Popular Mechanics March 2020

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

3 min
1 my pop life

JENNIFER LEMAN News Editor Never met a volcano I didn’t like. Baking Hack To keep baked treats like cookies, brownies, or cake from going stale, I pop a piece of bread in the container. It works every time. Favorite App I just downloaded the Flyover Country app. You set your route and then download a geo-logic guide that explores the features you’ll see 35,000 feet below. CURRENT PASSION PROJECT This summer, I worked part-time as a fry cook at Fancy Nancy restaurant in Brooklyn. I absolutely loved it, and aim to bring that energy into my own kitchen. Lately, I’ve been toying with Ramen recipes. The Best Money I Ever Spent I attended a volcanology field camp in Russia’s Kamchatka Peninsula in 2017. Standing on the precipice of an active volcano—and learning about the processes that make it churn—was worth…

2 min
the stealth cooling operation inside the mac pro hardware

AS NEITHER A PIXAR employee nor a YouTuber, I don’t need a Mac Pro. Even the base model is complete overkill. Spend a few (tens of) thousands of dollars on options, and you can get a 28-core CPU, and 1.5 terabytes of DDR4 memory. Those numbers imply a level of engineering I look at from a distance and say: That’s awesome. Same as with almost any product, industry-top performance like that creates heat that needs to be kept away from vital components. Most high-grade PCs do this with fans or pump-driven water systems. But those can be loud, and if you’ve used a Mac in the last few years, you’ve noticed that near-silent operation is a non-negotiable design requirement. Which meant that the Pro’s creators had to find creative ways to…

3 min
this guy found an easier way to solve quadratic equations

SOLVING THOSE PESKY quadratic equations from high school algebra just became a lot easier. Dr. Po-Shen Loh, a mathematician at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, has derived an easier way to solve the classic sequence of squares, roots, and variables. Quadratic equations are often used in business to forecast profits, find minimum and maximum points, or determine the trajectory of a moving object. They include an x2, and teachers use the equations to show students how to find two solutions at once. Loh’s new process, outlined in a video on his personal website, circumvents traditional methods like “completing the square” and makes it simpler to find the solutions in fewer, more intuitive steps. Loh, founder of a math-and-science-focused learning startup called Expii, said he came up with the new process for solving…

1 min
dr. loh’s method

Suppose you have the following quadratic equation to solve: “Normally, when we do a factoring problem, we are trying to find two numbers that multiply to 12 and add to 8,” Dr. Loh said. Those two numbers are the solution to the quadratic, but it takes students a lot of time to solve for them, as they’re often using a guess-and-check approach. Instead of starting by factoring the product, 12, Loh starts with the sum, 8. If the two numbers we’re looking for, added together, equal 8, then they must be equidistant from their average. So the numbers can be represented as 4–u and 4+u. When you multiply, the middle terms cancel out and you come up with the equation 16–u2 = 12. When solving for u, you’ll see that positive and negative 2 each work,…

3 min
to make a better cocktail, you need the right ice

ICE MIGHT BE THE MOST OVER-looked ingredient of any cocktail recipe. It keeps a drink cold, ensures that it isn’t too stiff, and even alters taste perception. Ask a good bartender about ice, and they’ll tell you why a particular shape or size is best. These variables might sound like minutiae, but they matter to bartenders, who have to strike a balance between ice’s chilling and diluting effects. Ice cools a cocktail as it melts, but the meltwater also dilutes the drink’s flavors. Some dilution is good—it balances flavors and tames high-proof liquor—but too much makes concoctions taste watery. The ideal combination of meltwater and a drink’s other ingredients is called full dilution. “The dilution and the temperature are inextricably linked,” says Dave Arnold, author of Liquid Intelligence: The Art and Science…

1 min
how to make crystal-clear ice

It’s a big ol’ myth that trapped gases and impurities from cloudy ice negatively impact a drink’s flavor. (Unless that ice is from a deep freezer that hasn’t been cleaned in ages, of course.) But to wow a crowd, there’s nothing like serving a Negroni over a crystal-clear rock. “Anything that looks that awesome, I think, is going to make it taste a little more awesome,” author Dave Arnold says. Bartenders use professionally produced clear ice, but at home, you have to put in a little extra elbow grease. (1) Fill a small hard-sided cooler with hot water from a faucet. Let the water cool, then place the cooler in your freezer with its lid open or off. Allow the water to freeze almost completely, which takes one to three days…