April 2012 issue

Date:1 April 2012 Tags:, , ,

Fire-breathing monsters. Creepy robots. Cool gadgets. A century of DIY tips. Welcome to PM’s world

Our cover story this month, “The fast and the curious”, is classic PM material, celebrating the left-field approach to design and construction evident in the annual Kinetic Grand Championship, a three-day event on the northern Californian coast described by writer James Vlahos as “equal parts inventors’ showcase, artistic performance and serious race”. We meet Attack of the Funguys, The Heroes of Glorypolis, Visualize Whirled Peas (don’t ask) and the magnificently weird Bottom Feeders ““ a fire-breathing metal sea monster assembled from all manner of recycled junk, including cupcake tins. It’s perfect.

We thought it entirely appropriate to acknowledge the 110th birthday of our parent magazine in the United States with a blockbuster-length article featuring the 110 best tips published in Popular Mechanics since 1902. Some of them are inspiring, others are a little quirky, and a few are downright strange (example: convert an old car boot lid into an awning for the back door of your home).

What’s interesting is that most of the tips have stood the test of time. In 1961, readers were informed that a transistor radio produced a “deeper, more melodious tone” when placed speaker-down on top of an open fruit jar; the same method enhances the sound from today’s iPhone. The August 1955 issue advised farsighted PM readers to punch a pinhole in a piece of cardboard and peer through it to read small type. Try it for yourself: it works.

Our “In Focus” feature for April follows hot on the heels of Switzerland’s annual Baselworld fair, showcase of the watch-making world’s latest and greatest designs ““ some of which elevate timekeeping to a very different level. New vintage is hot, skeletonised watches are cool, and “retro-mechanical” is the buzzword on everyone lips. (Hey, if it looks good on your wrist and tells you when it’s okay to pour something fermented and chilled, we’re happy.)

There’s more, of course. We introduce a whole bunch of desirable gadgets (for the record, you really need a tactical torch), reveal the story behind a spring that revolutionised Nascar racing, build a Shaker shelf that would grace any sitting room, and tell you about Geminoid-F, a disturbingly lifelike robot that sat in a shop window and smiled at passers-by. We also take a look at South Africa’s broadband connectivity and reveal why it’s taking us a little longer than expected to get up to speed.

That should be enough to keep you going until next month. Stay with us.

– Alan Duggan
aland@ramsaymedia.co.za