We’re here at this meeting to talk about science, journalism, and democracy. So let me begin by telling you about a newspaper article on a scientific experiment, an experiment that would end up having a major influence on government policy on a vital issue. The vital issue was food. The experiment was carried out on wheat. Some varieties of wheat are known as spring wheat. They’re planted in the spring and grow soon afterwards. Winter wheat, on the other hand, is planted in the fall but does not produce its flowers till the spring. Winter wheat has the advantage of a much bigger yield. But there’s a catch.
A field full of winter wheat can get wiped out by something called Black Frost. This is not a creature from Game of Thrones. Black Frost is what happens when there’s a sharp cold snap in winter without any snow on the ground. Winter wheat needs that layer of insulation to survive extremely low air temperatures. Spring wheat never faces that risk.