Our cover feature this month focuses on breakthroughs in automotive technology – a subject of more than passing importance to every one of us, whether we care about cars or not. It’s estimated that well over 700 million motor vehicles are plying the world’s roads (and in the case of South African minibus taxis, less conventional thoroughfares such as pavements, gaps at level crossings and even roads through cemeteries), with millions more joining the throng every month. The vast majority of these do nasty things to our environment. In other words, automotive transport demands our serious attention.
That acknowledged, we invite you to explore our Clever Cars feature. It’s both wide-ranging and detailed, unpacking the technology behind some of today’s “alternative” vehicles (with hybrid and all-electric powerplants) and explaining how they work. It also unveils some of the amazing concepts in the X Prize showdown – a competition aimed at inspiring a new generation of safe, affordable and fuel-efficient vehicles – and ventures into the realm of future shock with a look at road transport systems linked to the power grid. Our forecast: it may take a while, but it will happen.
Now to something completely different. A groundbreaking lifestyle survey conducted by an independent research company has provided us with an excellent picture of you, our core reader. It reinforced a lot that we already knew – for example, that you’re clever, curious, financially secure, and very partial to getting your sci-tech news from magazines such as Popular Mechanics. But it also revealed a few things that we didn’t know about your reading preferences – for example, that you thought we should lighten up a little.
That came as a surprise. We had always regarded our brand as edgy, quirky, occasionally ironic, perhaps even disrespectful when the subject matter demanded it – and now you were telling us to get over ourselves? Wouldn’t the injection of more humour in PM run the risk of devaluing the serious stuff, or (horrors!) expose us to accusations of frivolity? What would be next in this relentless slide towards the Lowest Common Denominator… girls in skimpy bikinis, advice on relationships, a monthly astrology column?
Determined to be grown-up about it, we convened a brainstorming session that resulted in a rare consensus: (a) our occasional features on heavenly bodies should remain focused on space (it must be said that this one was accompanied by mild regret); (b) relationship advice was self-evidently gratuitous and had no place in PM, since absolutely anything was possible in this or another universe; (c) our readers were perfectly aware that most of the stars they could see were actually somewhere else by the time they saw them.
And the humour thing? Naah. You can’t force it.
– Alan Duggan (firstname.lastname@example.org)