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Question of the Day

Does high-octane gasoline provide better gas mileage than regular?

High-octane gas will not give you better gas mileage. It may, however, quiet your car's engine by burning cleaner than regular gasoline. According to the American Automobile Association, only about 5 percent of cars sold in the United States really need to use premium gas. If you've been using high-octane gas and want to save money, buy a tankful of regular and listen to the engine as you drive. If you hear your engine "knocking," go back to premium. If there is no knock, you've found a money-saving trick.

Last 7 Days

    Are you supposed to eat kumquats whole, peel and all? Are there any other citrus fruits that are eaten whole?

    Kumquats are the size of large olives and have sweet skin with slightly bitter flesh. They can be eaten whole, skin and all, and you can also buy them bottled in syrup. We don't know of any other citrus fruits that you can eat whole.

    Sirius seemed to be blinking a lot in late September. I also think it blinked from green to red and white. Is this some new phase Sirius is in?

    Nothing has changed with Sirius. You just observed an unusual amount of twinkling. Earth's atmosphere is not uniform, but instead has cells of different densities and temperatures. As starlight passes through the atmosphere, the light beam is constantly redirected by refraction, and since the cells are in motion, the path of light is changing all the time. The jumping around is one aspect of twinkling, called "seeing." The other aspect, called "scintillation," is changes in brightness and color.

    When is the next total eclipse of the Sun that can be viewed in North America, and how long will it last?

    The next total solar eclipse will occur on August 21, 2017 (maximum duration 2 minutes 40 seconds). An annular eclipse of the Sun will be visible in the United States on May 20, 2012.

    Have we had many disastrous avalanches in the U.S.?

    Sure. On March 1, 1910, for example, an avalanche that swept away a station house near Stevens Pass, Washington, also pushed three engines and some passenger cars into a canyon. More than 100 people were killed.

    I'm sawing firewood. Does green wood cut harder or easier than seasoned wood?

    Green firewood is for the most part easier to split than dry, so try to split the wood as soon as possible after felling trees. And splitting the green wood speeds the process of "seasoning" (drying out) the firewood, which ensures more efficient burning.

    How do you make clotted cream?

    Pour fresh unhomogenized cream into a shallow pan and let it sit overnight at room temperature. The following morning, place the pan over low heat until rings form on the surface but the cream doesn't boil. Store the cream in a cold place for at least 12 hours. Remove the thick cream from the surface and serve with scones or fresh fruit.

    How do you take the bitterness (or bite) out of cucumbers?

    To minimize the bitterness of pickling or salad cucumbers, remove the skin and trim both stem and blossom ends. Scooping the seeds and seed membrane from the center also results in milder-tasting cucumbers. European (or English) cucumbers do not need such treatment; they may be served skin and all.

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