Question of the Day

Why do we call a means of getting out of something a loophole?

In medieval times, a loophole was a small hole in a fortress wall through which small arms were fired. The wall was the "loop" around the fortress, so if you found a loophole, that was a lucky event. As far as we know, they were not used for escape.

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We often hear the expression "brinksmanship." Does this mean diplomacy to the brink of war or sanctions?

"Brinksmanship" was a term used by Adlai Stevenson in the 1950s in his criticism of the policies of then Secretary of State John Foster Dulles; Stevenson believed Dulles' methods would lead the United States to the brink of war. The word is still used in this context.

Do skunks serve any purpose on Earth?

Certainly. Skunks are prodigious eaters of white grub larvae (which can damage your lawn), cutworms, potato beetles, grasshoppers, mice, rats, and other pests. We're certain they must have other admirable traits as well.

Can I feed my dog something to repel fleas?

Add 1 teaspoon of vinegar to each quart of your dog's drinking water to help repel fleas and ticks. Also, put a drop of lemon oil or rosemary oil on the dog's collar. It seems that these pests don't like the smell.

In a math book talking about the Fibonacci sequence, it said that often the sequence works with certain things in nature. There was a picture of a pinecone in the book. Do pinecones have anything to do with the Fibonacci sequence?

Fibonacci numbers are a series of numbers where each, after the second term, is the sum of the preceding two numbers (e.g., 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, etc.). In the study of botany, these numbers have proved useful in describing the positioning of leaves around plant stems, the spiral patterns in sunflower heads, and the scales of pinecones, to name but a few.

Have you ever heard of rubbing your feet with garlic cloves when you have a cold?

Yes, it's a common bit of folklore, but we can't speak to its efficacy. What could it hurt, other than keeping folks away from you, which may be preferable anyway? (Readers: If you've tried this and know it works, please drop us a line at

What can cause the kind of drastic weather change that occurred in South Dakota in 1943, when within two minutes temperatures went from 49 degrees F to -2 degrees F?

These kinds of changes usually are brought about by chinook winds that blow down the eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains over the adjacent plains in the U.S. and Canada.

What's the best soap to use for cleaning aluminum siding?

Try this recipe: 1/3 cup laundry detergent, 2/3 cup TSP (trisodium phosphate), 1 quart household (5 percent) bleach, and 3 quarts water. Mix all the ingredients together, apply to your siding, and rinse immediately.

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