Q What does “armistice” mean? I know we use it to refer to Veterans’ Day and the end of World War I, but what does it really refer to?

A: “Armistice” means the end of a war, when the warring parties agree to stop fighting. The most famous armistice, and the one most people still mean when they simply refer to “The Armistice” is the end of World War I, which happened on Nov. 11, 1918. Nov. 11 was once referred to as Armistice Day, but when World War II broke out, the United States started to refer to Nov. 11 as Veterans’ Day. In Great Britain Nov. 11 is still referred to as “Armistice Day.” In other countries, it’s also observed as Remembrance Day.

Q Why does the moon look larger when it’s close to the horizon rather than overhead in the night sky?

A: The moon appears larger when it is close to the horizon, because you are unconsciously comparing it to foreground objects that are at or near the horizon. When the moon is higher in the sky, there is less likelihood of making such a comparison, so the moon appears to be noticeably smaller in size.

Interestingly, when you see the moon looming large near the horizon, you can make it instantly revert back to its “normal” size by looking at it through a cardboard tube (like the kind that aluminum foil or toilet paper is rolled on). By looking through the tube, you are restricting your eye’s view to just the moon and excluding the surrounding landscape. The moon immediately shrinks to its normal size.

And incidentally, this illusion cannot be photographed. If you take a photograph of the moon when it appears “bloated” near the horizon, and a second one when it’s higher up and much smaller, you’ll find upon developing the photos that both images appear exactly the same. If you ever see a photo of an overly large moon near the horizon, it was probably taken with a telephoto lens.

Q Do you know what the theory or belief is behind the folklore “Year of snow, crops will grow.” Is there any truth to that saying?

A: If you think about this saying, you can see what farmers thought when they made this up so many years ago. If the weather is brutally cold, with sub-zero temperatures, it is usually too cold to snow. The warmer the weather, up to 32 degrees Fahrenheit, the greater the chance for snow. Thus, the farmers concluded that if there was a lot of snow, the temperatures wouldn’t be so cold, planting could start earlier in the year and crops would have a better chance. There would also be more water from the snowmelt to help seeds sprout and seedlings grow.

Q Do you have any suggestions on the best way to melt chocolate so it won’t stick to the pan?

A: You should always coat the pan you plan on using with butter before placing the chocolate in the pan. This will help keep the chocolate from sticking. The other key is to melt on low heat, stirring constantly. You may also want to try microwaving chocolate on about 70 percent power. Try microwaving one cup of pieces for one minute. Remove and stir thoroughly. If necessary, you can put it back in the microwave for a little more time.

Write to Farmers’ Almanac, P.O. Box 1609, Lewiston, ME 04241 or e-mail: [email protected]

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