Some time ago, I read a delightfully geeky chapter in Harold McGee's The Curious Cook (1992 edition) about poaching meat. There was plenty about the difficulty of finding a thermometer that read in the right range (about 132F, iirc) and using engineering info about heat transfer in flat triangles (iirc, a homogeneous cut of pork) to get the cooking time right.
Fast forward a decade and a half, and we have an NYTimes article about a home Sous Vide ($449) for cooking at exact sub-boiling temperatures. The process is slow but doesn't require nearly as much ongoing attention as most cooking does and can produce very good results, some of them probably not attainable by other methods.
Unfortunately, the first link just gives a sketch of setting up the business. There's nothing about why it's so hard to control temperature that tightly.
On the less expensive side, there's the Sous Vide Cooking Controller for $139. You supply the heating element, it supplies the precision. I don't know if it's as satisfactory for something like cooking a whole chicken.
Sous Vide (which means "under vacuum"-- the food is in a vacuum-sealed plastic bag while it's being cooked) backs up a notion of mine-- that there can be a lot of technological advance just by thinking about the science and engineering we already know. I bet there are lots of innovations as good as the invention of left and right shoes just waiting to be made.
I found out about sous vide from Noodle Food. I have no idea whether pasta should be sous vided.
A history of sous vide, with a little about compressing food (sounds like a good idea for watermelon, which I've always thought was too watery) and extreme freezing (get your decadent sour cream brittle on the bottom and room temp on the top).
And you can get a Molecular Gastronomy Starter Kit from ThinkGeek.
On the much less practical side, how to cook a turkey in 30 seconds: with thermite. Don't try this indoors.
I can't remember where I saw the link. I think the memory was burnt away.