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The Unsinkable Violet Jessop

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Boylo // Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

If you survived an ocean liner crash, you’d consider yourself extremely lucky. If you survived that crash and the 1912 Titanic disaster, you’d probably start thinking about avoiding water-based transportation. And if you made it through all of that only to find yourself aboard the sinking HMHS Britannic just four years later, you might start wondering if you were the angel of death. This is the story of Violet Constance Jessop.

Even before her days as an ocean liner stewardess, Violet was no stranger to cheating death. Six of her eight siblings died young, and she was nearly number seven—she managed to survive a bout with tuberculosis that doctors said would kill her.

Violet was 23 when she got a job on the RMS Olympic, the largest civilian liner of the day. She had served for just three months when she experienced her first maritime crash: The Olympic collided with the HMS Hawke. Neither ship sank; in fact, both were later repaired and put back into service.

Such was not the case with Violet’s next wreck. She was sleeping when the Titanic met its infamous iceberg, but quickly found her place on deck to help guide confused passengers. She was eventually placed on lifeboat #16, where someone thrust a baby into her arms just before the boat launched. Thankfully, the baby was reunited with its mother aboard the Carpathia,which came to the aid of the Titanic.

It was the Britannic crash of 1916 that nearly ended Violet. After hitting a mine, the Britannic started going down fast. Violet jumped overboard and was nearly sucked into the boat’s propellers, which were sticking up out of the water and still running. She hit her head on the ship’s keel and would have been a goner had the passengers of another lifeboat not been able to pull her in. But there was a silver lining: In the days after the Titanic sunk, Violet vividly remembered desperately missing her toothbrush. This time, she had remembered to grab it before her leap overboard.

Despite her many mishaps, Jessop continued to serve at sea until 1950. Upon her retirement, the 63-year-old wrote her rather remarkable memoir. And though she had more brushes with a watery grave than any one person should have to endure, her death at the age of 84 was due to congestive heart failure—not shipwreck.

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History
A Brief History of Time
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iStock

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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Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

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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