Popular Mechanics November 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

3 min
how to skin a cat

My barn (have I told you about my barn?) was built sometime after 1856, the year our house was completed. It’s a fine-looking red barn, and it was a big selling point for my wife and me. The projects we could do in there! The thing was pretty dank when we moved in, but we figured we could sweep it up and I’d be building furniture out there in no time. Or brewing beer, or whatever I thought people did in barns when we moved from the city to the country. Well. Turns out it isn’t so easy to make a dank barn not dank. The dankness was in the pores of the wood, the seams in the floor, the silt that coated everything. You’d walk out of there with grit…

1 min
every where

WHAT WE’RE UP TO BEYOND THESE PAGES ONLINE! THE JAMES WEBB SPACE TELESCOPE • Launches in 2018 • Will be the largest space telescope in history • Cost more than $10 billion • Read more about it at popularmechanics.com/JWST. THE PODCAST! On the Most Useful Podcast Ever, host Kevin Dupzyk talks to Kenji López-Alt (below) from Serious Eats about how to replicate restaurant food at home and on the cheap. One of his hacks: using your Shop- Vac to make chicken satay. Find out how on the Most Useful Podcast Ever, available on Apple Podcasts.…

2 min
how the coast guard reopened the port of houston

ON SATURDAY, AUGUST 26, Lieutenant Junior Grade Austin Fullmer was in Tampa, Florida, aboard the Coast Guard cutter Juniper, when he got orders to head to Houston. The previous evening, Hurricane Harvey had made landfall near Corpus Christi, and it was clear the storm would be what the Coast Guard, in its levelheaded way, calls an incident. In the storm’s early hours, much of the Coast Guard was devoted to search and rescue: Its helicopters plucked Texan after Texan from rising waters. Fullmer had a different mission. By Sunday afternoon he was at Incident Command Post Houston, working as day lead for the Marine Transportation System Recovery Unit (MTSRU), whose job is to perform search and rescue on the port itself. The Coast Guard closed the port on Friday morning, and…

8 min
the electric, hydraulic, mostly american truck

HOW IT WORKS: HYDROPNEUMATIC SUSPENSION When the truck hits a bump, the wheel compresses a piston that sends pressure into a reservoir filled with fluid (red) and gas (green). Seeking to equalize themselves, the fluid and gas gently resist, cushioning the ride. It’s more complex and harder to repair than regular spring suspension, but comes with truck-specific advantages. By adjusting the fluids, the B1 can self-level on uneven terrain. Or tilt up a corner wheel for a jack-free tire change, like Snoop Dogg hitting the threewheel motion. We can buy battery-powered versions of mainstream vehicles (Ford Focus, VW Golf), hyper-efficent EVs (Chevy Bolt, BMW i3), even a gull-wing minivan (Tesla Model X). The one thing you can’t buy, though, is a truck. Sure, weight and aerodynamics make range an issue, but the…

1 min
new myths, new busters

When MythBusters returns on the Science Channel on November 15, it’ll be with two new hosts. Jonathan Lung, a product designer, and Brian Louden, a pilot and rescue diver, were dedicated fans of the original series. But they bring their own excitement to the show— and all-new myths. One of their first: In a wild-west shoot-out, is it better to shoot many shots quickly, or take your time and get off a few more accurately? We followed them to a ghost town and rifle range in Santa Clarita, California, to find out.…

3 min
how to make a great tv show about cars

Top Gear ruined it for everyone. And by Top Gear, you know which one I mean—the particular iteration of the BBC franchise hosted by Jeremy Clarkson, James May, and Richard Hammond, buttressed by a massive budget and blessed with the best writing and production said budget can buy. After that show dissolved in 2015, Amazon created The Grand Tour, reassembling all those ingredients down to the hosts and producers. Now on season two, it’s the latest in years of foolish attempts to re-create the magic of the original. I should know. I’ve been part of the problem. My TV aspirations began more than a decade ago, when I hosted an on-demand cable show called The Cars You Want. It went well enough for me to make it onto cable as a…