What We’re Reading: Climate Science, Exoplanets and TB Sniffing Rats

BY Jenny Marder  December 27, 2010 at 12:15 PM EDT

A Scientist, His Work and a Climate Reckoning

A profile of Charles David Keeling, who created the first instruments to accurately measure carbon dioxide in the air and collected samples from the remote top of Hawaii’s Mauna Loa volcano. This story describes his precise personality traits and habits — including a strong belief in the importance of edging the lawn — which extend to his work in science. But most importantly, it explains what’s known as the “Keeling Curve,” the relentless rise and accelerating pace of carbon dioxide, and the role this gas plays in maintaining the climate. (Justin Gillis, NewYork Times)

A Physicist Solves the City

One of Hari’s recent favorites: This one focuses on GeoffreyWest, a British scientist in New Mexico, who subsists on black tea and nuts and is “mildly allergic to food.” Using the population of any metropolitan city, his team claims they can estimate with 85 percent accuracy, its average income, and the dimensions of its sewer system. An interesting take on the science of cities. Don’t miss. (Jonah Lehrer, New York Times)

7 Amazing Exoplanets

Scientific American has a fun, vivid interactive artist rendition of 7 exoplanets: One is so hot it’s likened to Dante’s Inferno; one has spectacular sunsets due to its triple-star system. Another, tidally locked, is scalding on one side, icy on the other with an optimal zone in the transitional space between. (Ed Bell and Ron Miller, Scientific American)

Giant Rats Detect Tuberculosis

Scientists at this Michigan lab are training Large African Rats to sniff out tuberculosis. Their reward if they get it right? A mouthful of banana. They detected a high percentage of TB positive sputum samples. But false positives are a concern and scientists here say rats’ accuracy needs to improve before they can serve as a screening test. The promise of widespread use of this are unclear, but interesting nonetheless. (Nathan Seppa, Science News)