Popular Mechanics South Africa May - June 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
12 Issues

in this issue

2 min
skills development

I’M FEELING QUITE accomplished – this past weekend I achieved a lot. I carried out a service on Bubba, my 17-year-old Nissan Hardbody. He’s no longer under a service plan, so I like to do this type of work myself. (Usually with my dad’s oversight – if you’ve been reading Pop Mech for a while, you’ll know he’s a retired engineer, and I lean on him a lot for his wealth of technical knowledge.) I did all the usual stuff – drained and replaced the oil, changed the filters, assessed all the fluid levels, and completed a range of other checks. I also scanned the bodywork for corrosion, which is when I discovered one of the roll bars required some urgent rust-removal work – just the scenario I needed… I’ll…

6 min
the balance of power

As a woman who enjoys spending time in nature while trying to be conscious of my impact on the environment, I was delighted to come across the recent Pop Mech piece focusing on off-road electric vehicles. I’ve always been struck by the paradox of outdoor enthusiasts burning holes in their pockets (and the Earth) accessing the ‘great outdoors’ in enormous fuel-burning vehicles. This article highlights a welcome change, show-casing spectacular electric off-road vehicles expected to be launching in the global market soon, but there are a few points that I think make it tricky for this to be viably considered in the South African setting. Most of our electricity is generated in coal-burning power stations. Electric cars operating here, then, aren’t entirely squeaky clean, are they? We could get around this problem,…

1 min
time machine

1 MAY 1992 Wingships The eye-catching cover illustration on this issue showed a craft that was ‘part plane, part ship’ in full flight, just above the ocean surface. The accompanying story discussed the Orlyonok, a Russian-made wingship designed to skim ‘a few feet over the wavetops at 250 mph’, carrying troops and supplies. But the crux of the story was about the viability of this technology for passenger transport. 2 JUNE 1921 Weatherproofing Huge Suspension Bridge Tests Skill of Engineers and Craftsmen Black-and-white photos depicted the components of bridges that need to be protected from the elements, to ensure structural integrity and safety. Detailed captions explained the immense challenges the workers encountered while weather-proofing these giant structures. 3 MAY 1926 Wiring Your Home Electrical circuits in your home can be confusing at the best of times, and dealing…

4 min
we spent all day arguing about this triangle brain teaser. can you solve it?

NOTHING HALTS PRODUCTIVITY AMONG co-workers quite like a maddening brain teaser. The latest to ensnare the Popular Mechanics editors and readers: How many triangles are in this drawing? When I posed the problem to our team, responses ranged from four triangles all the way to 22. Most people saw 18. One wise guy counted the triangles in the A-letters in the question itself, while another seemed to have an existential crisis: ‘None of these lines are truly straight, just curves – thus you cannot define any of them as a triangle,’ he said. ‘There are no triangles in this photo. Life has no meaning.’ I could’ve listened to my colleagues’ questionable processes all day, but instead, I reached out to geometry experts to see if we could arrive at a consensus. All…

3 min
why our bodies have gotten colder with each passing decade

SINCE THE GERMAN PHYSICIAN CARL Reinhold August Wunderlich published his research on human body temperature in 1868, 37°C (or 98.6°F) has been the gold standard. Now scientists say that number may be inaccurate. Thanks to improved health outcomes – meaning people are generally healthier and getting better overall medical treatment – the average human body temperature has fallen gradually over time. ‘Much as we have changed the Earth’s ecosystem, we are changing our own ecosystems,’ says Julie Parsonnet, MD, a professor of epidemiology at Stanford University. ‘We have changed who we are over the modern era.’ She and her team analysed more than 670 000 reported temperatures spanning 157 years of measurement and 197 birth years, and found that our temperature has dropped by 0.028°C (0.05°F) per decade since the mid…

2 min
the pop mech riddle that defeated me

I ONLY MADE IT ABOUT HALF way through this riddle (right), the first instalment from contributor Laura Feiveson. There’s a reason hers are so challenging. She has a PhD in Economics from MIT. She worked at the IMF. And now, on days off from her job as an economist at the US Federal Reserve, she creates maths puzzles for Pop Mech. For the full explanation of the solution, go to popularmechanics.com/riddle. Trying to solve these kinds of puzzles brings back good memories of computer science and geometry classes. I liked using specific tools and principles to reason towards the answer, all while building a trail of evidence. Getting beaten by a ‘moderate’ riddle reminds me: Respect the heroes who use maths and logic to solve huge problems. That includes economists such as…