Popular Mechanics South Africa

Popular Mechanics South Africa December 2019

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
Read More
R 210
12 Issues

in this issue

3 min.

I DON’T SLEEP very well. At least not with any regularity. It’s probably a common state of existence for many people, but I hadn’t given it too much thought until quite recently, when a couple things occurred that made me consider it a bit more deeply, and realise that it’s probably impacting how well I function during the day. First, I attended the launch of the new Fitbit Versa 2 smartwatch, a device that’s intended to improve our quality of life through a variety of interesting and cool features. What really grabbed my attention during the reveal was the sleep-monitoring functionality. I have not worn a watch in years, but that same night I decided to strap the review unit I received on to my wrist and head for bed. (Monitoring…

5 min.
sharpest tool

I’m quite sure there are very few men around who’ve not had a bloody encounter with a knife at some stage in their lives, yet despite the danger (or probably because of the danger), we still have a strange obsession with knives. The knife guide feature published in the September 2019 issue was truly cutting edge, and the variety of knives goes to show just how far this obsession has taken us. A knife is not a knife if it’s blunt, and as a child I was forever trying to sharpen the business end of my ‘penknife’. I used rocks, sandpaper, my mother’s nail file … I even tried on my dad’s bench grinder when he wasn’t around. My quest for a sharp edge helped me progress from concrete pavements to…

1 min.
time machine

1 DECEMBER 1965 ▸ They Move! Outdoor action displays – eye-catching, easy to build! With the holiday season in full swing, it’s time to put on a show in your front garden. In the mid- ’60s we supplied you with the plans to build three Christmas displays that, with various eye-catching motorised actions, would be the envy of your friends and neighbours, and complement your home with a dash of the Christmas spirit. 2 DECEMBER 1935 ▸ The Romance of Locomotive Whistles For more than 100 years, whistles have been used for locomotive-to-locomotive communication. From simple warnings to more complex instructions, we broke down the different whistle sequences that were used to convey information. We also revealed the types of whistles that have been fitted to locomotives through the ages. 3 DECEMBER 1953 ▸ They Call It…

1 min.
the bigger picture

OWNED BY Torresol Energy and developed by SENER, the Gemasolar solar thermal plant is the first facility of its kind in the world. The sprawling structure is capable of producing 80 GWh of clean and safe energy to 27 500 households annually. It’s located in the Spanish countryside in the village of Fuentes de Andalucía, about 66 km east of Seville. The plant makes use of molten salt, which is heated in a central tower to a blistering 565°C by means of a surrounding heliostat field – a collection of mirrors that track the sun and reflect its radiation towards the receiver at the top of the tower. Assembled over seven months, there are 2 650 heliostats in total, distributed in rings around the tower. The furthest is positioned about 1…

2 min.
turns out you can learn a lot from 10 000-year-old chewing gum

CHEWING GUM is a grand human tradition, as archaeologists have discovered. A study published in the journal Communications Biology shows that the first people to settle in Scandinavia more than 10 000 years ago left traces of themselves behind in ancient gum – the oldest Scandinavian DNA on record. They didn’t have Wrigley’s, but ancient Scandinavian and Nordic cultures were big fans of chewing on tree bark. In 2007, a boy in Finland found 5 000-year-old gum made from birch bark. But at 10 000 years old, this gum – found by scientists in Sweden this May – also birch-based, offers scientists a chance to study ancient hunter gatherer societies. ‘DNA from these ancient chewing gums has an enormous potential not only for tracing the origin and movement of peoples a long…

2 min.
you can do a lot with gum

1 FOR LEAKS For low-pressure water leaks, like a hole in your rain gutter, first scrub the area around the hole with a piece of steel wool to clean away any debris. When thoroughly dry, stick a wad of already-chewed gum on the inside of the hole so the pressure of the liquid will push it against the hole instead of away from it. Adhesives in general, gum included, tend to improve over time – the longer they stay there, the more permanent the bond. 2 FOR A HOLE IN YOUR TYRE If you put already-chewed gum on the inside of the hole – provided it’s a fairly small hole – the gum will probably be quite effective, maybe even permanent. The gum sticks because as you chew it, you’re warming it up…