The brick on my fireplace is badly stained with black soot. How can I remove the stains?

Try applying a paste of cream of tartar and water. Rub it in, let it dry, and then scrub it off. Or create your own cleaner by following this recipe: Dissolve 1/2 cup naphtha soap in 1 quart hot water. Let cool. Stir in 1/2 cup ammonia and 1/2 pound powdered pumice. Apply the solution to your brick with a paintbrush, let it soak in, scrub, and rinse with warm water. Wear gloves to apply this, and avoid spilling the cleaning solution on floors or rugs. Make sure the room is well ventilated.

Last 7 Days

I thought century years couldn't be leap years. Am I wrong?

Yes. A year is a leap year if it is divisible by 4, but century years are not leap years unless they are divisible by 400. So, the years 1700, 1800, and 1900 were not leap years, but the year 2000, as of course you now know, is! Why do we have leap years? The actual length of a year (the rotation of Earth around the Sun) is 365.2422 days. If we didn't have leap years, the seasons would shift about a quarter of a day every year, and after 100 years the seasons would be off by 25 days. The extra leap day adjusts this drift.

Why was the New Testament written in the Greek language?

Greek was the language of the educated classes in the early days of the Christian church. It was used for commerce and international trade, much as English is today. So the New Testament writers, who were educated folks like St. Paul and Luke, naturally chose Greek. Actually, the more precise name for the language is koine, a popular form of Greek spoken in the biblical regions from the fourth century B.C. and it was used for the 27 books of the New Testament.

Will the Sun blow up someday?

Yes, but it's best to keep your sunscreen handy for a few more years. The experts at NASA explain that the Sun, since it is a "red giant star," will one day become bigger, brighter, and cooler, but that day won't be for another 5.5 billion years. To put that in perspective, realize that the Sun is currently 4.5 billion years old. In the end, it will shed its outer envelope, which will become a "planetary nebula," or gaseous shell. The remnants of the Sun will be a hot, burned-out stellar core, which is fancy talk for a star that's about to die.

Why is it when you ask someone to marry you that you get down on one knee?

We presume this tradition grew out of the bent knee being a sign of submission and supplication. You'll see this gesture often in some of the great works of art. One bends one's knee when being received by royalty, as well as during spiritual communication with God in church, for example. The bent knee is the suitor's demonstration to his bride-to-be of his submission, supplication, and loyalty.

Does the Garden of Eden still exist?

If the Garden of Eden still exists, no one knows where. The Bible says a river ran from Eden and separated into four rivers: Pishon, Gihon, Tigris, and Euphrates. The latter two still exist, and speculation places the first two in the same region -- ancient Mesopotamia ("between the rivers"), or what is currently known as Iraq, just north of the Persian Gulf.

What is beyond space?

Space is understood as being four-dimensional -- finite, but without borders or an edge. Here's a three-dimensional example: One can travel on the surface of Earth as long as one wants, never finding a boundary or edge, and yet Earth is finite. Some astronomers think that our universe is not alone, that there may be zillions of other universes that began with a big bang, will last for billions of years, and then will disappear.

How often has the groundhog really predicted the coming of spring?

According to researchers, the groundhog has accurately predicted the coming of spring only 39 percent of the time.

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