Popular Mechanics April 2019

Discover the latest in technology, engineering, and tools with Popular Mechanics. Plus, get essential advice on your home and car, useful DIY ideas, in-depth explanations on how things work, and more!

United States
10 Issues

in this issue

1 min
the smartest gear we tried this month

The engineering expertise and creative design that went into this stainless-steel box will blow your mind (when you read about it on page 6). Breville, the Australian appliance company, is known for packing a lot into its countertop product. This one rises above. It’s an oven for cooking the most important food group, pizza. Unlike any of its ancestors in this category, it can crank out 750 degrees Fahrenheit of heat, and heat makes all the difference with pizza. We tried it with store-bought dough, homemade dough, and frozen pizzas, and each came out crispy, evenly cooked, and with a perfect singe on the bubbly cheese. We made white-clam pizza, which got an appropriate scorch and came out moist but firm. We reheated leftover pizza, which had none of the…

3 min
my anti-wall rant

ONCE LIVED IN an apartment in Greenwich Village so small that I could sit in a chair in the middle and wash dishes or make my bed without leaving the chair. When my wife and I decided to move out of the city with our two kids, we were living in a one-bedroom apartment. The first time we looked at the 1,700-square-foot farmhouse we would eventually buy, it seemed enormous. So many rooms. A chimney! Stairs! City people. The house was not very big at all, but after 15 years of brushing my teeth in the kitchen and grilling dinner using a hibachi on the fire escape, the three-bedroom house felt like a mansion. All those rooms. We discovered an important quality about our house: There were many rooms, yes. But they were…

6 min
popular wisdom

GEAR Finally: Great Pizza on Your Countertop BREVILLE’S SMART OVEN PIZZAIOLO asks a lot of its designers: replicate a wood-fired oven’s intense heat, but don’t let the electronics fry or the outside turn incandescent. Oh, and make it small enough to keep on a countertop. Here’s how lead designer Michael Thorogood and his team made it work. Conductive heat rises through the ceramic deck into the base of the pizza to create a classic charred crust. In the oven’s upper section, a large-diameter steel-tube heater loops around a vertical deflector, which concentrates the heater’s radiant energy while simultaneously protecting the pie’s center. “If you’re using a nice soft buffalo mozzarella, it doesn’t want to be subjected to the same intense heat as your crust does,” Thorogood says. A second, smaller, circular heater sits…

1 min
large photo of the month

At Conservation Canines (known as CK9), a research program at the University of Washington founded in 1997, handlers train rescue dogs to locate environmental samples in the wild. Dogs—more specifically, their noses—are more efficient and less invasive than other methods of collecting data on wildlife, like radio collars or trapping. Jennifer Hartman, one of the program’s nine handlers, has worked with CK9 for 12 years and was “not really a dog person” until she met Max, an Australian blue heeler mix, who scents for moose scat in upstate New York. They start the day at 3 a.m., before the dew burns off, when smells are strong. Scientists at Cornell University will analyze diet and toxin information from the samples Max finds, looking for reasons why the local moose population is…

7 min

ON THE WAY to Skydive the Ranch in Ulster County, New York, a pastoral expanse encompassing a shallow pond, a runway, and an aircraft hangar that houses a couple of 22-passenger Twin Otter airplanes, Red Bull–sponsored professional skydiver Jeff Provenzano (nickname Jeffro) assures me that he too was petrified on his first tandem dive. “We’re more likely to get hurt on the drive to the drop zone than we are during the jump,” he says. Then he immediately makes an ill-advised U-turn in front of a speeding SUV. Over his 20,000-some jumps, Provenzano has performed stunts for movies, trained special-forces teams, and hung from helicopter struts as if they were tree branches. The man is unflappable in the face of the absurd. Later, when the door to our Twin Otter rolls…

6 min
can big data train america’s elite forces?

THE FUTURE of U.S. Air Force Special Warfare stomps into the room on the double—a half-dozen men and women, fresh out of basic training, clad in identical off-white T-shirts and blue shorts. At Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, no trainee walks. Ever. This facility is about sustained maximum effort. The trainees want to be among the Air Force’s elite Special Warfare troops, those who leap from airplanes on rescue missions or embed with front-line troops to direct air strikes. But before they can do that, they face a gantlet of unforgiving qualification courses with infamously high wash-out rates. A Rand report from May 2018 found that the attrition rate during the initial Special Warfare assessment and selection course hovers at roughly 75 percent. The Air Force’s solution aims the most…