For Science!
5 Obsolete Theories That Scientists Once Widely Accepted

CJ Miozzi | 2 Jul 2014 19:00
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Automobile Plow

2. Rain Follows the Plow

In the late 19th century, it was widely believed across Australia and the American West that human settlement induced rainfall. Yes, climatologists actually believed that the act of migrating to a region of wilderness and cultivating the soil there would increase the rainfall to that area. Want to turn a barren desert into lush farmland? No problem! Just farm it.

The "scientific" explanation for this theory was that, by plowing soil, you expose the soil's moisture to the sky. According to another hypothesis, vibrations in the air caused by human activity helped create more clouds, which led to widespread dynamiting of the sky across the Great Plains in the 1870s.

There is some truth behind this theory, however. Plants "sweat," or transpire, releasing water into the atmosphere. So by planting trees and growing crops, you will increase the rainfall to an area, but this effect is very limited in scope and generally comes at the expense of rainfall to a neighboring area.

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