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How Were Roads Cleared Before Snowplows?

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Though we're nearing the beginning of spring, this week has left much of the northeastern United States dealing with the aftermath of a serious bout of snowfall. We take for granted that our roads will be plowed in a timely manner, but it took a long time for us to get to that place. 

Let’s throw it back to the 1700s, when towns in the northeastern United States were just beginning to develop. As they grew, so too did the networks that connected them—which, of course, then mandated a postal service. As CityLab noted, during the Great Snow of 1717, the fastest way for mail carriers to travel the snowy roads between Boston and New York was to trade in their horses for a pair of snow shoes and make the trek on foot. Oof.

But year after year of heavy snowfall taught settlers to prepare for the weather. This meant stockpiling goods, founding organizations to aid those who needed coal and firewood, and inventing ski-like runners to attach to carts, which allowed for a sleigh-like method of transport. However, while these devices helped people to travel in inclement weather, it didn’t solve the issue of actually clearing the roads of snow.

This takes us to the 1840s, when the first patents for snowplows were issued (though there's no record of one being used until around 1862). According to the National Snow & Ice Data Center, "The plow was attached to a cart pulled by a team of horses through the snow-clogged streets." Though implemented in Wisconsin, the plows quickly grew to be popular in the Northeast. This innovation spread to trains, which affixed plows to their front ends and could now continue to travel between cities, even in snowy weather.

Plows cleared the way for easier travel, but also brought about a new set of issues, like the tall mounds of snow that piled up on the sides of the roads (something we still deal with today). This was especially problematic for merchants, whose stores were blocked by the walls of snow. Meanwhile, uneven roads proved a challenge for sleigh travel.

One way of combating this was to hire shovelers to clear the roads. However, that still left one major issue: What to do with all the snow? In the late 1880s, cities began utilizing shovelers in conjunction with plows to effectively clear roads. The teams worked together to transport snow out of the trafficked city streets and into nearby rivers. Not only did this pave the way for easier transport in the snow, it created jobs in the winter. Additionally, steam railways were elevated to avoid being affected by snow drifts.

New York City’s Department of Street Cleaning was founded in 1881, which underscored how valuable properly plowed streets were to its residents. According to Untapped Cities, corrupt government officials would accept money and favors in exchange for clearing snow in front of certain businesses. (In 1929, the Department of Street Cleaning became the New York City Department of Sanitation.)

The Blizzard of 1888 brought as much as four feet of snow to the Northeast, halting traffic and taking more than 400 lives. Cities learned from the experience, and started becoming more strategic with their plowing methods. This meant dividing cities into different sections to be plowed and working proactively, clearing roads as snow fell and not waiting until after the storm. One of the biggest innovations that resulted from the storm was underground travel, something both New Yorkers and Bostonians know well.

With the development of motorized transportation came advances in snowplows. They became attached to cars and, in 1920, a snow loader was successfully deployed in Chicago—leading several other cities to purchase their own. The conveyor made snow removal easier than ever before—and paved the way to clearing roads the way we're still doing it today.

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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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How Long Could a Person Survive With an Unlimited Supply of Water, But No Food at All?
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How long could a person survive if he had unlimited supply of water, but no food at all?

Richard Lee Fulgham:

I happen to know the answer because I have studied starvation, its course, and its utility in committing a painless suicide. (No, I’m not suicidal.)

A healthy human being can live approximately 45 to 65 days without food of any kind, so long as he or she keeps hydrated.

You could survive without any severe symptoms [for] about 30 to 35 days, but after that you would probably experience skin rashes, diarrhea, and of course substantial weight loss.

The body—as you must know—begins eating itself, beginning with adipose tissue (i.e. fat) and next the muscle tissue.

Google Mahatma Gandhi, who starved himself almost to death during 14 voluntary hunger strikes to bring attention to India’s independence movement.

Strangely, there is much evidence that starvation is a painless way to die. In fact, you experience a wonderful euphoria when the body realizes it is about to die. Whether this is a divine gift or merely secretions of the brain is not known.

Of course, the picture is not so pretty for all reports. Some victims of starvation have experienced extreme irritability, unbearably itchy skin rashes, unceasing diarrhea, painful swallowing, and edema.

In most cases, death comes when the organs begin to shut down after six to nine weeks. Usually the heart simply stops.

(Here is a detailed medical report of the longest known fast: 382 days.)

This post originally appeared on Quora. Click here to view.

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