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Question of the Day

What is the formula for the time it takes for you to hear thunder?

The formula we know is for calculating the distance of a lightning flash. Count the number of seconds between seeing a flash of lightning and hearing the sound of the thunder. Divide that number by 5 to determine how many miles away that lightning bolt was.

Last 7 Days

    If everybody has their wisdom teeth yanked out, why do we have them in the first place?

    Other than providing dentists and oral surgeons with a steady source of income, wisdom teeth are useless to us now, but our ancestors needed them. Primitive human beings ate meats so tough that the extra molars in the back of the mouth aided them in ripping and chewing the flesh. As humans evolved, our brains became larger (well, for most of us) and our face positions moved farther downward and inward. Our protruding jawbones moved backward, making the jaw itself shorter -- hence, no room for those back teeth! Most people's jaws no longer have the capacity to accommodate these teeth and, thank goodness, we don't need them for meat-eating.

    How can I get the cat urine smell out of my carpet? And is there some way to keep cats out of a room?

    Cats, like many other animals, tend to urinate repeatedly in the same places. When cleaning or removing urine stains, you must neutralize the odor -- not just mask it -- or the cat will likely return to the spot and dampen it again. Urine can seep down into the carpet padding and floor boards, so start cleaning the area as quickly as possible.1) First, absorb as much urine as possible by pressing the area with paper towels, then rinse with water.2) Apply diluted vinegar (3 parts vinegar to 1 part water) to the spot (do not rub) and let dry. (Test a small section first to make sure that the vinegar won't harm the carpet.) Rinse the area with water.3) Sprinkle baking soda over the spot, let sit for several hours, and then vacuum. Repeat as necessary. With regard to keeping cats out of a particular room (assuming the room doesn't have a door), you'd have to either keep them penned or erect a barricade that they couldn't vault; but one way to break a cat's habit of urinating in a room is to dip a cotton ball in lemon extract, squeeze out the excess, and place it in an aluminum tea ball (designed to hold loose tea). Hang the tea ball by its hook in the spot where your cat is urinating -- the smell should keep the cat away. Refresh the lemon once a week until the cat is trained.

    Where did the term freelance come from?

    Today we think of a freelancer as, say, an artist, writer, or musician who works alone. But the origin of the term rests with medieval knights -- and their lances -- who were not committed to one lord. A "free lance" was a knight who sold his services to whomever he chose (no doubt often the highest bidder).

    Is there a region on Earth where the length of the days and the nights remains almost constant throughout the year?

    Yes, on the equator. Every day of the year the Sun is up half the time, so there are always 12 hours of sunshine at the equator.

    Do the phases of the Moon really affect whether fish will bite or not?

    We always say that fishing is best when the Moon is between new and full. We also suggest that you go fishing when the breeze is from the west. Another sure time is one hour before or after high or low tide (inland times for high tides correspond to when the Moon is due south, and low tides are halfway between high tides).

    Why did the old almanacs always recommend planting potatoes on Good Friday?

    We can't speak for other old almanacs, but certainly The Old Farmer's Almanac has never recommended planting potatoes on Good Friday; our only recommendation has been to plant by the dark of the Moon. Further, all our research has turned up contrary advice -- neither to plant nor to dig potatoes on Good Friday. It was thought the timing would produce poor crops. The Creoles of Louisiana believed that if the ground were cut open on this day, Christ's blood would run out into the rows. The only exception we found was an old belief that seeds planted on Good Friday will thrive.

    Is there such a thing as an American buffalo or are they all bison?

    They are bison (b. bison). Buffalo is the word used most often, but true buffalo are African and Asian animals of the same family.

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