Popular Mechanics South Africa

November - December 2021

The South African edition of Popular Mechanics was launched in 2002 and has fast become the acknowledged voice of science and technology in South Africa. Underpinning its rich sci-tech content is an ever-changing mix of articles covering everything from automotive news and outdoor adventures to DIY projects. In essence, it explains how our world works

South Africa
RamsayMedia (PTY) Ltd
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12 Issues

in this issue

2 min
change of pace

AFTER MANY QUIET WEEKS (or maybe it’s been months), mostly spent at my desk in front of my computer screen (with the occasional bit of exercise snuck in-between), the last several weeks have seen a flurry of activities come my way, and along with them a change of pace that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed. I’ve been fortunate enough to receive a number of exciting test vehicles to review (some of which you can read about in this issue in the PM Garage section on page 86), and I attended the media launch events of the new VW Golf 8 GTI, and the long-awaited Toyota Land Cruiser 300 (what an incredible vehicle, which I hope to tell you about in the near future). I spent three days with my colleagues from CAR magazine,…

1 min
stick your chest out

I built this kist for my daughter as an additional wedding gift (and afterwards realised that it would make a great entry into the Kreg prize giveaway competition). I was given the inside dimensions, as my daughter had already calculated what she wanted to store inside. In addition to holding certain items, it had to be sturdy enough to be used as a two-seater when pushed up against the wall. I started by dismantling some old wooden pallets. Next, I welded an internal frame, to which I could attach the wood using Tek Screws. I sanded the wood down, cut the pieces to size, and started populating the frame. Once the construction was complete, I varnished the kist with Woodoc Marine to seal and preserve the wood from any accidental liquid damage. There…

3 min

WHAT’S ON YOUR MIND? WRITE TO US popularmechanics@ramsaymedia.co.za GO TINY, OR GO HOME Reading about the tiny nuclear reactors in the previous issue gave me a sense of déjà vu. I had a strong feeling that I’d read about this previously… Then I realised that it was in the context of South Africa’s Pebble Bed Molecular Reactor (PBMR) project of the 1990s. I had thought that that project had a bright future, because of the inherent safety of pebble bed reactors, and their scalability down to village-sized units. Nuclear energy faces growing public resistance due to safety considerations, which has led some countries to abandon nuclear energy entirely. It’s not so much the possibility of an accident that is concerning, but rather the extremely long duration of the after-effects of an accident, amounting to…

2 min
time machine

1 NOVEMBER 1983 Coming: The Fastest Train In The West It was the early ’80s, and plans were afoot to create the fastest train in America. The ‘California Bullet’ project was to be completed in just under four years, by mid-1987, and this sleek train would enable commuters to travel by high-speed rail between Los Angeles and San Diego in 59 minutes, at speeds of up to 160 mph (or 257.5 km/h). Unfortunately, the project never materialised. However, as of 2021, there is renewed interest in a similar project, that’s backed by the Biden administration. 2 DECEMBER 1979 A Dream Spanning Centuries A double-page-spread illustration in this issue, the last of the 1970s, depicted bridge design engineer TY Lin’s concept of the ‘Peace Bridge’, a road link across the 80 km Bering Strait between Alaska…

4 min
the f-15ex is a worthy remix of a classic american fighter

THE US AIR FORCE has officially gone back to the future, placing an order in July last year for eight F-15EX fighters. The Boeingbuilt jets are the first of what could be as many as 144 new fighters to supplement older models of the F-15, which took to the skies in 1972 and have maintained an astonishing string of 104 air-to-air kills and zero losses. The F-15 may have seemed destined to collect dust with other Cold War relics, but the twin-engine aerial powerhouse has proven too capable to retire. McDonnell Douglas built the F-15 from hard lessons learned from the Vietnam War, when fighters such as the F-4 Phantom were designed with the assumption that the increased range allotted by air-to-air missiles had rendered dogfighting obsolete. P-51 Mustang and F-86…

4 min
science confirms plato’s theory: earth is made of cubes

WHAT WOULD YOU get if you smashed the Earth into little bits? To answer that question, scientists from the US and Hungary ran a series of simulations illustrating the ways that rock fractures. The results help us understand the natural shapes on Earth and across our solar system. They also confirmed what philosopher Plato had theorised in ancient Greece: As you break down the Earth, it crumbles into cubes. This explains the distinct fracture patterns observed in nature, says study co-author Douglas Jerolmack, PhD, a geophysics professor at the University of Pennsylvania. ‘Since fragmentation is a ubiquitous process that breaks rock and ice across the solar system, our findings help to explain the shape and size of planetary materials.’ In the first of the computer simulations performed by teams from the University…