Question of the Day

What is the cloud cover over the entire Earth on an average day?

According to Acts of God: The Old Farmer's Almanac Unpredictable Guide to Weather and Natural Disasters, about 60 percent of Earth's surface is covered by clouds at any given time.

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What are some official national symbols of Canada?

Canada has several official national symbols. These include the national flag, the national anthem ("O Canada"), the national colors (red and white), the Canada Coat of Arms, the beaver (as "a symbol of the sovereignty of Canada"), the national horse (Canadian horse), the national tree (maple), the national tartan (maple leaf tartan), the national winter sport (ice hockey), and the national summer sport (lacrosse).

What does Rx stand for in regard to prescriptions?

The R stands for the Latin word recipe, meaning "take," but there's more to it than that. Rx is actually taken from the symbol for the planet Jupiter. Look in The Old Farmer's Almanac under the names and characters of the principal planets and aspects (page 42 in the 2001 Almanac) and you'll see the symbol for Jupiter, which looks like a fancy number 4, with the diagonal line of the upper left part of the numeral more curved, much like the upper right portion of a capital R. A little stretch of the imagination takes you from that symbol to Rx, where the tail of the R is crossed by the x. Many pharmacies still use the ancient symbol, with the x hanging well below the tail of the R. In the Middle Ages, many physicians and herbalists believed that the planets ruled people's health, as well as the various plants and shrubs used as remedies. If you read the 16th-century books of the English herbalist Nicholas Culpeper, these planetary influences are apparent in his advice. For some reason, Jupiter--perhaps because it's so large--was considered the foremost influence in curing diseases, so its symbol came to be used to identify sources of pharmaceuticals, as well as the prescriptions themselves. To the ancients, the planets and their ruling gods were inseparable. Thus, according to Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, the Rx symbol actually says, more or less, "Under the good auspices of Jove, the patron of medicines, take the following drugs in the proportions set down."

Do you have any information on predicting the gender of a baby considering the following conditions: carrying very low, high heart rate, very active, conceived in mid- to late November, and due on August 19?

We attempted to compare your indicators with what's been published in the Almanac but could find little common ground. However, we do have a treasure chest of folk wisdom pertaining to gender. Here is a sampling: (1) To have a boy, a woman should hold a nickel in her mouth at the time of conception--too late in your case, we're afraid. However, if you can remember what the Moon was doing at the time, a baby conceived in the light of the Moon will be a boy; in the dark of the Moon, a girl. (2) A baby carried high is a boy; low, a girl. (3) Add your age at the time of conception to the number of the month of conception. If the result is even, you'll have a girl; if odd, a boy. (4) Have someone suspend a needle from a thread held just above your wrist. If it swings back and forth in a straight line, you will have a boy; in circles, a girl. (5) During the last three months of pregnancy, count the baby's heartbeats. If the heart beats 120 to 140 times per minute, it's a boy; 140 to 160 times a minute, a girl. If the heart is beating 120 to 140 times per minute but the needle is swinging in circles, be prepared for one of each!

What is the deepest lake in Canada and how deep is it?

The Great Slave Lake with a depth of 2,015 feet is the deepest lake in Canada, located in the east-central Fort Smith region, Northwest Territories, near the Alberta border.

Why is Humpty-Dumpty always depicted as an egg?

This remains a mystery. Scholars believe that the rhyme is more than 500 years old, originally written to mock a nobleman who fell from favor with England's King Richard III. The rhyme has been changed and adapted in a number of different countries throughout history.

Is lightning always white?

No, lightning is not always white. Other colors including pink, orange, red, and blue, have been recorded. Many forest rangers say that red lightning is more likely to set fires than the other colors.

What is the widest tree known to man?

The tree with the largest circumference ever recorded was 190 feet around, a European chestnut known as the "Tree of the Hundred Horses" on Mount Etna, Sicily. Measured in 1770, the tree is now in three, widely separated parts. The biggest tree in the United States is the giant sequoia "General Sherman" in Sequoia National Park, California, with a girth of 102.6 feet.

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