Beyond The Sixth Sense

How can you tell what's in the air? In a suitcase? In your blood? Meet science's detection pioneers

Thomas Thundat's first job at Tennessee's Oak Ridge National Laboratory wasn't exactly a glamorous start. When Thundat arrived in 1991, fresh from postdoctoral training, he was put to work in a dank bomb shelter that had been converted into a lab. His task was to use an atomic force microscope to get a "snapshot" of the DNA molecule. All he seemed to be getting, though, was a headache. The microscope, which detects the con-tours of molecules by dragging a flexible sliver of coated silicon over them, was malfunctioning. After puzzling through his problem for months, Thundat realized one rainy day during...

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