Science: Getting Into Hot Water

The energy that heats the homes of the Paris suburb of Melun (pop. 42,000) comes from a highly unusual source: a natural underground reservoir of hot brackish water located more than a mile underneath the town. French engineers boast that the system for tapping geothermal energy is the first of its kind. What makes it unique, they say, is the fact that the water is piped back into the ground for reheating, which means that Melun's subterranean furnace could keep working almost indefinitely.

The use of geothermal energy is hardly new. Icelanders have used...

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