Popular Mechanics7 min read
From Death Traps to Disneyland: The 600-Year History of the Roller Coaster
The resounding click-clack muffles the murmur of anticipation as the train inches up the wooden structure. When the riders reach the apex, the bright blue summer sky swallows everything. Then, with a lurch, gravity takes over. Everybody screams. Thi
Popular Mechanics8 min read
The Popular Mechanics Guide to Safer Schools
Attacks in our schools seem to be occurring with more frequency and with higher intensity. But the response among political and school-district leaders has often been confused and often been understandably inconsistent. Schools are not, in fact, more
Popular Mechanics19 min read
The Entire History of Steel
The story of steel begins long before bridges, I-beams, and skyscrapers. It begins in the stars. Billions of years before humans walked the Earth-before the Earth even existed-blazing stars fused atoms into iron and carbon. Over countless cosmic expl
Popular Mechanics7 min read
How To Photograph a Rocket Launch
For the past 13 years I’ve photographed some challenging subjects, but rarely do I get the chance to capture a 224-foot-tall spire of metal explode with 5 million pounds of thrust. Not until we arrived at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral in
Popular Mechanics4 min read
​​The Evolution of the Combustion Engine​​
Humans have been building cars for well over a century now, and under almost every hood has sat an internal combustion engine. For the past 100 years, its principle has remained the same: air and fuel go in, an explosion happens in the cylinders, and
Popular Mechanics7 min readScience
The Very Real History of Death Stars
Space stations are reflections of those who build them. Some, like the International Space Station and the proposed Lunar Gateway, are shared spaces that humanity can use as a springboard from our home planet. And then there are armed space stations,
Popular Mechanics4 min read
Launching To Space at a Crawl
Reaching space takes a lot of gas, and gas is heavy. The total liftoff weight of the now defunct Space Shuttle system was 4.5 million pounds. The Shuttle’s boosters, external tank, and the fuel made up most of that weight. Add in the mobile launch pl
Popular Mechanics11 min read
The Evolution of the American Tank
Evolved from slow, lumbering, and malfunctioning origins, the modern Main Battle Tank can cross long distances rapidly and engage targets at ranges unimaginable to soldiers and commanders in World War I trenches. But these monstrous metal warriors wo
Popular Mechanics4 min read
Why the 747 Is Such a Badass Plane
On August 3, 1970, Pan Am 747 “Clipper Victor,” lifted off from JFK for San Juan, carrying 359 passengers and 19 crew. Flight 299 was a “redeye,” one of the first regularly scheduled routes since Pan Am inaugurated Boeing 747 service back in January
Popular Mechanics10 min read
The Rifles That Made America
Ever since the 13 colonies gathered enough gumption to form a union, U.S. soldiers have carried an evolving range of weapons, from flintlocks pistols to lever actions to assault rifles. The American soldier has fought many battles through the generat
Popular Mechanics5 min read
What It's Like to Be a Modern-Day Blacksmith
When Nicolas Wicks walked into a blacksmith's shop in Edinburgh, Scotland in 2011, he didn't know the visit would shape the rest of his life. As an American college student majoring in ecological economics, Wicks was spending his time in classrooms a
Popular Mechanics14 min read
How the Secret of Concrete Was Found, Lost, and Found Again
How limestone, rocks, and volcanic ash built the modern world. The story of concrete is so ancient that we don't even know when and where it begins. It is a story of discovery, experimentation, and mystery. Emperors and kings became legends for erec
Popular Mechanics3 min read
How to Upgrade Your Garage in 8 Days (Or Less)
It's not uncommon for a tricked-out garage reno to take months to complete. But sometimes all you need is a functional, decluttered space in which your tools, gear, bikes, the car, and anything else taking up residence in the garage can live harmonio
Popular Mechanics6 min read
The Real Story Behind the Myth of Area 51
In the middle of the barren Nevada desert, there's a dusty unmarked road that leads to the front gate of Area 51. It's protected by little more than a chain link fence, a boom gate, and intimidating trespassing signs. One would think that America's m
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