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Collected Wisdom

Revealed: the true centre of Canada Add to ...

This week, Collected Wisdom is leaving its sumptuous executive offices at the centre of the universe - Toronto - and heading out in search of the centre of the nation.

THE QUESTION

What is the closest town to the geographical midpoint of Canada? Paul Hughes of Toronto wants to know.

THE ANSWER

Ottawa's Mark Shore learned from Natural Resources Canada that the centre can be measured in many ways, but "the most readily understood would be by taking the midpoint of the extremities of the Canadian land mass."

The extremities that Natural Resources cited were: Cape Aldrich, Nunavut, in the north; Middle Island, Ont. (just south of Pelee Island) in the south; Cape Spear, Nfld., in the east; and the southern end of the Yukon-Alaska border in the west.

All of which means that the geographical centre of this great nation is (drum roll, please) - just south of Yathkyed Lake in Nunavut, west of Hudson Bay. The co-ordinates are: 62 degrees, 24 minutes north; 96 degrees, 28 minutes west.

Frankly, we at Collected Wisdom had never heard of Yathkyed Lake, either, but Mr. Shore writes: "Using this definition, Arviat (195 kilometres southeast), Rankin Inlet (230 kilometres east) and Baker Lake (215 kilometres north) have vied for the title of Canada's geographic centre."

Baker Lake, however, received the most votes from CW readers.

Several people also wrote in to point out that there is a sign on the Trans-Canada Highway about 30 kilometres southeast of Winnipeg marking the longitudinal (east-west) centre of Canada at 96 degrees, 38 minutes and 45 seconds west. "Having driven past the sign several times since moving to Manitoba," writes Clair Berland of Winnipeg, "I can say with great certainty that the closest town is Landmark, Man." He adds, however, that "it is not so much a town as a blip on the map, but that's its claim to fame."

THE QUESTION

Why do recipes specify using unsalted butter, asks Michael Moore of Toronto, when another one of the ingredients is salt?

THE ANSWER

"Unsalted butter is specified when the amount of salt is to be controlled precisely," writes Deb Gray of Kanata, Ont. "The amount of salt in regular, or salted, butter can vary somewhat [from brand to brand]and therefore is not within the cook's control." She says most recipes that call for unsalted butter are for baking, where each ingredient must be measured precisely.

FURTHER NOTICE

Last week, we had an item that said DNA can be determined from a drop of blood. While this is true, Andrew Nelson of London, Ont., cautions that some of the scientific miracles performed on TV shows such as CSI: Crime Scene Investigation should be taken with, well, a pinch of salt.

"It is extremely important that people recognize that forensics shows on TV are entertainment and, as such, are quite likely to play fast and loose with the facts. For instance ... much of the amazing equipment in the lab on Bones is pure fiction."

HELP WANTED

"Why is the fur is on the outside of fur hats and coats?" asks Dave Radicevic of Toronto. "For me, it would be more logical for the fur to be on the inside."

Doug Baker of Gibsons, B.C., wonders why most banks are on corners.

Having watched the TV series The Tudors, Lane Stanley of Whitby, Ont., wonders whether the average English-speaker today would be able to understand the real Henry VIII.



Send answers and questions to wisdom@globeandmail.com. Please include your name, location and a daytime phone number.

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