Sex-Changing Frogs, Corn Espionage, and a Time-Traveling Greenhouse

Rising and falling in this week's landscape news: the rise of artificial snow and the fall of a Chinese agricultural spy, the rise of corn and the fall of male frogs.

The End of Ski Resorts?

All right, let's get the laughs about snow and Sochi out first. While the Russian city can probably hoard and make enough snow to get through the Olympics, ski resorts are faced with that same problem year after year. Artificial snow created the stability that made ski resorts profitable—if customers want to ski over Christmas, you've gotta have snow—but, as it becomes hotter and drier with climate change, there won't be enough water to make the powder. [The Daily Climate]

The Frog of War

When Berkeley professor Tyrone Hayes published research suggesting a common herbicide called atrazine was feminizing male frogs, the chemical's manufacturer, Syngenta, began an astonishing campaign to discredit him. Hayes didn't take the criticism standing down, and what followed is a long feud ostensibly about science but really the balance of power. [The New Yorker]

The Spy Who Stole Corn Seeds

The U.S. has long suspected the Chinese of stealing trade secrets, from wind turbines to pharmaceuticals to software. In what may be the most brazen theft yet, Chinese nationals have been indicted for allegedly digging up corn at a DuPont research farm. The stolen seeds were repeatedly smuggled back to China using, among other things, microwave popcorn boxes. Presumably, they were not making popcorn. [The New York Times]

A 10,000-Year-Old Greenhouse

Long before corn became a target of international espionage, our ancestors cultivated it from an unassuming grass called teosinte. In fact, teosinte's seeds are so unassuming that it's long perplexed paleo-archaeologists who wondered why our ancestors bothered to domesticate such a puny grain in the first place. But intriguing research from a greenhouse that mimics the climate of 10,000 years ago reveals that teosinte has some incredible tricks up its sleeve. [Edible Geography]

Top image: Corn fields in Iowa. AP Photo/Charlie Niebergall


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