May 29/June 5, 2002   

   Speck-sized microscope nears
A pair of lenses the size of a printed period are a key step toward making microscopes tiny enough to capture images of cells as they work within the human body. The trick was building minuscule motors to focus the lenses.
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Crystal turns heat to light
Your average lightbulb is extremely inefficient, squandering at least 90 percent of its energy as waste heat. An experimental material that channels more energy into lightwaves could make lighting more efficient, and would spare burned fingertips along the way. The material could also help produce electricity.

Frozen reservoir fuels atom lasers
Freeze a small cloud of atoms to just above absolute zero and the atoms snap into lockstep, acting as one. Merging two of these fragile frozen clouds paves the way for lasers that fire continuous beams of atoms rather than light. Atom lasers could lead to smaller computer circuits and ultrasensitive movement sensors.

Groups key to network searches
Being an obvious member of a group turns out to be what puts you in the six-degrees-of-separation scheme of things. Knowing who is likely to know someone who knows someone is really a matter of knowing what groups your acquaintances belong to. These findings could make for better Web searches.

Reverb keeps secrets safe and sound
Clap your hands in an empty room and sound reverberates off the walls. This simple fact of acoustics could lead to a way to send secret messages to submerged submarines.

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