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Question of the Day

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.

Last 7 Days

    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.

    Just what are the chances of getting struck by lightning?

    About 1 in 3 million. By comparison, you have a 1 in 5,800 chance of dying in a car accident and a 1 in 342,000 chance of dying in a plane crash.

    How do I keep rabbits from eating my flowers?

    Try one of the following methods: (1) Dust the flowers with sulfur. (2) Sprinkle them with red pepper. (3) Spray them with a mixture of 1 teaspoon Lysol and 1 gallon water. (4) Spray them with a mixture of 1 ounce tartar emetic, 3 ounces sugar, and 1 gallon water. (5) Get a cat or a dog!

    Is polar wander the same as polar wandering, and which term is correct?

    The proper term is polar wandering, which describes the fact that Earth's magnetic poles have moved over the surface of the globe during the past 30 million years. The north magnetic pole is presently located off the western coast of Bathurst Island, in the Canadian Northwest Territories, almost 800 miles northwest of Hudson Bay. The south magnetic pole is presently situated at the edge of the Antarctic continent in Adelie Coast, about 1,200 miles northeast of Little America. Even over short spans of time the position of the magnetic poles is not constant and shows a measurable, though very small change, from year to year. (Guest Expert Dietrich Gudzent, Mount Pleasant, Ohio)

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