Engineering: Rethinking the internal combustion engine.
Steam locomotives, aircraft carriers, and weed whackers have one thing in common: They are powered by engines that convert heat into motion.
Unfortunately, such engines are not terribly efficient. But physicist Marlan Scully of Texas A&M University in College Station has a radical idea that could substantially improve them. By adding a laser and a maser (a microwave laser) to an engine, he hopes to squeeze extra energy out of the hot engine exhaust-a "quantum afterburner," as he calls it.