If you thought those sassy MythBusters had effectively captured this month’s issue with their arsenal of unique analytical talent and seat-of-the-pants engineering skills, you wouldn’t be too far off the mark. Not content with contributing a big slice of the editorial content (and fiddling shamelessly with the rest), Jamie Hyneman and Adam Savage went so far as to mess with the PM masthead itself, a 107-yearold logo that had thus far – aside from the odd design tweak, that is – remained inviolate.
But we’re okay with that. After all, these two represent a fine example of the “can do, will do” attitude that we’ve come to associate with our readers. If there’s anything that inhibits or intimidates them, we have yet to hear about it. Need to build a machine that does something really weird? Want to blow up something with a really satisfying bang? Obliged to destroy something in the name of advancing human knowledge? These are your guys.
Actually, they’re not too far removed from the sort of people who signed up for the recent POPULAR MECHANICS Inventors Conference, a very imaginative bunch who reinforce our conviction that South Africans are capable of conceiving, designing and building just about anything – sometimes in the face of formidable opposition.
Of course, it’s not all about showbiz and money. We also celebrate the work of the focused and meticulous craftsman who produces small miracles with minimal fuss… the sort of person who identifies a challenge, then sets to work and doesn’t look up until he’s overcome it. You know, the boer maak ‘n plan sort of guy.
A case in point: Kevin Doveton, who lives a quiet life in the Western Cape village of Napier, spends a large part of his day turning out beautifully finished model steam and Stirling engines from brass, copper and odd bits of salvaged material. Time has taught Doveton that there are serious advantages to having a wealth of useful material lying around, especially when you live in a small town.
“Not having any shops nearby means you need to be inventive, and the more materials you have at your disposal, the more creative you can be. I even make the small knurled brass knobs, springs and chains for my models – simply because I wouldn’t know where to buy them even if they were available.”
Crossing to the Edwards Air Force Base in California, we shared in the excitement of the British Steam Car Team as principal driver Charles Burnett set a new world record for steam-driven cars. Featured in this month’s “Clever Cars” supplement, their car is equipped with a two-stage turbine running on liquid petroleum gas.
The record was broken on the day we sent the supplement to the printers, and just a few days later, as this column was being written, test driver Don Wales set a new mark – this time for the measured kilometre – in the same car, achieving an average speed of 148,308 miles per hour (238,678 km/h) on two runs.
We salute these heroes, and the “backroom boys” who made it possible. Their records will be broken, of course, but that’s not the point.
– Alan Duggan (firstname.lastname@example.org)