Popular Mechanics June 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
saving green while staying green

“My mission is to build comforting spaces for people who want to trust,” says John Powers, founder of CloverNINE Green Building in Connecticut and Massachusetts. “Just trust, period. Trust the materials, trust the workmanship, trust the contractor.” He pauses, squinting into the warm light settling over Cape Cod. “We build relationships. Building houses is just the vehicle we use to do that.” And John trusts The Home Depot to help him get the job done right. How does The Home Depot help John build relationships? “People ask me to do random stuff, anything you can think of. They’ll call me saying, ‘You probably don’t do this, but I’ve got a bear breaking down my gate.’ And I can help them, because The Home Depot is right around the corner, and they…

2 min
a grown-up teen driver

I’D CUT THE POWER TO THE OUTSIDE MOTION-SENSOR LIGHTS AND KEPT THE HEADLIGHTS RETRACTED, IN CASE THE NEIGHBORS HEARD THE NOISE AND LOOKED OUTSIDE. NEW JERSEY, WHERE I GREW UP, is the only state where you can’t drive alone until age 17. Until then, you’re required to have a sensible adult in the car with you. It’s a law that made what I did in December 2003, a few weeks before my 17th birthday, very dumb. I watched from the living-room window as my parents left for dinner, waiting until their taillights disappeared. Then I suited up in cold-weather clothes, including a scarf to partially hide my face. I went downstairs, opened the garage door, and retracted the convertible top on my dad’s 1990 Mazda Miata. I’d cut the power to the…

4 min
popular wisdom

FROM THE WEBSITE THE ULTIMATE SCREEN-TIME ALTERNATIVE A DIRT BIKE In an effort to get his children outside and offline, automotive editor Ezra Dyer tested out all-terrain vehicles made specifically for youth. For kids aged six and up, Ezra recommends the Honda CRF50F (pictured), a child-size dirt bike with a top speed around 35 mph, and the Yamaha YFZ50, a four-wheeler that comes with a speed limiter for worried parents. (For the more Zen among us, it’s removable.) The Can-Am DS 90X is a four-wheeler built for rugged terrain, with nine inches of front suspension travel. If spicing up backyard chores is a side goal, the Polaris Ranger 150 EFI, a tiny two-seater with geofencing capabilities a parent can access from a phone, has a cargo bed that Dyer suggests using to…

1 min
large photo of the month

The town of Cushing (population: 7,826), Oklahoma, is nicknamed the “Pipeline Crossroads of the World.” It’s home to 307 oil-storage tanks, one of the largest facilities in the country. The price of oil delivered daily to Cushing has determined crude oil’s valuation on the New York Mercantile Exchange for decades. But that benchmark may be changing: Recent drilling in the Southwest’s Permian Basin has boosted domestic production, and a 40-year ban on crude oil exports was lifted in 2015, lowering demand for storage. Although the Cushing complex can accommodate more than 80 million barrels, its reserves dipped as low as 21.8 million last year. As the holdings change, so do the tanks themselves. Most in this photo belong to the SemGroup company; they were constructed with external floating roofs, which…

3 min
should humans still spacewalk?

T’S JUNE 3, 1965, and astronaut Ed White, in orbit over Hawaii, emerges from a space capsule, becoming the first American to conduct an extravehicular activity, or EVA. Connected with a single tether, he maneuvers using an oxygen gun for propulsion, and poses for pictures. “I feel like a million dollars,” White says. These days, EVAs are not done for the photos. They’re required for maintenance and operation of the International Space Station and are planned to the minute. Astronauts seldom have time for a selfie or joyriding with jet-guns. “Statistically, doing an EVA is just as dangerous as launching and reentry,” says Garrett Reisman, professor and former NASA astronaut with a seven-plus-hour space walk on his résumé. EVAs are hard, dangerous, and time consuming, so it makes sense that engineers want…

2 min
tools designed for zero gravity

PISTOL GRIP TOOL DEBUT: Hubble Space Telescope, 1997 NASA commissioned a tool astronauts could use to service equipment while wearing space suits. The PGT is a basic drill-driver, down to the battery that plugs in below the grip, but with a screen that allows precise torque selection. EPSON STYLUS 800 AND HP ENVY ZERO-GRAVITY PRINTER DEBUT: STS-95 Shuttle Mission, 1998, and ISS, 2018 Inkjet printers move ink with capillary action, not gravity. So the Epson 800, the first printer on board the ISS, was mainly modified to keep the paper from floating away. Today’s printer started as an HP Envy 5600—before all the parts for unnecessary functions, like scanning, were removed. The designers also 3D-printed lighter parts, including a tab to point the carriage downward without gravity. They also gave it a flame-retardant shell. 3D PRINTER DEBUT:…