Scientists most often work with collaborators in the same or closely related disciplines, and they usually strike up their relationships in professional settings or at social gatherings. Unusual, then, is the collaboration between Glenn C. Conroy and Michael W. Vannier. Conroy is a biological anthropologist and paleontologist, while Vannier is a radiologist--and their relationship was launched by a trip to the grocery that Conroy took one day.

While waiting in the checkout line, Conroy browsed through the adjacent stacks of magazines and tabloids. He was taken with the cover of Discover magazine, which featured Vannier's imaging techniques. "There was a colorful cover photo of a computer image of a human skull," says Conroy, who at the time was hoping to find a noninvasive method to differentiate mineralized bone from the rock matrix inside and outside. "After reading the article, I learned that this photograph wasn't just a computer simulation--it was...

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