Science: In Memory of Rainbarrel

At a Pentagon ceremony last week, a tall, grey-haired chemist received one of the U.S.'s highest civilian honors: the Distinguished Civilian Service Award. For Peter King, 49, now associate director of research for materials at the Navy's Washington, D.C. research laboratories, the medal had been a long while in coming: it was granted for a dramatic but generally unknown service performed eleven years ago.

In 1948 King was working in paint chemistry at the Naval Research Laboratory when a colleague asked him why the lab's Geiger counters had recently been clicking faster after rainstorms. King collected rain water from the roof...

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