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Question of the Day

What can you tell me about the folklore of yawning? Is it good luck or bad?

Caused by sluggish blood or insufficient sleep, yawning carries superstitions of devilry, disappointment, ill omen, and danger. Hindus snap their fingers three times after a yawn and call on their god for protection. Covering a yawn with one's hand was once a method of preventing the devil from entering or a caution against losing one's breath entirely. The connotations of ill omen probably stem from the belief that to show a yawn was to make oneself vulnerable to spirits entering the wide-open chasm of the mouth. A covered mouth was an easy remedy for that.

Last 7 Days

    What is the average number of hurricanes along the Atlantic coast in any given hurricane season?

    According to hurricane specialists at Colorado State University, the season usually comprises 9.3 tropical storms, 5.8 hurricanes, and 2.1 intense hurricanes.

    Why is the name "John Hancock" synonymous with "your signature"?

    Hancock's bold signature on the Declaration of Independence dwarfed the signatures of the other signers. Legend says that Hancock wanted the king of England to see the rebellious signature without having to wear his spectacles!

    Why is 13 considered an unlucky number?

    There are at least two possibilities, according to the people who claim to know such things. One is that there were 13 people at the Last Supper, and one betrayed Jesus Christ. The other is that in Norse mythology, 12 Norse gods were enjoying a feast at Valhalla when a 13th -- the cruel, mischievous god Loki -- intruded and caused the death of Balder, the embodiment of joy and gladness. In some parts of the world, 13 means nothing. In Madagascar, 6 is the unlucky number; in Japan, it's 3. And consider these fortuitous 13s: 13 original colonies; the Great Seal of the United States contains 13 stars, 13 bars, and an eagle that has 13 tail feathers and is holding 13 arrows and an olive branch with 13 leaves ("E pluribus unum" even has 13 letters); George Washington laid the White House cornerstone on a 13th, and the cornerstone of the Supreme Court Building also was laid on a 13th.

    How can I get fleas out of my home?

    Try this. Place a shallow pan filled with water and a little dishwashing liquid in the room that is infested. At night, turn on a lamp and focus it right over the pan. Turn off all the other lights. The fleas will jump at the light and fall into the pan. You'll be amazed at the number of fleas you'll catch the first night. Change the solution as needed. Although you won't catch any fleas on some nights, continue the treatment for at least two weeks to get the next generation of fleas after they hatch.

    Why is it that our weather predominantly moves from west to east, when Earth turns to the east, too? It seems to me that the weather should travel across the face of Earth in the opposite direction of its rotation.

    The flow of weather systems is best explained by the Coriolis effect, named for Gustave-Gaspard Coriolis, the French mathematician/civil engineer who first identified the phenomenon of the Coriolis force in 1835. It is best understood by imagining that someone sitting at the center (A) of a moving merry-go-round throws a ball to someone sitting at a point (B) on the rim. By the time the ball reaches B, that person will have moved to position C, and the ball will appear to have curved away. Similarly, to us on our spinning planet, freely moving objects appear to follow a curved path. Thus, Earth's rotation deflects moving objects (including weather systems) to the right in the Northern Hemisphere and to the left in the Southern Hemisphere.

    How can I remove a photograph that is partially stuck to the glass of a picture frame without ruining the photo?

    Try wiping it very gently with a slightly dampened cotton cloth. When the photo has absorbed some of the moisture, pull it gently or scrape under it gently with a thin, flat-edged tool. Remove the photo very carefully. The key here is very little, but just enough, water.

    What is the traditional gift for a 15th wedding anniversary?

    Crystal is traditionally given on this anniversary. The contemporary equivalent is a watch.


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