Popular Mechanics May 2017

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

POPULAR MECHANICS WORK SHOP A COLLECTION OF PRODUCTS & OFF ERS FROM OUR PARTNERS AMAZING NEW HYBRID RUNS WITHOUT GAS The Compendium Hybrid, a stunningly designed hybrid chronograph with over one dozen analog and digital functions that is more versatile than any watch that we have ever engineered. Satisfaction GUARANTEED. Stauer Compendium Hybrid Watch ONLY $29.95 + S&P 1-800-333-2045 Mention code VHW737-06 www.stauer.com GIECO FOR YOUR BUSINESS GET CUSTOM-TAILORED INSURANCE COVERAGE FOR YOUR BUSINESS! GEICO can help you protect your company’s financial assets, property, and vehicles with a variety of aff ordable commercial insurance options to fit the unique needs of your business. Call 1-866-509-9444 or visit www.geico.com for more information. Limitations apply. See geico.com for more details. GEICO & affiliates. Washington, DC 20076 © 2017 GEICO.…

1 min
popular mechanics every where

ON THE WEB! So our writer, Clay Dillow, got stranded by floods in Vietnam. Lucky for us, he was rescued by some off-roading brothers (pictured)—who also moonlight as unofficial first responders when the weather gets bad. It’s kind of a crazy story. You’ll want to read it for yourself: popularmechanics.com/vietnam. FACEBOOK! We just turned a closet in our office into a workshop, and it’s awesome. We even installed a camera in there, to bring you howto videos and sneak peeks into what we’re working on. Check out what we’re up to on Facebook.com/Popular-Mechanics. SNAPCHAT! You heard of it? That $30 billion company that went public a couple of months ago? If you haven’t been inspired to download it yet, here’s a good reason to give it a try: Popular Mechanics now has its very own…

6 min
adventures in drone horticulture

Jamie Hyneman stood on a lawn in Fairfax, California, an hour north of San Francisco, staring at an overgrowth of French broom, a yellow-flowered evergreen weed, and potato vine. At his feet: an off-the-shelf DJI Inspire quadcopter onto which he has bolted a pair of automated pruning shears. Hyneman, of course, was, for 14 years, half of the MythBusters, two men of extraordinary resourcefulness who investigated various phenomena using their expertise in engineering, special effects, and physics. The show ended, but Hyneman kept building, which accounts for the drone before him. A couple of years ago, he noticed that the foliage behind his house in San Francisco was so overgrown that it compromised his view of the Golden Gate Bridge. But even he couldn’t see a way to prune it. The trees…

3 min
better nuclear power through ping pong

The lab is deep-space quiet. A long, narrow hallway hung with fluorescent lights extends to my left. Four or five doors interrupt the flow of drywall. A few of those doors are open, the occupants of the rooms within now out in the hall and staring, ears plugged in anticipation. A technician flips a small lever to activate the vacuum pumps on an 18-foot cannon that is tented in bulletproof polycarbonate. He’s dressed casually in dark jeans and a black button-down, an ID card coolly clipped to his pants. He wears clear safety glasses and bright red protective head- phones. Like the scientists down the hall, he is part of Intellectual Ventures in Bellevue, Washington—a skunkworks created by Nathan Myhrvold (Microsoft’s former chief technical officer and a bit of a…

1 min
two types of nuclear reactions

A / SLOW U-235 is the enriched uranium isotope. It’s easily split by a neutron moving at slow speed. When the neutron hits the uranium atom, the atom divides into two fission products and releases two to three neutrons. One of those neutrons might be absorbed by unenriched uranium, U-238. One might hit another U-235 atom to continue the chain reaction. And most others will leak out and no longer contribute to the process. Enriched U-235 atoms must be added to continue the reaction. If too many U-238 atoms are present, the reaction will die. B / FAST Neutrons in fast reactions move much more quickly because they use liquid metal sodium as coolant instead of water. Sodium atoms are heavier than the atoms in water, so neutrons bounce off of them harder…

1 min
the power of car pictures

The right photograph of the right car at the right moment casts a spell. Just looking at this one by Lee Friedlander makes you want to put your hands on the wheel and drive—past roadside attractions, tumbledown motels, and gas stations plucked from a Steve McQueen movie. Friedlander’s picture, along with 500 others taken by some 100 photographers, appears in what may be the most ambitious exhibit of car-focused photography ever: Autophoto, opening this month at the Cartier Foundation for Contemporary Art in Paris.* Aside from flat-out beautiful images, the show considers how the histories of photography and cars are intertwined. “The growing popularity of the car dramatically transformed the landscape in unexpected ways,” says Philippe Séclier, the show’s co-curator. “Highways and parking structures popped up, so did road signs, drive-ins,…