in color, trim and style, and all players’ uniforms shall include minimal six-inch numbers on their backs" and rule 2.00 states that a coach is a "team member in uniform appointed by the manager to perform such duties as the manager may designate, such as but not limited to acting as base coach."

While Rule 2.00 gives a rundown of the manager’s role and some rules that apply to them, it doesn’t specify that they’re uniformed. Further down, Rule 3.15 says that "No person shall be allowed on the playing field during a game except players and coaches in uniform, managers, news photographers authorized by the home team, umpires, officers of the law in uniform and watchmen or other employees of the home club." Again, nothing about the managers being uniformed.

All that said, Rule 2.00 defines the bench or dugout as “the seating facilities reserved for players, substitutes and other team members in uniform when they are not actively engaged on the playing field," and makes no exceptions for managers or anyone else. While the managers’ duds are never addressed anywhere else, this definition does seem to necessitate, in a roundabout way, that managers wear a uniform—at least if they want to have access to the dugout. And, really, where else would they sit?

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