If a meteorite 1/4 mile across struck in the Atlantic Ocean, how high would the tidal wave it produced be?
The impact and the resulting damage would depend on the meteorite's size, material composition, speed, and impact angle. The 1998 earthquake-induced tsunami in Papua New Guinea that wiped out coastal villages and killed thousands of people was only a few yards high. If a meteorite hit the Atlantic, we could easily see a tsunami wave 100 times higher. A 300-foot tsunami, for instance, would cause great damage to low lying areas all along the U.S. east coast, and could totally submerge vast areas in Europe, such as Holland and Denmark. A 300-foot tsunami could travel inland on the U.S. east coast about 14 miles.
Last 7 Days
What were the symbols for the Republicans and Democrats before they were an elephant and a donkey?
There were no symbols. Thomas Nast, a caricaturist and illustrator for Harper's Weekly, created and made famous the symbols for the parties -- the Democratic donkey in 1870 and the Republican elephant in 1874. Incidentally, it was Nast's illustration of St. Nicholas, as described in Clement Moore's poem "The Night Before Christmas," that formed the basis for our Santa Claus.
Back when telephones were first used, what did people say when they answered the phone?
We're so glad you asked, because it allows us to mention a short feature on the subject in The 1993 Old Farmer's Almanac. The word hello, as used today, didn't really exist back in the 19th century. Halloo was used to hail someone from a distance -- as in "Halloo! You up there on the roof!" -- or to incite hounds to chase, but it was not used as a greeting. Thanks to the discovery of a letter buried for more than a hundred years in AT&T's archives, we now believe that the word originated with Thomas Edison and the telephone he invented. Edison suggested using "Are you there?" or "Are you ready to talk?" to start a conversation on his phones. His rival, Alexander Graham Bell, was insisting on "Ahoy!" as the preferred greeting. In a letter to a colleague, Edison wrote, "I don't think we shall need a call bell, as hello can be heard 10 to 20 feet away." From then on, hello became the recommended greeting in telephone operating manuals.
Is there such a thing as a cold-air funnel?
Yes, it's an official term for a funnel cloud or relatively small, weak tornado that can develop from a small shower or thunderstorm when the air aloft is unusually cold. This is a rare occurrence, and these funnels are much less violent than the usual tornado.
Was Stonehenge built to celebrate the winter solstice?
That's one theory. The people who built the great monument were probably farmers, and they would have used Stonehenge to celebrate the most important festival of the year--the promise of the return of the growing season. The word solstice comes from the Latin sol, or "Sun," and stitium, or "stoppage." The Sun stops on the solstice (this year, December 21), then begins to move again. After the winter solstice, the days gradually grow longer. The priests, or shamans, at the time of the building of Stonehenge would have called the community leaders together to celebrate and mark the continuing cycle of the seasons and the fact that they were not heading into an endless night.
How did December get its name?
It comes from the Latin word decem, meaning ten, because this had been the tenth month of an early Roman calendar.
My wife's grandfather used a weather-predicting method he called "the old 12 days." I believe he analyzed the last six days of a year and the first six days of the next year, with each day representing one month. Are you familiar with this method?
There are at least a half dozen time periods mentioned in folklore to forecast the weather for the coming year -- including one that says the 12 days between "New Christmas" (December 25) and "Old Christmas" (January 5) foretell a year's worth of weather. The Old Farmer's Almanac uses a secret formula to predict the weather. Robert B. Thomas, who founded the Almanac in 1792, did not, however, use certain days in December and January for his forecasts. He also did not use woolly worms, wasps' nests, or the number of nuts squirrels gathered, all of which occurred in the fall, after his July publishing deadline.
This time of year there are little snow storms that are referred to as "skiff's" or leaving only a "skiff" of snow. What is the origin of the word "skiff"?
According to Webster's Third Edition New International Unabridged Dictionary, the word "skiff" is of Scottish etymology. It means "to pass lightly over" or "a flurry," as of rain or wind (noun).