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Science News Round Up

Corn Storm

The Great Plains of the midwestern United States yield 10 billion bushels of corn a year. According to a new study on regional climate change at MIT, the Corn Belt produces more than its name suggests: It also makes its own weather. While the rest of the world is experiencing a warming trend, this fertile region's summer temperature dropped a full degree Celsius, and the rainfall spiked 35 percent - more than anywhere else in the world. The Corn Belt stretches from Texas up to North Dakota and east to Ohio. The research team suspects agriculture increases rainfall through a mechanism connected with photosynthesis that releases more water into the air.

Pollution Culprits

Researchers examining volatile organic compounds (VOCs) have found that paints, pesticides and other consumer products produce more than double the pollution that cars do. VOCs react with air to create ozone and also contribute to haziness.

How Fish Grew Limbs

Land animals evolved from aquatic ones approximately 400 million years ago. Scientists have new postulations on what may have prompted this change: very strong tides. An astrophysicist at the University of Oxford found the tides were stronger at the time the evolutionary change occurred because the moon was 10 percent closer to the Earth. He proposes that these stronger tides stranded sea animals in tide pools, prompting them to develop limbs as a way to move and escape back into the sea.

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