Dr. Catfish Stew, Ph.D., the world’s most brilliant scientist, knows absolutely everything! He can answer any question in the world! Just send your questions in to catfish @ zombia.com, and watch Dr. Stew astound you with his ingenious answers!
Dear Dr. Stew,
Why does sour cream have an expiration date? The cream is sour already.
–Melky C., Bronx, NY
It’s not the “sour” part that the expiration date refers to, it’s the “cream” part. After a while, mold starts to grow on the cream. At this point, the product technically ceases to be a “cream” and becomes instead a “cheese”. Economics makes it cheaper to just toss the product into the dumpster than to comply with truth-in-advertising laws and relabel the product as “Sour Cheese”.
Hello, Dr. Stew,
On old records, how does the speed stay at 45 even though the circle gets smaller as you go towards the center? Shouldn’t it slow down since the distance is less?
–Pete Burns, Liverpool, England
This is a corollary to Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity. Just as time slows down as you approach the speed of light, time also slows down as you approach the center of a rotating disc. So even though a point at the center and a point at the middle both travel at 45 revolutions per minute, the “minute” varies depending on where you are relative to the circle’s center. This is explained by Einstein’s lesser known equation, E = Pi x r².
Dear Dr. Stew,
When does afternoon end and evening begin?
–Sidney Lanier, Macon, GA
Few people seem to realize that the word “evening” actually comes from the verb “to even out”. Even fewer know what, exactly, “evening” evens out.
The etymology of the word “afternoon” is obvious, of course: it refers to the time after noon, but before sunset. There was also an old English word, “forenight”, which was the opposite of “afternoon”–meaning the period after sunset, but before midnight. Over time, unfortunately, the word been shortened/merged with “night”, and the resulting lack of precision causes a lot of confusion.
But back in the day, “afternoon” and “forenight” were both common words, with perfect opposite meanings. And being perfect opposites, the two time periods were required by definition to last the same length of time each day.
Under the simple definition of the terms, this only happened twice a year–at the fall and spring equinoxes, when sunset hit at exactly 6pm. Without some process for “evening” these time periods out, “afternoon” would last longer than “forenight” during the summers, and be shorter in the winters, and they would no longer be perfect opposites.
Evening out the two time periods is quite simple. You figure out the amount of time between sunset and 6pm, and subtract that much time from the other side of 6pm, to form the new period of the day called the “evening”.
So for example, if sunset is at 5pm, the “evening” would last from one hour before 6pm until one hour after 6pm, i.e. until 7pm. Subracting two hours from the forenight evens out both the afternoon and the forenight to five hours long each.
Similarly, if sunset is at 7:30pm, the “evening” would last from 4:30pm until 7:30pm, and the “afternoon” and the “forenight” would each be an even four hours and 30 minutes.
So to answer the original question, from the fall equinox until the spring equinox, afternoon ends and evening begins at sunset. From spring until fall, afternoon ends and evening begins at the 6pm mirror of sunset.
Why do the Oakland A’s keep beating the Seattle Mariners game after game after game?
–Demilitarized Zone, Seattle, WA
I have no freakin’ idea. They just do.