Science: Sleeping Beauty

The old Stirling "air" engine (originally patented by Robert and James Stirling of Scotland in 1816) was born in the wrong century. Its principle (power from expanding hot air) was good, but the crude materials and engineering methods of the time made it too clumsy and inefficient to be widely used.

In the current issue of Scientific American, Leonard Engel tells how technological progress has revived the Stirling engines. Just before the war, an engineer of the big and smart Philips electrical company at Eindhoven, in The Netherlands, stumbled on one of the Stirlings. He and his colleagues decided that all it...

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