Question

Is an olive a fruit or a vegetable?

An olive is a fruit from the tree Olea europaea. It has been cultivated for thousands of years, hence the frequent mention of olives in the Bible. Plucked straight from the tree, the fruit is not very tasty. It has to be cured in brine, water, or oil to take away its naturally bitter taste.

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What are the Seven Sisters?

These are stars in the Pleiades star cluster. Their names are based on Greek mythology: Alcyone, Asterope, Celaeno, Electra, Maia, Merope, and Taygeta.

When something is done in secret or on the sly, it is said to be done "on the Q.T." Where did this originate, and what does Q.T. mean?

It's simply an abbreviation of the word quiet. In the late 1800s, quiet came to mean "clandestine," or "secretive" (e.g., "I'd like to have a word with you on the quiet."). Sometime later, it was reduced to the slang "Q.T."

Where does white pepper come from?

White pepper comes from black pepper, which is the dried berry of the woody, climbing vine Piper nigrum. While growing on the vine, the peppercorn ripens from green to yellow to red. To make black pepper, the peppercorns are picked and dried. To get white pepper, the peppercorns are left on the vine a bit longer, so they remain lighter in color in the drying process. White pepper is usually used for aesthetic purposes -- a cook doesn't want black flakes floating in a white sauce, for example. It is also said to have a milder taste and smell.

Is there anything that will remove baby food stains from white-plastic-covered baby spoons? I've noticed that these spoons stain almost immediately from carrots, sweet potatoes, and such no matter how quickly I rinse them.

Make a thick paste of baking soda and water and use it to clean the spoon as soon as possible after you feed your baby a colorful vegetable.

If light travels the speed of light because it has no mass, then why do they say that light cannot escape a black hole because of the gravity?

The reason light cannot escape from a black hole is that (1) the escape velocity from a black hole is greater than the speed of light and (2) light, although regarded as having no mass, is in fact affected by gravitation as predicted by Einstein and proved in a famous solar eclipse observation c. 1920. This is because gravity shapes space itself and the light follows the curved space. In the case of a black hole, the curvature falls back upon the black hole, preventing the light from escaping. It's not because of the density of the matter in the black hole, otherwise light could reflect off the surface of the black hole.

Why are toilet handles on the left-hand side?

Most early flush toilets were flushed by pulling a chain above the tank. The chain was usually to the left of the tank, to allow the user to pull with his or her right hand while seated. When the handles came into fashion in the 1940s or so, they were fitted into the existing plumbing mechanisms of the pull-chain toilets on the left side.

How does one care for a bronze statue that is kept outdoors?

It depends on how long the bronze statue has been outdoors. We consulted an expert on the subject, who advised us that before bronze statues leave the foundry, they are protected by a cedar wax coating that effectively seals the bronze from penetrating oxygen. The coating will last for a few years, but a wash with plain soap and water, followed by an application of wax (there is one specifically made for bronze), is recommended after two to three years and annually thereafter. If the statue has been outdoors for many years and is covered by a grayish-green substance, then there are two methods of cleaning: a form of sand-blasting known as the glass-bead method, or the use of an acid to remove the grayish-green corrosion. However, either method should be carried out by a professional.

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