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How 10 Famous Landmarks Get Clean

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Happy first day of Spring! This is the time of year when we cleanse our homes of all the muck and mustiness of winter. But it's not just houses that get a thorough cleaning. Monuments and statues do, too—sometimes just once every few years, sometimes more than once a year. After looking at these photos of courageous workers going to great heights and grimy detail to shine up some much-beloved landmarks, your spring cleaning won't seem like such a chore.

1. Eiffel Tower

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The 124-year-old tower is cleaned every year, a task that requires 4 tons of wipes, 25,000 garbage bags, 10,000 doses of detergent and 105 gallons of metal cleaning solution. Every 7 years, the tower is repainted by hand with lead-free paint in three shades of brown (darkest at the bottom). The repainting requires nearly 60 tons of paint and can last up to 18 months. You can see a short newsreel video of a 1946 spring cleaning at British Pathe.

2. Richard I

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This cleaning of the Richard I statue in London, England, took place in February 1933. In an extensive 2009 restoration, conservators removed dirt and a coating of black wax from the 150-year-old statue, repainted it dark brown, and treated it with clear wax to guard against pollution and weather. 

3. The Great Westminster Clock/Big Ben

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Cleaning the face of London's famous clock is a big job: Each dial—there are four!—is 23 feet square. There are 312 panes on each face. The hour hand is 9 feet long, and the minute hand is 14 feet long. Each number is about 2 feet high. And the clock doesn't stop running while they work—so cleaners rappelling from nylon ropes have to dodge the moving hands (the minute hand moves at about a foot a minute). For this cleaning, which took place in March 1930, a cleaner named Mr. Larkin lowered himself down the face using a rope.

4. Statue of Liberty

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This cleaning of Lady Liberty's torch took place in November 1974, in preparation for the U.S.'s Bicentennial celebrations. (In high winds, the torch can sway up to 6 inches. Scary!) Until at least the 1930s, the monument got an annual wash, but not a scrub—the green patina on the statue actually keeps the copper safe. One cleaning of the interior of the statue with bicarbonate of soda, performed in 1986, leaked through to the exterior and left streaks on the statue's left cheek and right arm.

Here's video of a cleaning from the 1930s:

And check out pictures from an extensive renovation in 1984 at the Library of Congress. (Thanks to Matt for the head's up!)

Liberty Island, home of the Statue of Liberty, is currently closed due to damage from Hurricane Sandy. Thankfully, Lady Liberty's framework—which was designed by Gustav Eiffel—saved the 126-year-old statue itself from any damage, but a major cleanup on the island, estimated to cost $59 million, is underway. It was recently announced that it would reopen this summer for the Fourth of July.

5. Lincoln Memorial

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Twice a year, Honest Abe's marble doppelgänger in Washington, D.C., gets a thorough washing with a power hose.

6. Mount Rushmore

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This monument, completed in 1941, received its first cleaning in the summer of 2005. The 60-foot-tall granite faces of four great American presidents were blasted with highly pressurized 150-degree water, which caused all the dirt, grime, and moss that had accumulated to fall away.

7. The Structures and Statues of Acropolis Hill

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In 2008, scientists began using lasers to clean the surfaces of the 2500 year old monuments on Acropolis Hill in Athens, Greece, of a black film caused by pollution. The decision to use the high-tech lasers—a beam of infrared and a beam of ultraviolet rays, firing simultaneously—came after a test of 40 different methods, including mechanical and chemical processes, to determine what would clean the best while maintaining detail. Because of the rays from the lasers, goggles-wearing restorers could work for only two hours a day. You can see how the technology works in the video below:

8. The Space Needle

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In 2008, the Space Needle got its first cleaning since it opened for the 1962 World's Fair. Working only at night, Karcher GmbH & Co.—which also cleaned Mount Rushmore—used water pressurized to 2,610.6 psi and heated to 194 degrees Fahrenheit to rid the 604-foot-tall tower of dirt, grime, and bird droppings. The cleaners lowered themselves by rope from the top of tower. You can see more of the amazing photos from the cleaning at KomoNews.

9. The Empire State Building

Master Cleaners

Window washers working at the 102-story Empire State Building couldn't attach ropes to the roof and lower themselves down because the roof wasn't flat. Instead, they hooked harnesses to eyebolts embedded inside the building. Check out this 1938 video of some daring cleaners hard at work:

10. The Hollywood Walk of Fame

John W. Adkisson / Los Angeles Times / July 21, 2010

In 2010, the LA Times profiled Walk of Fame cleaner John Peterson, who, at that point, had kept the then-2412 stars clean for 14 years. Peterson, an employee of CleanStreet, used Brasso metal polish, Windex, and paper towels to get the job done; 13 other CleanStreet employees powerwash the Walk of Fame at night to avoid tourists. The one-legged man—who lost his lower right leg to a congenital disease—was still at it as recently as 2012.

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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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