Popular Mechanics South Africa November/December 2020

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
12 Issues

in this issue

2 min
retrospective review

’IM LIKELY THE 927th person this month to have mentioned it but, man, has this year been heavy. So in the interest of keeping things light as we close out 2020 – a year during which we’ve spent more time at home than anywhere else – I thought I’d mention a few of the observations I’ve made over the past seven or eight months. In no particular order, here they are: Why is it that load-shedding kicks in just as you’re about to log into an important online meeting? Lesson learned: I really need to connect an uninterrupted power supply to my modem and router to keep my fibre functioning 24/7. I just cannot stand dogs that bark incessantly, or rather, their owners who seem oblivious to it. While there are many…

6 min
model of inspiration

This whole lockdown thing has really separated the practical people from those who choose to do other things in their spare time. I’m fairly sure that if a survey were conducted, most of the handymen (or should that be ‘handypeople’?) will say that the extra time at home has been a blessing in disguise, not having to go shopping and on other errands. It’s also been a time when a library of previous issues of POPULAR MECHANICS has come into its own, helping to stimulate the creative juices. POPULAR MECHANICS inspires and is a reminder that nothing is impossible; the answer is in you, or out there – you just have to keep at it. This is especially true for me with my chosen hobby. Since my retirement six years ago, I…

2 min
time machine

1 DECEMBER 1939 Aerial Mine Field Guards Against Plane Raids World War II had just begun and a dramatic illustration on the cover of this issue and associated article explained how aerial mines dangling from 12 m wires beneath 1.5 m-wide hydrogen balloons would defend the airspace above England from enemy planes. 2 NOVEMBER 1946 How to Play Three- Cushion Billiards In this feature article, Willie Hoppe, ‘one of the world’s greatest billiard players’, told readers how three-cushion billiards players tend to live longer than other people, and that if you wanted to improve your game, all you had to do was apply a little science, and learn the ‘Diamond System’ of playing the game. It definitely seemed to work well for Willie. 3 DECEMBER 1949 Look out… Avalanche! A multi-page story in this edition at the end…

4 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 the traditional methods such as ‘completing the square’ and makes it simpler to find the solutions in fewer, more intuitive steps. Loh, founder of a maths-and-science- focused learning startup called Expii, said he came up with the new…

2 min
the stealth cooling operation inside the mac pro hardware

AS I’M NEITHER a Pixar employee nor a YouTuber, I don’t require a Mac Pro. Even the base model is complete overkill. Spend a few (tens of) thousands of rands 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 have used a Mac in the last few years, you’ve noticed that nearsilent operation is a non-negotiable design requirement. This meant that the Pro’s creators had to find creative…

2 min
the future of humans

THIS BOOK is not science fiction. Technology is redefining every aspect of our lives and, according to Jenny Kleeman, birth, death, food and sex is where all the big stuff is happening, right now. In her new book, Sex Robots & Vegan Meat, Kleeman travels across four continents and visits the darkest parts of the internet to explore the inventions that will fundamentally change what it means to live and die. In the book, she speaks to scientists, humanoids, designers, ethicists, entrepreneurs and provocateurs, people who strongly believe that technology can let us have the lives we truly desire without sacrifice. Intrigued yet? This sensational book will change how you think about lab-grown meat (and the idea of clean meat) as well as the business of baby carrying. The biobag, for example,…