Popular Mechanics November/December 2021

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

@adrienneperri ADRIENNE DONICA Expert Reviews Editor My ideal day starts on a trail and ends with a drink in hand. Gearing Up I love testing backpacking packs. I hope my take on which features are best for different types of hikers helped some people find one they love. ON MY READING LIST I’m fascinated by the phenomena and people who have shaped our natural world. I highly recommend On Trails: An Exploration, by Robert Moor, for any hiker and The Wild Trees, by Richard Preston, for any tree-huggers. For Your Next Cocktail… Stop making your simple syrup on the stove (or buying it at the store). Instead, shake equal parts sugar and water in any jar or water bottle for about a minute. Now you’re ready to build a cocktail. Best Thing POP Ever Taught Me Most headlamps start to dim…

2 min
f1 taught me that speed starts with comfort

As a fan of motorsport, I’m always fascinated with the finer details that go into Formula One racing. Piloting the fastest racing cars on the planet subjects drivers to savage forces—up to 6 g’s under braking—which has led to an almost endless pursuit of comfort. Teams spend hundreds of hours and millions of dollars optimizing cockpit ergonomics to ensure that their drivers aren’t distracted by aches and pains during a two-hour Grand Prix. To offer some perspective, it’s not uncommon for 2007 F1 world champion Kimi Räikkönen to nap in between qualifying sessions while strapped into his car. Being an impressionable petrolhead, I began tweaking the seating position in my Volkswagen GTI back in college. The improved ergonomics paid massive dividends even if I wasn’t driving on a track. On weekends,…

4 min
autonomous drones have attacked humans. this is a turning point

IMAGINE A FEW YEARS FROM NOW, U.S. supply troops have just wrapped up a field exercise in Poland, showing solidarity with the country in the face of saber-rattling from nearby Russia. As the sun sets, GIs rest next to their trucks, knowing the Russian 18th Guards Motor Rifle Division is encamped just a few miles away. The soldiers hear a faint buzzing in the distance and see a dark cloud crossing the horizon. Suddenly, a solitary scout drone swoops low over the Americans—it’s seen them. Like a predator catching the scent of prey, the cloud stops dead in its tracks, then rushes toward the soldiers with astonishing speed. Following programming orders, each of the 60 drones scans the ground below and picks its target, while AI ensures no two drones aim…

4 min
the performance wheel has been reinvented

LIGHTER WHEELS ARE FASTER WHEELS. And after decades of incremental advancements in wheel casting and forging technology, additive manufacturing (3D printing) is primed to transform how little performance wheels can weigh and what the wheels look like. An early example of what we can expect was produced in 2019 by wheel-building boutique HRE in collaboration with GE Additive, GE’s 3D printing subsidiary. Their HRE3D+ wheels mated printed titanium components with a carbon-fiber barrel. The 20" x 9" front and 21" x 12.5" rear wheels weighed just 16 and 19 pounds, respectively. For high-end wheels of the same size, this saves roughly a pound in the front and two pounds in the rear. Traditional wheels are manufactured using cast or forged aluminum alloys. These existing processes are cost-effective but suffer from material inefficiencies…

3 min
the world’s smallest implantable chip might save your life one day

SCIENTISTS AT COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY have created the world’s smallest microchip, which can be implanted into the body and may eventually be able to detect medical conditions such as strokes. The chips, called motes, are the size of dust mites, measuring less than 0.1 cubic millimeter, and can only be seen under a microscope. Motes operate as a single-chip system, complete with their own electronic circuit. They’re implanted via hypodermic needle, and the data they collect is read using an ultrasound machine. And though the chips have only been tested in lab rats, the Columbia team hopes that one day they can assist in monitoring everything from glucose levels to oxygen saturation. “These devices can be designed to sense things and communicate this information back to the ultrasound image, which also provides biogeographical…

4 min
tidal floods are coming to more u.s. cities, thanks to the moon’s wobble

TIDAL FLOODS CAN SHUT DOWN HIGH-ways, turn parking lots into lakes, and spread runoff from overwhelmed sewage systems. And while they’ve been more common to low-lying East Coast cities like Miami or Charleston, South Carolina, coastal towns that have historically stayed dry could soon find themselves underwater, according to a study published in Nature Climate Change. Until five years ago, tidal floods in Hawaii, for example, were a rarity, says Phil Thompson, Ph.D., the study’s lead author and a physical oceanographer at the University of Hawaii. If sea levels rise in line with NOAA’s Intermediate Sea Level Rise scenario (roughly three feet globally by the end of the century), Thompson and his fellow researchers predict a dramatic increase in tidal flooding events in some cities in the coming decades. The planet has…