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Science Te c h n o l o g y AuTomoTive home ouTdoorS


0 74470 08638 3
P M F e a t u r e s /// M a r c h 2 0 0 9
volume 186 no. 3

47 The Human Machine

Twenty medical advances that
push biology to its limitsand
beyond. By melinda wenner

54 Something in the Sky Strange lights

above Stephenville, Texas, prompted a UFO
frenzy. Is there a simpler explanation?
By pHil patton

68 Basement Replacement
HGTVs Rip & Renew crew pulls
off a total underground overhaul.
By Harry SawyerS

72 The Backyard Blacksmith

PMs senior home editor spends
an afternoon building a forge, then
learns the age-old craft of working
hot steel. By roy BerendSoHn

78 Smoke on the Water

When spec ops teams need to
move by river, they hitch a ride
with elite gunboat crews.
By erik Sofge

On the cOver
We re-create a com-
mon source of UFO
reportsflares used by
military jets to evade
missiles (see page 58).
Photo illustration by
Oliver Wasow; addi-
tional manipulation by
Anthony Verducci.


> New Tools > Cars > Home > How-To /// P M d e P a r t M e n t s

Tech Watch
13 Cosmic Point-and-
Shoot The worlds largest
digital camera monitors the
universe for science and
defense. Plus: remodeling Home
the space station; creating 85 Shop, Reborn Use
blood on demand. our guide to revamp your

P H O T O G R A P H S B Y J M U C k L E / S T U D I O D ( D U C T TA P E , P L I E R S ) , k Y O k O H A M A D A ( H P C O M P U T E R ) ; I L L U S T R AT I O N B Y B R A D L E Y R . H U G H E S ( S P A R k P L U G )
cluttered work area with
diamond-plate pegboard,
Upgrade rolling tool storage and a
23 Game-Frame sturdy workbench.
Computer HPs ultimate 90 Homeowners
portable gaming PC. Clinic How to squeeze
Plus: We pit duct tape more hot water from your
against other multiuse water heater.

tapes; a voltage detector Plus: removing stains
with an adjustable range; from your concrete drive-
a Duracell battery that way; cutting down counter-
does it all. tops; using ridgeboard in a
freestanding garage.

New Cars
31 Zip Drive Nissans Auto
370Z packs tons of torque 95 Saturday Mechanic
and turns heads. Plus: The Get your classic car back on
intelligently designed Toyota the road by rebuilding the
iQ; Pontiacs new muscle brake calipers.
sedan; the a 170 baby benz. 98 Car Clinic The right
way to take a compression
test. Plus: Knowing when
Columns your abS system is working
38 Jay Lenos Garage properly; removing long-life
Jay reminisces about the spark plugs after theyve
days of endurance racer ab seized; determining what
Jenkins, when men raced causes fuel-gauge failure.
not for money, but for love

of the sport.
42 Americas To-Do Technology
List PMs editor-in-chief 105 Make Your PC
James b. Meigs outlines Boot Faster Use PMs
five urgent policy changes special regimen of five

for the new administration, OS tweaks to boost slow
from clean diesel to NaSa. startup speeds.
108 Digital Clinic Five
ways to play MP3s through
your car stereo. Plus: Why
your iPhone home button
fails; tailgating with your
85 Ultimate Workshop
93 /// 32 55-MPG Solution
/// 54 UFO Myths /// Monthly
78 Special Ops Boat Crew HOW TO RE ACH US 6
/// 26 Duct Tape ///

68 Basement Upgrade ///
72 Backyard Blacksmiths THIS IS M Y JOB 116


EdItorIAL BoArd
of AdvISErS
James B. Meigs grateful to these
Editor-In-Chief scientists, innovators and
leaders, who help ensure
Executive Editor David Dunbar Deputy Editor Jerry Beilinson we cover the most
Design Director Michael Lawton Managing Editor Tara Cox important stories in the
editOriAl Art most authoritative way.
Editor, Automotive Ben Stewart Senior Art Director Peter Herbert
Senior Editor, Automotive Mike Allen Associate Art Director Stravinski Pierre
Senior Designer Bradley R. Hughes
bu z z A l d rin
Senior Editor, Home Roy Berendsohn Apollo 11 astronaut;
Senior Editor, Science Jennifer Bogo phOtOgrAphy colonel, U.S. Air Force
Senior Editor, Technology Glenn Derene Director of Photography Allyson Torrisi (Ret.)
Detroit Editor Larry Webster Associate Photo Editor Michele Ervin s h A Wn c Arl s O n
Associate Editors Joe Pappalardo, prOductiOn Executive director of
Seth Porges, Harry Sawyers Assistant Managing Editor Emily Masamitsu the Society for
Research Editor Erin Scottberg
Copy Editor Robin Tribble Amateur Scientists;
iMAging MacArthur Fellow
Assistant Editor Erin McCarthy
Digital Imaging Specialist Anthony Verducci d Av id e . c Ol e
Assistant to the Editor-In-Chief Allie Haake
pOpulArMechAnics.cOM Chairman, Center for
Contributing Editors: Online Director Angela Diegel Automotive Research
Jim Gorman, Chris Grundy, Ben Hewitt, Carl Online Editor Tyghe Trimble s Au l griffit h
Hoffman, Alex Hutchinson, Joel Johnson, p r O j e c t A s s i s tA n t s President and chief
S.E. Kramer, Jay Leno, Fred Mackerodt, The Joe P. Hasler, Blaine McEvoy scientist, Makani Power;
MythBusters (Jamie Hyneman, Adam Savage),
MacArthur Fellow
Contributing Photographers & Illustrators:
Joe Oldham, Glenn Harlan Reynolds, Noah Burcu Avsar, Tim Bower, Gordon Chapman/ t h O MA s d . j Ones
Studio Catastrophic FX, Brad DeCecco, Dogo, Space shuttle astronaut;
Shachtman, Erik Sofge, Kalee Thompson, Joseph
Chad Hunt, Scott Jones, Ed Keating, Axel de Roy, author of Sky Walking
Truini, James Vlahos, Logan Ward, Jeff Wise
Dan Saelinger, Gabriel Silveira, Sinelab, g Av in A . s ch Mid t
Business Associate Wendy Logroo Art Streiber, Transluszent, Dan Winters Climate modeler,
NASA Goddard Institute
subscriptiOns for Space Studies
A My b . s Mit h
MIT senior lecturer;
MacArthur Fellow
Bill Congdon d Aniel h . Wil s O n
Publisher Roboticist; author of Mad
Scientist Hall of Fame
Associate Publisher Jane Wladar General Manager Bruce A. Mitnick
WM. A . Wu l f
Executive Marketing Director Mike Kresch President emeritus,
National Academy of
Online Advertising Director Matthias Wolf Marketing Art Director Glen Fuenmayor Engineering
Marketing Manager Claire Rottino Marketing Manager Chad Meany
Online Marketing Coordinator Janette Hong
Associate Marketing Manager Johanna Hessling
Vice President, Group Consumer Marketing
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Why would people purchase a
diesel vehicle and pay more for
its fuel than can be offset by
improved mileage?
Forest Lake, MN

E D I T O R S R E S P O N S E :
We agree that diesel fuel is
overpriced in the U.S. See
Americas To-Do List, page 42.

Signal Boost
Januarys Improving In-Home
Wi-Fi hit on good ways to
boost a wireless routers signal
strength, but what about wire-
less devices like laptops and
game systems? once youve
PM Letters boosted your router signal, you
can do the same for other wire-
less devices. Laptop adapters
Digital Snoops I S S U E
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Your January story Whos 01/09 appreciation for our rights. that you can disable to maxi-
tracking You, on privacy con- Readers T O M C I C C AT E R I mize wireless performance.
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location is being sold across the autos should be in our future to all
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AuToMoTIve // ScIence //
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news + trends + breakthroughs

Cosmic Point-
The worl d S l a r geS T d igiTa l
Ca mera i S C ur r en T ly aT wo r k
moni Tori n g T h e u n iv er S e f o r
SCi enCe a n d Sel f d ef en Se.
by Joe PaPPalardo

Astronomers in Hawaii have

built a working prototype of a
system that uses the worlds biggest
digital camera to keep an eye on the
universe. The university of hawaiis
mountaintop Panoramic Survey
Telescope and rapid response
System uses a small mirror to reflect
images to the gigapixel camera.
The prototype only has one mirror
camera pair; the proposed finished
version will have four pairs. Pan-
STarrS main task is detecting
dangerous asteroids: every night
the telescope takes a thousand
photos of the sky; an automated
system scans the resultant black-
and-white images for any movement
that could indicate a planet killer.
The telescope will also produce
ultra-high-resolution color images to
create the most-comprehensive-ever
survey of the universe.
Gigapixel Camera M51 and Its Companion Galaxy, NGC 5195

+ A quartet of the resolutions of

worlds largest point-and-shoot
digital cameras will digital cameras.
catalog up to a Each camera will
billion galaxies have 1.4 billion
outside the Milky pixels. Using
Way. The images one camera,
will be 38,000 by a prototype
38,000 pixels in telescope took its
sizeroughly 150 first usable image
times larger than in late 2008.


t e c h w a t c h

secret power
+ Scientists have
long wondered how
dolphins can swim
as fast as 25 mph,
given the thickness
of their tail
muscles and the
density of water.
you Cant Make an
But researchers Airplane without
in Troy, N.Y., were
shocked to see
the animals power
breaking some wings
when they tracked
the movement
of tiny air bubbles Boeings new 787 Dreamliner is revolutionary because it uses carbon Big Motors For
in the water composite materials in more structural parts than any previous Mini tools
around swimming commercial jetliner. But how tough is this new material? To find out, + Engineers in
dolphins. Each tail company engineers shattered a 50-ft.-long, 55,000-pound structure Switzerland are
flip generates producing a
about 200 pounds
called the wing box, which connects the wings to the fuselage. The test miniature electric
of thrust showed that the box could withstand more than 1.5 times the highest motor that they
triple Michael aerodynamic load the jet could ever experience. After delays, the first say is the first to
Phelpss best. Dreamliners are currently scheduled for delivery in early 2010. achieve a speed of
one million
revolutions per
minute, four times
faster than the
Newsbriefs previous spin
reports from the edge of science master. The
Compiled by Alex Hutchinson matchbox-size,
100-watt motor
integrates mini ball
bearings and
time tweak saves energy e-Mail FroM electrical
Major toM components in a
+ since 2007, daylight saving time has
started three weeks earlier (in March) and + This summer, special titanium
astronauts on shell that can
ended one week later (in November) each the International withstand the
year, in a governmental bid to save Space Station perfect recipe for antimatter extreme centrifu-
energy. The first-year results are now will test a new + Physicists at Lawrence Livermore gal forces created
inand it worked. According to the Interplanetary National Laboratory have developed a by the record-
Internet scheme breaking speed.
PHOtOgrAPH by getty iMAges (DOLPHiN)

Department of energy, the measure cheap way to produce copious amounts

that last year The system may be
reduced U.s. energy consumption by 17 of elusive antimatter. by shooting short,
swapped used in drills and
trillion btu, enough to power 175,000 information with a powerful laser bursts at a small gold milling machines
households for a year. Most savings spacecraft more target, they are able to generate designed for small
resulted from slightly lower electricity use than 20 million positrons, the antimatter version of electronics.
in the early evening. southern states saw miles from Earth. electrons. similar methods have been
lesser savings, possibly because they The system relies explored before, but by using a thicker
on relays, with
were offset by more air-conditioner use. each node storing
piece of gold, the physicists created an
information until it estimated 100 billion short-lived
can be forwarded positrons. The researchers will use the
safely. This method to study black holes and
safeguards data other natural antimatter creators.
o n t h e w e B > follow breaking despite interrup-
science and technology news daily tions by solar wind
at or planets.


Making the Space It takes some planning to prepare a small space for new roommates, especially
if the apartment is 220 miles above the planet. NaSa engineers have been
Station a home developing space-ready versions of familiar fixtures to prepare for an expansion of
the International Space Stations crew, which this year will double to six. Engineers
P R E P P I N g t h E I N t E R N at I O N a L must build household items that balance space, power consumption, weight and
S P a c E S tat I O N f O R a L a R g E R
repairability. Those tradeoffs were made at the very beginning [of the gears
c R E w I S t h E U Lt I M at E I N
t e c h w a t c h


design], says Marybeth Edeen, who heads vehicle hardware development for
By Joe PaPPalardo NaSas ISS program. The systems that rely on chemistry and fluid dynamics, such as
plumbing, are tougher to develop than a new bedroom. In microgravity, solids dont
go down and gas bubbles dont go up, she says. Everything just goes where it
wants. These pieces of orbital home design, most delivered in a single space shuttle
trip late last year, provide a realistic glimpse of what its like to live in space.

Orbital Renovation
Kitchen Exercise
The crews galley Equipment
has to be The Advanced
expanded; new Resistive Exercise
items include Device uses
suitcase-shape vacuum canisters
warmers that and ropes to create
gently close around resistance that Galley Resistive Exerciser Bathroom Water Recycler
as many as 12 mimics weights.
metallic foil bags The ARED provides
holding prepared the equivalent of deteriorate if they laptop connections. Bathroom solidliquid
foods. The sink, 600 pounds of dont work out. Theyre living in The iss received a separator. Urine
based on the space weights that can a closet, Edeen new toilet that gets converted into
shuttles, has its be used for dozens Bedroom says. And its nAsA purchased clean water in a
own hot-water of exercises. iss residents not a walk-in. from Russia. A recycling system.
heater for bags of Astronauts each have individual Astronauts have gentle vacuum pulls Water quality is
stew or cups of muscles and 3 x 3.5 x 6ft just enough space waste into a funnel tested in space and
instant coffee. nerves can quarters with to dress. that leads to a on the ground.

WhAt it tAkEs to livE  O2: 2 pounds daily Water tO make Oxygen: 0.26 gal daily Water fOr hygiene and drinking: 0.8 gal daily
in thE iss, pER pERson

16 MaRch 2009 | POPUL aRMEchaNIcS.cOM

Sanguine Science
t e c h w a t c h

aS Donor SUPPlieS remain CritiCal,

n e w P h a r m i n g t e C h n o l o g i e S C o U l D C r e at e
b l o o D o n D e m a n D . by MicHAel Milstein

Our bodies manufacture lots of

bloodabout 1.5 ounces of red
blood cells dailybut the nations
hospitals remain in desperately short
supply. The need for blood for soldiers
in war zones is even more dire, as
donated blood airlifted from the U.S.
can take more than three weeks to get
to the front lines. to address this
shortfall, the Defense Departments
advanced project agency, DarPa, has
commissioned a medical company to
build a fully automated machine able to
make new blood on-sitewhich would
also be a welcome develop-
ment for civilian hospitals.
Cleveland-based arteriocyte
received nearly $2 million to more Tech to ease
perfect a blood pharming the Blood-supply crisis
system that grows red blood secure a safe make Donating every Drop
cells in a three-dimensional supply less Painful counts
+ Contracting + Memphis-based + The U.S. govern-
matrix of nanofibers that
disease is a Luminetxs ment has created
replicates bone marrow. constant concern VeinViewer could a laser system that
Company researchers trying to grow DARPA wants its for recipients of make taking blood can detect a single
stem cells noticed that, by tweaking blood pharming blood transfu- and inserting IVs blood-borne virus
tech to get FDA sions, but easier by finding or other antigen
the temperature and concentration of approval in three Colorado-based veins with infrared amid a quadrillion
oxygen and carbon dioxide that is years. CaridianBCT has light. When the other molecules.
pumped through the culture, they started clinical $30,000 system The system
trials for a system shines IR light on locates antigens
could also create early versions of red that uses an arm, tissue by exposing them
blood cells. The proposed system, the ultraviolet light reflects the light to antibodies,
size of a few household refrigerators, and vitamin B-2 to while veins do not. which bond to the
would weekly churn out about 100 zap viruses, An image of the bugs and change
bacteria and veins is then their reaction to
units (7.5 ounces each) of universal- parasites in projected onto the electric fields
donor type o-negative blood. donated blood. donors arm. created by lasers.
PhOtOgraPhS by gEtty IMagES

todays special operations boats owe their legacy to small gunboats of the past.
In 1967, PM illuminated the experiences of Vietnam Swift boat skippers with a
first-person account from Lt. j.g. jim Stephens. For days at a time, his crew spent
time hours patrolling down the coastline, checking out 30-ft Vietnamese fishing boats and
Machine engaging in firefights with enemies on shore. todays black-op boats (see Smoke on the
j U Ly 1 9 6 7 Water, page 78) do not patrol but instead deliver and extract Special Forces. com-
manders say the crews in Iraq have been involved in the largest riverine gunfights since
Vietnam, and some tactics and weapons are holdovers from that war. Every year,
special ops boat crews host a reunion for their Vietnam-era trailblazers. Allie Haake

18 March 2009 | POPUL arMEchaNIcS.cOM PhotograPh by Tom schierliTz

The Colors Within a decade, windows may provide more than just a
viewthey could generate electricity. A group of MIT researchers
of Clean has formed a company to market color-coated glass or plastic
Power plates with solar cells around the edges that they say could
A new upgrade for increase the efficiency of existing solar panels by as much as 50
photovoltaic cells percent. The Organic Solar Concentrator prevents light from
could make solar being wasted by guiding photons with organic-dye-tinted plates,
t e c h w a t c h

power a cheaper layered so that each subsequent plate absorbs a longer

energy alternative. wavelength. The dyes direct some photons to solar cells at the
edges, while light at longer wavelengths continues to the next
By amber fields
pane. The company, Covalent Solar, hopes to sell the panels
within three years, but has to perfect dyes that remain stable for
more than a few months. If it succeeds, stand-alone panels could
be passand your living room skylight might pay for itself.

Todays solar concentrators turn to track the sun; tomorrows could fit in a window.

Fluid Situation
A pM panel highlights the
c h a l l e n g e s a t h i r s t y n at i o n
m u s t fa c e .

As the new president takes office

promising hundreds of billions in
infrastructure spending, water systems
should be a priority, according to a
panel on conservation convened by
Popular Mechanics in November. Smart
policies require accurate information:
Here are insights gleaned from the
discussion. (For PMs suggestions for
the new administration, see Americas
To-Do List, page 42.)
Tech that saves
water includes an 1 An American home uses three times as much water to
inland desaliniza- generate electricity as it sends down its drains, said William
tion plant in Texas Its an energy Horak, who leads Brookhaven National Laboratorys energy
(above), a green problem. water research initiative. Water-cooled power plants withdraw
roof in Chicago and up to 50,000 gal for each megawatt-hour produced. Air-cooled
front-loading power plants are far more water-efficient, using only around
washing machines.
600 gal per megawatt-hour.

Climate models predict more intense storms, said panelist

P h o t o g r a p h b y r e d u x pi c t u r es ( g r een r oo f )
Joan Rose, the co-director of the Center for Water Sciences at
Global warming Michigan State University. Heavy precipitation can overload
isnt just about drainage and sewage systems. Researchers estimate that up
droughts in the to 20 percent more untreated sewage will enter the Great
Southwest. Lakes as the climate warms. Steps such as porous concrete,
green roofs and improved sewer design can help.

Desalination takes a huge amount of energy, but so does

transporting fresh water, said Mark Shannon, the director of
We may need the Center of Advanced Materials for Purification of Water
desalination. with Systems. Desalination is usually for coastal regions. But
El Paso, Texas, now runs the worlds biggest inland desalina-
tion plant to treat brackish supplies. In Florida, rising sea levels
could contaminate groundwater, also requiring desalination.

On The Web > For more details about the water panel
and other PM conferences, go to

20 march 2009 | P O P U L ARM E CHA N I C S . C O M

Gear + Tools + Toys

noisy fans.

A laptop-like
power supply
saves space
and prevents

game-Frame Computer
gamers who want turbocharged machines are used to making The side of the
tradeoffspower typically comes at the expense of price and portability. case swings
open for easy
The HP Firebird with VoodooDNA, which starts at $1799, is small access to
enough to tote to LaN parties (its chassis is about a quarter the size of its upgradable
predecessors), but powerful enough for fast-paced fragging (three graphics components.
cards ensure rapid-fire rendering). The secret: a creative mixture of
desktop and high-powered laptop-size components. SETH PORGES

PhotograPh by kyoko hamada POPUL ARMECHANICS.COM | MARCH 2009 23

u P g r a d e

wish list

card-carrying player
MP3 players arent cheap, but if youre
downloading from online music stores,
well, thats when the bills really add up.
The SanDisk Sansa slotRadio Player
($100) comes bundled with a micro SD
card filled with 1000 songs (additional
genre-specific 1000-song cards go for
$40 a pop). Sadly, theres a catch:
The songs are saddled with DRM
software that keeps you from copying
them to your other devices.

Because in-ear headphones block external sound, users dont need to

crank up the volume to hear their music over noisy surroundings. But a
decent pair can be costly, typically running $100 or more. The Acoustibuds
Earphone Adaptors ($13) are a cheaper means to the same end. These
silicone adaptors snap onto the end of almost any ear bud, frankensteining
it into an in-ear headphone. In tests they were surprisingly comfortable,
did a fine job of blocking outside noise and kept our slip-prone buds
situated firmly in our ears.

Most voltage detectors speak in binary languagethey let

users know if theres a current or not but dont divulge how
much juice there is. The noncontact Greenlee Adjustable
Voltage Detector ($17) features an adjustable dial that
allows users to tune its sensitivity from as low as 5 volts to
as high as 1000 volts (a range that far exceeds the single
setting on most voltage detectors).

24 march 2009 | popUL

Duct tapes versatility is almost a clich tapes? We pit the standby against three chal-
abusive weve seen it used for everything from wallet lengers, testing each tapes tensile strength,
Lab Test construction to hull repair to, well, patching the tenacity of its adhesive and how it worked
ducts. But can it beat newfangled multiuse after a week underwater. Harry SaWyErS

u P g r a d e


WINNER of all three tests

wish list

NaShua WatER-
pRoofINg tapE
Forms an instant water-
proof bond. $9 for 11 yd

+ Sturdiness
Nashua turned in the
weakest showing: 15
pounds caused the
tape to snap.
tRaNSpaRENt + Stickiness
Duct tapE Held the wires for a
Lasts six times longer week without budging.
than other heavy-duty
tapes. $6 for 20 yd + Water resistance
The bond survived the
+ Sturdiness drown test, but for
Broke under 35 pounds some reason this one
of weight. tape was a breeding
ground for slimeit
+ Stickiness became covered with a goRIlla tapE
Scotch multI-uSE Our test bundle of wire vile, furry growth after For the toughest
Duct tapE fell from the drywall on a single night. jobs on planet Earth.
For repairs in and the first night. $9 for 12 yd
around the house. $10
for 60 yd + Water resistance + Sturdiness
Water did little to hurt The tests champ: It
+ Sturdiness an already lackluster took 85 pounds to
We were able to stack grip. It was far too easy break the Gorillas
45 pounds of dumb- to peel the tape off of back. Yet it still tore
bells on a length of tape copper and PVC bundles easily by hand, making
before it broke. in both wet and dry for easy application.
+ Stickiness + Stickiness
Held a bundle of four The ape held its wires
12-gauge Romex in place for a week
electrical wires against then showed off by
a wall for a full week. How We Tested Sturdiness: Stacked dumbbells on a tape pinning a 3-pound
sling until it snapped. Stickiness: Stuck a bundle of four dumbbell to the wall
+ Water resistance 12-gauge wires against drywall for a week. Water resistance: over the weekend.
Water slightly loosened Submerged a bundle of tape-wrapped pipes for a week.
the tapes grip on PVC + Water resistance
and copper pipe, but it Bottom Line: Although duct tape proved capable, the clear Overall stickiness was
stuck well where it was winner was Gorilla Tape, which handily won all our tests. not compromised by a
wrapped around itself. week in the drink.

26 March 2009 | POPUL arMEchaNIcS.cOM PhotograPh By k yoko hamaDa

u P g r a d e
wish list

The Yamaha FZR WaveRunner ($12,600) is designed for one thing: extreme
speed. Its the quickest, most powerful personal watercraft on the market (it pulls
0 to 30 in 1.5 seconds, thanks to the industrys only 1812 cc four-stroke engine),
and its the first with telescoping handlebars, allowing riders to stand comfortably
for high-speed bursts, then hunch down for sharp turns.

Yes, the new Intel

Core i7 is the fast-
est PC processor
around (Intel
Test claims its 40 per-
Drive cent faster than its
wIrELESS no chip ever holds
that title for long.
Whats really
The Psyclone TouchCharge Kit ($50 to $70) purports to charge interesting is that
gaming controllers (Xbox 360, PS3 and Wii versions are the speed boost
available) without bothersome wireslay a controller on a
conductive metal pad (included) and it receives juice via a was accomplished
clamp-on battery adaptor. In practice, it worked as promised. without increasing
And even though the adaptor added a bit of bulk, game
controllers are not mobile devices that frequently fill energy consump-
pocketsso the bulge didnt bother us. Still, the best may
be yet to come: The company behind the tech told us that
tion. Similar tech-
it plans on building wire-free charging directly into nology could yield
gadgets and tabletops. We cant wait. benefits for all
kinds of gadget-
powering chips
down the line.

28 March 2009 | POPUL arMEchaNIcS.cOM

Most portable rechargeable batteries allow
you to refill the juice on only one gadget at a time.
The Callpod Fueltank ($70) doesnt force the
user to pick favoritesit has two jacks for simulta-
neous charging (and the manufacturer sells
plug attachments for virtually every gadget).
Though our tests found its battery life to fall slightly
short of the promised seven full phone charges,
we were still able to pull several cycles before
it needed a fill-up.
Theres some-
thing that just
doesnt sit right
about the new
breed of com-
pact 18-volt
drills, which
have a smaller
and lighter
battery. Take
the Hitachi
Compact Pro
Driver Drill
($190). While its
full-size 18-volt
cousin aced our
recent drill-
driver test, this
drills battery
life and power
were lacking (a
problem that
plagues similar
tools from other
PhOTOgraPh by j MUckLE/STUDIO D (POwErPack)

If size is impor-
tant, we suggest
sticking to 10.8-
and 12-volt
drivers that can
slip into a tool

The Duracell Powerpack 450 ($120) generator is best thought of as an insurance

policy: Insurance against a dead car battery (it provides audio directions on jumpstarting
your car), insurance against flat tires (it includes a 150-psi air compressor) and insurance
against emergencies and even boredom (its AC, DC and USB outlets can charge laptops,
GPS units and cellphones).

POPUL arMEchaNIcS.cOM | March 2009 29

sports car + motorcycle
microcar + hybrid

PM Test Driven

2009 Nissan 370Z

Base Price: $30,000

Zip Drive
Onlookers at a Malibu, Calif., gas station instantly noticed our
new Z. Its sharp and the interior is much improved. Gone is
that hard, frugal feel to the surfaces. Now its all properly
textured and cushioned, covered and colored. Yet its the fairly
profound mechanical updates that pique our interest. The new
332-hp 3.7-liter V6 packs enough torque to pull respon-
sively from 2000 rpm on up into sixth gear. So one need
not always downshift, or venture near the tachometer
redline, to pass a semi. But when you do, theres a vivid
rush of power. The six-speed manual now boasts downshift
rev matching. Yes, the engine management system will blip
the throttle so engine revs match wheel speedits like
your personal heel-toe downshift butler. Winfield

Nissan 370Z | Lexus RX350/450h | Toyota iQ | Mercedes-Benz A 170 | Porsche Cayman |

Pontiac G8 GXP | Harley-Davidson XR 1200 | Honda Insight | Mustang GT | Mazda3



Pontiac G8 GXP | Harley-Davidson XR 1200 | Honda Insight | Mustang GT | Mazda3

n e w c a r s

Nissan 370Z | Lexus RX350/450h | Toyota iQ | Mercedes-Benz A 170 | Porsche Cayman |


2 01 0 Lexus RX350/450h

Haptic Hybrid
The multimedia interface system in
the new Lexus RX is intuitive and
cunningly equipped with a computer-
mouse-like haptic feedback device that
2 0 1 0 Toyota iQ
greatly improves user accuracy. You
can now talk to the voice recognition
system in plain language, too. For
example, a phrase like its too hot in
Intelligent Design Toyotas hip microcar
The Toyota iQ is clever. No, scratch has an interior as
here deftly leads to the temperature that. Its got Ivy League intelligence. clean and as straight-
prompt. Even in the predecessor to forward as the
Thats the only way to describe a car
one of the most refined crossovers on exterior. We hear it
the market, there were ongoing
thats so small (9 ft 9.5 in. long), so may arrive here next
inexpensive (around $13,000) and so year as a Scion
struggles against unwanted and that could mean
noisethe new RX is dead quiet. positively packed with innovation. An a customizable
With so little distraction, the melliflu- ultraskinny 4.7-in.-thick fuel tank sits interior too.
ous tones of the 275-hp V6 can be under the floor to save room. And the
enjoyed at full song. Or you can listen tiny climate control unit uses a thinner fan to reduce noise.
to the amazing 330-watt, 15-speaker This allows the dashboard to be asymmetric, which in turn
Mark Levinson systemand have the yields more interior space. Glove box? Who needs it? The
whole New York Philharmonic sitting Euro- and Japan-only iQ has an optional canvas bag that
around you. The RX450h hybrid
pops onto the dash. The 91-hp 1.0-liter three-cylinder is
delivers 295 hp and returns 28 mpg
city and 27 highway. Driving around
tipped forward, away from the driver, to maximize cabin
the peaceful environs of Napa Valley, spaceand it roars mightily as you pull away into Milans
Calif., was more vacation than work notoriously heavy traffic. The cars diminutive size means
day. And, isnt that what driving a the 1973-pound iQ feels quicker than it is. Even the
Lexus is all about? Barry Winfield so-hip-it-hurts fashionistas gave the iQ a double take
through their sunglasses. On the autostrada, the iQ showed
that its stable, refined and comfortable even at 90 mph. But
its the 54.7 mpg thats the real payoff. andreW engliSh


2 0 0 9 Mercedes-Benz A 170 Baby Benz
In Europe, the A-Class is the tiniest Mercedes-Benz you can get. To see what were
missing, we drove a new A 170 more than 1000 miles throughout Germany, traveling
from Frankfurt to Munich, Ingolstadt and Stuttgartand back. Ours paired the 116-hp
1.7-liter four-cylinder engine with a CVT. The A-Class is shorter than a Mazda Miata, but
despite its small footprint, climbing into the A 170 sedan reveals a surprising amount of
n e w c a r s

space. Click the shifter into D and the

engine pulls smoothlyif modestlyas
revs rise. Our fuel economy varied wildly. At
its best, we eked out 39 mpg. But with the
gas pedal pegged during top-speed driving,
our average dropped to 24 mpg. Speaking
of top speeds, in the triple digits, the A 170
felt impressively secure and planted to the

road. Hey, if its good enough for the

autobahn, it should be good enough for
America. BaSem WaSef
test drives

The caymans 3.4-liter Six is

mounted amidships to maxi-
mize weight distribution.
porsches quick-shifting
seven-speed pdk gearbox
rides behind the engine.

2 0 0 9 Porsche Cayman

The Good Life

A tinkle of rain dapples the windshield of the new $60,000
Cayman S as I mash the throttle entering the motorway in
Cdiz, Spain. The 3.4-liter Six is now armed with direct fuel
2009 Pontiac
injection so its up 25 hp over last year. Plus there are bigger
brake discs and wider wheels too. Armed with these tools, we
press on. Construction mud, slimed by the light rain, keeps the OLD-SCHOOL
tires on the edge of wheelspin through the first three gears. MUSCLE
Despite this greasy pavement, the stability control keeps her
tracking straight, and the brilliant seven-speed Pontiac stuffed the 6.2-liter LS3 Corvette motor into the G8 to
create the $39,995 GXPand its a real muscle sedan. The LS3 puts
PDK encourages running flat outat least out 402 hpgood for 60 mph in 4.7 seconds. The moment you wrap
until good judgment and the fear of arrest by your hands around the beefy leather-wrapped wheel, slot the
the Guardia Civil make discretion overtake manual-shift lever into first and hit the street, you feel a rush of 1960s
valor. This sure beats the office. mike allen dj vu courtesy of the rumbling exhaust, firm ride and big torque.
Fortunately, your trip back to the 60s ends as soon as you point the
GXP at the first turn of a tight and twisty road. This one handlesand
delivers 20 mpg highway too. paTrick c. paTernie


Pontiac G8 GXP | Harley-Davidson XR 1200 | Honda Insight | Mustang GT | Mazda3
Nissan 370Z | Lexus RX350/450h | Toyota iQ | Mercedes-Benz A 170 | Porsche Cayman |

Insight vs. Prius

Lets see how

these hybrid rivals
The insights stack up. The
ecoguide glows Prius has a longer
2 0 0 9 Harley-Davidson wheelbase, which
blue when you
XR 1200 provides more rear
accelerate and
slowly changes legroom.
But both hit
Flat Tracker to green as you
ease off the gas 60 mph in about
Few motorsports are more to maximize fuel 10.5 seconds and
definitively American than economy. stop from that
speed in roughly
flat-track racingand 127 ft. At 48 mpg
Harleys 580-pound XR1200 2009 Honda Insight
city and 45 mpg
is an homage to the sport. It highway, the Prius
packs a 90-hp version of the
Sportsters 1200 cc V-twin
Smart Moves has the edge in
EPA fuel-economy
The original Insight wasnt a sales success. figures, but after
and a more aggressive 200 miles around
suspension. Climb aboard The reason? Too few doors. But its back, Phoenix, the
and you just might feel a bit wearing more practical, five-door duds. This is Insight deliv-
one hybrid thats actually fun to drive. Electric ered 42.4 mpg
nostalgic. Firing up this bike compared to 41.1
produces a familiar Harley power comes from a 13-hp motor sand- for the Prius. The
snarl, and the engines wiched between the engine and CVT. That Insight feels sport-
vibrations remind you this ier and itll be a
motor assists the 88-hp 1.3-liter gas engine. few grand cheaper
isnt an over-engineered A 0.6-kilowatt-hour nickel-metal-hydride too. The Insight
superbike. Slowly let out the battery pack resides in a well between the winsthis time.
clutch, twist the throttle and An all-new Prius
rear wheelssaving valuable trunk space. is just around the
the $10,799 XR1200
The steering feels natural and the low-rolling- corner. l.W.
accelerates with authority.
Its a surprisingly comfort- resistance tires offer reasonable grip and
able place to spend several response. We also dig the Insights EcoGuide, which can score
hours. This Hog may not be drivers on their frugal right foot. Honda expects the Insight to
the nimblest bike on the return 40 mpg city and 43 highway. Some of the interior
road, but its certainly fun to surfaces, like the rock-hard optional center armrest, feel a little
ride on twisty tarmac. low-rent. But most of the car outperforms its $20,000 price. The
BaSem WaSef cabin is roomy and quiet; the folding rear seats combine with the
hatchback to offer 31.5 cu ft of space. This
Insight is poised to give the Prius some
serious competition. larry WeBSTer
201 0 Mustang GT Rebirth of the Cool +
The new Mustang may look a bit like the old one, but from the drivers seat you PM TEST
can feel the difference. The V6 model remains largely unchanged under the hood. +
But the 4.6-liter V8 in the $27,995 GT benefits from a ram-air intake system that
boosts hp to 315 and is paired to a five-speed manual or automatic. Hop in and

Pontiac G8 GXP | Harley-Davidson XR 1200 | Honda Insight | Mustang GT | Mazda3

you notice the tighter interior panel fit, especially the soft, molded instrument
n e w c a r s

Nissan 370Z | Lexus RX350/450h | Toyota iQ | Mercedes-Benz A 170 | Porsche Cayman |

panel. Its quieter too. So quiet, that signature V8 rumble is actually piped into the
cabin via a tube from the new cold-air intake. Engineers tuned out the jittery
rear-end motions caused by rough pavement, and the steering has a heftier, more
direct feel. Even on 19-in. wheels, the ride is compliant. Tackling the tight, twisty
roller-coaster Streets of Willow race circuit in Rosamond, Calif., demonstrated the
benefits of the 3.73 rear axle and the Track Pack over the standard setup. The
extra mechanical advantage from the higher gear ratio adds up to more fun. And
in a Mustang, fun is what matters most. paTrick c. paTernie
test drives

The body may

be new, but as
before, the
mustang is avail-
able as a coupe,
a glass-roof
coupe or our 201 0 Mazda3 Head of the Class
springtime The Mazda3 is simply the most entertaining car in its class and has the refinement
favoritea full
convertible. to match. Engineers doubled the percentage by weight of high-strength steel.
That lowered the structures weight by 24 pounds and increased bending rigidity.
The interior of any car is as much a part of the driving experience as the chassis.
And the soft-touch plastic here feels expensive. Even the base 148-hp model
equipped with a five-speed manual is eager, with a delightfully accurate shifter.
The 2900-pound Mazda attacked the curves of L.A.s Topanga Canyon with surpris-
ing tenacity, hanging on long past the point where we expected it to drift. The 167-hp
2.5-liter version is much the sameexcept everything happens
quicker. It is remarkably smooth, and the steering provides plenty of
feedback without heavy effort. Not bad for around $20,000. l.W.


J A Y L E N O S G A r A G E

In the 1930s, engineer,

mechanic and driver Ab Jenkins
S p i r i t o f t h e S a lt set endurance-race records in
this streamlined and sponsor-
decal-free Mormon Meteor III.
> b y J ay L e n o

> P H oTo G R a P H S b y J o H n L a m m

avid Abbott Ab Jenkins was one of americas almost from birth, they could pick
least known motorsports heroes. he spent years up something and go, this is off by
setting long-distance speed records on the Bonne- a few thousandths of an inch here.
ville Salt flats, beginning back in 1932. that was ab wanted to be a good role model
decades before the Southern California timing for those kids. So he always drank
association, which runs todays Bonneville Speed milk. he didnt touch liquor, caf-
Week, sanctioned racing there. ab was a motor- feine or drugs. ab Jenkins was a Mor-
sports pioneer. mon, and his car was aptly named
in the early years, Bonneville had a 10-mile cir- the Mormon Meteor.
cular track, so racers could run 12, 24 or even 48 abs Mormon Meteor ties together
hoursstopping only to refuel. there wasnt two great elements of american
much sponsorship in those days. if you got a case automotive history: Bonneville and
of motor oil it was like, hey, i got some free oil! the Duesenberg brothers. abs
Years ago, an average guy could build a land-speed Meteor, a 1935 Duesenberg Special,
car in his garage and go set a record. had a streamlined body and a super-
like other racers of his era, ab raced for the love charged 420-cu-in. straight eight
long Before of the sporthe did it all himself. Not only was he that developed around 400 hp. on
the driver, but he had to be the engineer, the r&D his third attempt in the Mormon
guyand he had to build the car too. he knew when Meteor, ab beat British racer John
racing pioneer
aB Jenkins it broke, knew when it was running perfectly, and Cobbs record, averaging 135.58
raced for love he could drive it for 24 hours straight at 160 mph. mph for 24 hours.
of the sport. ab had that great all-american-boy stuff of the of course, ab wanted to go even
1930s. today we have kids who are almost inher- faster, so he got a Curtiss Con-
ently computer whizzes. in abs day, there was a querer aircraft enginea 1570-cu-
generation of boys who were mechanically adept. in. V12 that put out 750 hp. augie


Duesenberg designed a new bell- dUrinG a cockPit fire, ab was rescUed by
housing and flywheel to replace the His son, Marvin. a few weeks later, He broke
old propeller drive. Working with
abs son, Marvin, augie oversaw the
tHe 12-HoUr endUrance record.
V12s installation. they changed the
cars name to the Mormon Meteor
ii. and in the summer of 1936, ab
averaged 164.47 mph for 500 kilo-
meters (about 310 miles), breaking sense engineering. the Meteor iiis amazingly, some of abs records are
the record of British driver George body was offset 6 in. on its chassis, still standing. in 1943 he sold the
eyston. With Babe Stapp as his relief because the records were run in huge Meteor to the state of Utah for $1. he
driver, ab averaged 153.82 mph for circles for hours and hours. imagine could have sold it to make money, but
24 hours, and stayed in the car to do driving in a circle for 24 hours straight he donated it because he loved his
148.64 mph for an amazing 48 at over 170 mph. people get exhausted state. periodically hed borrow it to
hours. in 1937, with indy winner today driving from los angeles to San set more records. today its the star of
louis Meyer co-driving, ab averaged francisco with the air conditioner the forthcoming John price Museum
157.27 mph over 3700 miles in the and all the other stuff on. of Speed in Salt lake City.
Meteor to break his own record. in July 1939 ab had been running recently, i had a chance to start
But the Curtiss V12 was too heavy the Meteor iii with a huge tail fin for up the Meteor. it fires up like an old
for the Duesenberg chassis and the added stability for 3 hours at over 171 carif you were born after 1980 you
car understeered at high speeds, so mph. Suddenly, a fire caused by an may not understand. You turn the
ab had augie design a new chassis. overfilled fuel tank engulfed the car. key of a car today, and theres no
this car became the more stream- locked in the cockpit, ab was res- sense of warmup or waiting for
lined Mormon Meteor iii. in those cued by Marvin, who pried off the things to settle in; you just go. But
days, streamlining was whatever you canopy. Just a few weeks later, still theres a mechanical sensitivity to
thought it was. Nobody was testing in recovering from his burns, ab old cars. You start em and, as the
wind tunnels. it was all just common- climbed back in the Meteor iii and cylinders kick in one by one, they go,
broke all the 12-hour PUHPUHPUHPUHooommmmpuhpuh-
endurance records. puh! You give it a little gas and ease
talk about an ironman! the choke back in to keep it from
long-distance run- stalling and maintain that mixture
ning at high speed is a exactly where it should be. theres a
lonely business. it great sense of mechanicalness to it.
doesnt have the glam- although i only drove the Meteor
our and the glitz of a few hundred yards, it went GUH-
nose-to-nose competi- GUHGUHGUH, and i could feel the
tion. Guys who do this tremendous thrust. engines now are
sport toil in obscurity. more efficient, and they make more
power, but theres nothing like those
big displacement engines for torque.
You let the gas out, the car leaps for-
ward and you say, Geez, i didnt do
anything. Youre moving a lot of
The Meteors metal here. Just to turn this thing, id
interior doesnt
think your arms would achebut
look like a comfy youre mechanically involved.
place to spend its not unlike my watch. at the
24 hours straight
at record-setting end of an evening, i like to pick it up
triple-digit and turn the mainspring. it just goes
speeds. But clickclickclickclickits a very satisfy-
thats exactly
what Ab Jenkins ing click. and i feel like ive done
didmany times. something. You either get a kick out
Think todays
Corvette ZR1 is
of that or you dont. ab Jenkins
impressive? The would like my watch. PM
Meteors Curtiss
Conquerer V12
produced 750 hp.
O n T h e W e b > Want to hear this car
run? Visit


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If you own a car,

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in hardcover wherever books are sold.

A m e r i c a s t o - d o l i s t
> b y j a m e s b . m e i g s
> i l l u s t r at i o n b y i a n k i m

he Obama team enters office with perhaps the thorn-
iest agenda of any administration in memory: manag- fas t fi xe s for U. S.
pro b l e m s w i t h
ing two wars, rebuilding tattered infrastructureand
diesel fuel, flood
coping with a world-class economic crisis.
p o l i c y, m i l i tary
However, just like a homeowner moving into a new pro c ure m e n t, t h e
house, the administration needs to do some work gr i d an d n as a.
immediately, while other jobs can be postponed. And
then there are a few tasks so obviousand affordable
that tackling them immediately is a no-brainer. To help
the administration get started, here are five relatively
simple policy changes to implement right away. plan should equalize those tax rates
and stop punishing diesel owners.
S u pp o r t
Clean Diesel Reform flood
What alternative fuel could cut total consumption by the U.S. passenger vehicle Policies
fleet by up to 35 percent and slash CO2 emissions while requiring no techno- Its a double-barreled problem:
logical breakthroughs and few changes in infrastructure? Its not plug-in Some 37 million Americans have
hybrids or biofuels. It certainly isnt hydrogen. The answer is regular old diesel. moved to the nations shorelines
Well, actually, its the ultra-low-sulfur diesel that has made a fresh generation since 1980, just as hurricanes have
of clean, ultraefficient engines possible. In a recent PM test, VWs Jetta TDI die- become more destructive. Unfortu-
sel delivered more than 45 mpg on the highway. Thats better than a Prius. nately, our current policies make
For decades, diesel generally cost a bit less than gasoline. But since 2004, it matters worse. The Stafford Act
has been more expensiveat times, a lot more. Thats hardly an incentive for empowers the president to declare
people to go out and buy diesel cars. Some of the disparity is due to the cost of an emergency and open a floodgate
converting refineries to make the cleaner fuel. But federal excise taxes also hurt; of money to rebuild the roads, sew-
they run 6 cents per gallon higher for diesel than for gasoline. Any new energy ers and bridges of storm-damaged

42 march 2009 | P O P U L ARM E CHA N I C S . C O M

coastal communities. Resi-
dents who are frequently
hit by hurricanes deserve
the nations sympathy, and
perhaps even help in relo-
cating. But theres no rea-
son for taxpayers to keep
rebuilding infrastructure
at enormous costthat
only encourages people to
remain in harms way.
An egregious example is
Dauphin Island, Ala.a
small island in the Gulf of
Mexico jammed with vaca-
tion homeswhich the
United States has repeatedly
restored, at a total cost of
about $80 million. (The g-
ure doesnt include outlays
to residents from the simi-
larly misguided National
Flood Insurance Program.)
If we werent rebuilding
road access to places like
Dauphin Island every few
years, the land wouldnt be
so desirable, says Robert
Young, director of the Pro-
gram for the Study of Devel-
oped Shorelines at Western
Carolina University. Given
our shared economic dis-
tress today, its simply not
fair to make taxpayers foot
the bill every time a hurri-
cane wipes out some luxury
vacation enclave. By phas-
ing out the program, we
could slow the overdevelop-
ment of fragile coastlines
and reduce our vulnerabil-
ity to future disasters.

When it comes to finding
places to cut waste, the Pen-
tagon is a target-rich envi-
ronment. Heres a good
place to start: the high-tech,
$160 billion Future Combat
Systems program that was a
darling of former defense
secretary Donald Rumsfeld.
FCS incorporates some
great technology, like the
retail priceso the utilities dont landing. We can do better. Manned
P U B L I C I N T E R E S T / / / prot when they pass that power on spaceight is widely supported by the
A M E R I C A S T O - D O L I S T
to other consumers. Thats okay public and is fueled by a basic Ameri-
today, when the amounts of electric- can optimism and drive toward explo-
robots and surveillance drones that ity involved are tiny, but its not sus- ration. But lets make sure we spend
American forces have embraced in tainable. Imagine a day when much our travel budget wisely.
the eld. But many FCS items should of the power in the grid did come President Obama should convene
be cutin particular, the manned from households. Under current a task force to hammer out alterna-
ground vehicles program. Todays rules, utility revenues would drop just tive visions for our future in space.
Abrams tanks and Strykers are get- when the system needed expensive Like all big bureaucracies, NASA is
ting the job done, and the FCSs upgrades to manage good at protecting
advanced mobile artillery is not our a more complex ow its budgets. We need
troops most urgent need. In fact, the of energy. What a few outsiders to
program fails a simple standard for incentive would utili- come in and break
judging any weapons system: Does it ties have to improve some crockery. The
enhance the intelligence, capability the grid if the work panel must include
and safety of our forces? These vehi- only served to drive non-NASA experts:
cles dont, and they should go. down prots? space scientists like
In the short term, University of Arizo-
SUPPORT DISTRIBUTED President Barack Obama can help by nas Peter Smith and private-space-
P O W E R G E N E R AT I O N proposing a single national standard ight visionaries like Burt Rutan.
Who says power has to come from for net metering. Then, we need to Here are some items for the panel
power plants? Almost everyone likes set realistic rates for the electricity to consider. First, we should keep
the idea of homes using their own that homes and businesses feed moving forward on the new Ares
solar panels or wind turbines to gen- back into the grida wholesale launch vehicles. With the space shut-
erate electricity. And state net meter- price, in effect. Electric companies tle scheduled for long-overdue retire-
ing rules encourage homeowners to could then evolve into grid managers, ment in 2010, we need the Ares
get involved by crediting their electric not only producing power but also heavy-lift capability. Then, lets stop
bills for the power they supply to the adeptly juggling contributions from adding to the International Space
grid. In the long run, net metering thousands of clean sources. Stationit was a bad investment and
can help reduce our reliance on dirty we should move on. Next, outsource
coal-power plants, and make the grid REBOOT cargo-hauling missions in low Earth
more resistant to blackouts. NASA orbit to private contractors. Finally,
But the rules need work. They vary With taxpayers struggling, its going leave the moon to China, India and
by state, confusing homeowners and to be hard to justify pouring billions private space ventures. While others
discouraging them from investing in into returning to a lump of rock weve literally follow in our footsteps, we
equipment. Also, the plans usually already visited. But right now, NASAs should aim higher, building a long-
compel power companies to buy elec- main goal seems to be replaying the term base on an asteroidand laying
tricity from homeowners at the full greatest hit of the Apollo era, a moon the groundwork for travel to Mars. FC

Forget biopsies
a device designed
by researchers
at the University
of California
Los Angeles
detects oral
cancer from a
single drop of
saliva. Proteins
that are associ-
By Melinda Wenner 20 bREaKTHRougHS ated with cancer
cells react with
Diagrams by Sinelab THaT bluR THE lINE dyes on the
bETwEEN bIology aND sensor, emitting
fluorescent light
TEcHNologyTo HElp that can be
RESToRE, ImpRoVE aND detected with a
ExTEND ouR lIVES. Engineer
Chih-Ming Ho
notes that the
same principle
could be applied
to make saliva-
based diagnostic
tests for many

1 Artificial
Lymph Nodes
Fighting Pacemaker
Microbes Scientists from Japans RIKEN Institute
Bacteria living on
have developed artificial versions of pacemakers save
teeth convert lymph nodes, organs that produce lives, but use
sugar into lactic immune cells for fighting infections. hardware that
acid, which erodes Though they could one day replace eventually wears
enamel and diseased nodes, the artificial ones out. Now,
causes tooth researchers
decay. Florida- may initially be used as customized at several
based company immune boosters. Doctors could fill universities are
ONI BioPharma the nodes with cells specifically developing a
has engineered a geared to treat certain conditions, batteryless
new bacterial alternative:
strain, called
such as cancer or HIV. pacemaker genes
SMaRT, that expressed in
cannot produce stem cells that

lactic acidplus, it are injected into
releases an
antibiotic that kills
the natural
Asthma Sensor
asthma accounts for a quarter of all emergency room
damaged regions
of the heart.
Better suited for
physical exertion,
strain. Dentists visits in the u.S., but a sensor developed at the univer- biological
will only need to sity of pittsburgh may finally cause that number to pacemakers have
swab SMaRT, now plummet. Inside the handheld device, a polymer-coated been shown to
in clinical trials, bring slow canine
onto teeth once to carbon nanotube100,000 times thinner than a human hearts back up to
keep them healthy hairanalyzes breath for minute amounts of nitric speed without
for a lifetime. oxide, a gas that lungs produce prior to asthma attacks. complications.


Smart Contact Lens
6 Glaucoma, the second-leading cause of blindness, develops
Prosthetic when pressure builds inside the eye and damages retinal
cells. Contact lenses developed at the University of
Feedback CaliforniaDavis contain conductive wires that continu-
ously monitor pressure and fluid flow within the eyes of
one challenge of at-risk people. The lenses then relay information to a small
prosthetic limbs is device worn by the patient; the device wirelessly transmits

that theyre difficult it to a computer. This constant data flow will help doctors
better understand the causes of the disease. Future lenses
to monitor. you may also automatically dispense drugs in response to
and I sense where pressure changes. Speech Restorer
our limbs are For people who have lost the
spatially without ability to talk, a new phonetic
having to look at speech engine from
Illinois-based Ambient
them, whereas Corporation provides an
amputees dont, audible voice. Developed in
says Stanford conjunction with Texas
university graduate Instruments, the Audeo uses
electrodes to detect neuronal
student Karlin bark. signals traveling from the
Skin is sensitive to brain to the vocal cords.
being stretchedit Patients imagine slowly
can detect even sounding out words; then the
small changes in quarter-size device (located in
a neck brace) wirelessly
direction and transmits those impulses to a
intensityso bark computer or cellphone, which
is developing a produces speech.
device that
stretches an
amputees skin
near the
prosthesis in
ways that Absorbable
provide Heart Stent
feedback Stents open arteries
about that have become
the limbs narrowed or blocked
position and because of coronary
movement. artery disease. Drug-
eluting stents release
medication that keeps
the artery from narrow-
ing again. The bio-
absorbable version
made by abbott labora-
tories in Illinois goes
one step further: unlike
metal stents, it does its
job and disappears.
after six months the
stent begins to dissolve,
and after two years its
completely gone,
leaving behind a
healthy artery.
Muscle Stimulator
In the time it takes for broken
bones to heal, nearby muscles
often atrophy from lack of use.
Israeli company StimuHeal
solves that problem with the
myoSpare, a battery-operated
device that uses electrical
stimulatorssmall enough to
be worn underneath caststo
exercise muscles and keep
them strong during recovery.

Nerve fibers cant grow along injured
spinal cords because scar tissue gets in
the way. A nanogel developed at
Northwestern University eliminates that
impediment. Injected as a liquid, the
nanogel self-assembles into a scaffold of
nanofibers. Peptides expressed in the
fibers instruct stem cells that would
normally form scar tissue to produce cells
that encourage nerve development. The
scaffold, meanwhile, supports the growth
of new axons up and down the spinal cord.

Stabilizing Insoles
When Erez Liebermans grandmother suffered a
dangerous fall, he wanted to ensure it never happened
again. But it wasnt till a few years later at NASA that I
found a way to channel that into something tangible,
says the MIT graduate student. Using technology
developed to monitor the balance of astronauts who
have just returned from space, Liebermans iShoe
analyzes the pressure distribution of the feet. Doctors
can use the insole to diagnose balance problems in
elderly patients before falls occur.

13 california-based proteus biomedical has engineered sensors that

Smart Pill track medication use by recording the exact time drugs are
ingested. Sand-grain-size microchips emit high-frequency electrical
currents that are logged by band-aidlike receivers on the skin. The
receivers also monitor heart rate and respiration and wirelessly
transmit the data to a computer. To really improve pharmaceuti-
cals, we need to do what is now common in every other industry
embed digital technology into existing products and network them,
says David oReilly, senior vice president of corporate development.


14 19
Autonomous Wheelchair Walking
MIT researchers
have developed an
listening as a
patient identifies
GPS). The current
model, which is Simulator
autonomous locationssuch as now being tested, Stroke victims
wheelchair that this is my room may one day be are being tricked
can take people or were in the equipped with into recovering
where they ask to kitchenand cameras, laser more quickly with
go. The chair builds maps using rangefinders a virtual-reality
learns about its Wi-Fi, which works and a collision- rehabilitation
environment by well indoors (unlike avoidance system. program
developed at the
University of
Portsmouth in

Britain. As
15 patients walk on
Liner a treadmill, they
see moving
Obesity is associated with type II diabetes, which over time wears out the pancreas. images that fool
A gastrointestinal liner developed by Massachusetts-based GI Dynamics may restore their brains into
the obese to a healthy weight by preventing food from contacting the intestinal wall. thinking they are
The Endobarrier is routed endoscopically through the mouthunlike a gastric bypass, walking slower
no surgery is necessaryand lines the first 2 ft of the small intestine, where the most than they are. As
calories are absorbed (nutrients are still absorbed farther down the intestine). a result, patients

not only walk
faster and farther,

but experience
less pain while
17 doing so.

Adhesive 20
Liver Scanner gecko feet are Rocket-
How healthy is your covered with Powered Arm
liver? Until recently,
answering that
nano-size hairs
question often that exploit

required a painful
biopsy. French forces, allowing
company EchoSens the lizards to

has developed a
machine that scans stick firmly to
the organ for damage surfaces. by
in just 5 minutes. replicating this
Studies have shown nanoscale
that damaged livers
become stiffer and
topography, Adding strength to
less elastic, so the mIT scientists prosthetic limbs has
scanner, called the have developed typically required bulky
Fibroscan, measures an adhesive battery packs. Vanderbilt
the organs elasticity that can seal University scientist
using ultrasound. Michael Goldfarb came up
wounds or with an alternative power
patch a hole source: rocket propellant.
caused by a Goldfarbs prosthetic arm

stomach ulcer.
The adhesive is
elastic, water-
can lift 20 poundsthree
to four times more than
current prosthetics
thanks to a pencil-size
More than 15 million adult Americans suffer from diseases of proof and version of the mono-
the kidneys, which often impair the ability of the organs to made of propellant rocket-motor
remove toxins from the blood. Standard dialysis involves three material that system used to maneuver
long sessions at a hospital per week. But an artificial kidney the space shuttle in orbit.
developed by Los Angelesbased Xcorporeal can clean blood
breaks down Hydrogen peroxide
around the clock. The machine is fully automated, battery- as the injury powers the arm for 18
operated, waterproof and, at less than 5 pounds, portable. heals. hours of normal activity.


Stephenville residents re-enact responses to bizarre lights seen above their central-Texas
town in January 2008 and again in October and November.
cover Story

What Were the speed-shifting, color-morphing Ufos that

mystified hUndreds of eyeWitnesses aroUnd stephenville,
texas, last janUary? optical illUsions? secret military
operations? alien spaceships? pm investigates.


phil patton davin coburn, erin

mccarthy, joe pappalardo
and erik Sofge

"It was the most beautIful sunset I'd ever seen," says steve allen,
who has seen 50 years of sunsets in central Texas. Thats what I first thought.
It was Jan. 8, 2008, and the trucking entrepreneur was sitting around a fire out-
side the Selden, Texas, home of Mike Odom, his friend since first grade. Then he
saw the lightsorbs that glowed at first, then began to flash. There was no regular
pattern to the flashing, he says. They lined up horizontally, seven of them, then
changed into an arch. They lined up vertically, and I saw two rectangles of bright
flame.Thats when I knew it was a life-changing experience. He watched the lights

March 2009


PhOTOgraPhS: Stephanie de rouge

DIagraMS: dogo
PagE P M I N v E S T I g aT E S : March 2009


drift north toward Stephenville, the seat the eyewitneSSeS

of Erath County. They came back a few
minutes later, Allen says, this time
followed by two jetsF-16s, I think.
Allen, who owns and flies a Cessna, has
seen plenty of military planes over the
years. The jets looked like they were
chasing the lights, and the lights
seemed to be toying with them. It was
like a 100-hp car trying to keep up with
Steve Allen
trucking Company
a 1000-hp one. Owner
Odom also saw the lights and called
to his wife, Claudette, who came out-
the flashing lights
side in time to see the second display.
lined up horizontally,
When Allen returned home, he phoned seven of them, then
friends at the local airport who checked changed into an
with the Fort Worth airport tower. Both arch. they lined up
said nothing was flying, Allen says. vertically, and i saw
That night, James Huse, a former Air two rectangles of
Force navigation specialist, was in bright flame. it was
downtown Stephenville saying good- a life-changing
night to a couple of friends. Out of the experience.
corner of my eye I saw two red orbs mov-
ing overhead, he says, the reddest
things Id ever seen in the sky. They
came right in front of me at 2000 ft
about half a mile away. They werent
going that fast, maybe 60 mph. They
didnt make any noise.
Outside Dublin, about 15 miles
southwest of Stephenville, Constable
Lee Roy Gaitan finished eating a slice of
his wifes birthday cake, then headed
out to his patrol car to get his wallet so
his family could watch Mr. Bean on pay
per view. Thats when he saw the lights.
First, I saw a yellow-red orb the color of
lava in a volcano, he says. Then,
instead of the red orbs, there were nine
or 10 flashing lights maybe 3000 ft in
the air, bouncing and very bright. They
hovered there, strobing for 2 or 3 min-
utes, bright like German auto head-
lights. Then they shot off at blazing
speed like a school of fish, you know,
when its frightened. Later, Gaitan
says, two jets flew over.
The next day Allen called Angelia
Joiner, a reporter at the Stephenville
Empire-Tribune, and told his story. The

photographs by stephanie De rouge

lee ROy GAitAn
Constable (left)
first, i saw a yellow-red orb the color of lava in a volcano.
then there were nine or 10 flashing lights at maybe
3000 ft in the air, bouncing and very bright.

JAmeS HuSe
Retired (far right)
i saw two red orbs
moving overheadthe
reddest things id ever
seen in the sky. they
came right in front of me
at 2000 ft about half a
mile away. they werent
going that fast; maybe 60
mph. they didnt make
any noise.

mAC mCKinnOn
i saw a very bright
light in the sky that
was very high. it
never moved. it
wasnt a star, wasnt
a plane. i believe that
all people are seeing
is some kind of
military experiment.

paper published Joiners piece Sightings, wrote Are TV crew on one side of me and report-
Possible UFO Sightingon Jan. 10. It UFOs Invading Texas? asked Texas ers on the other.
was the first of her numerous articles Monthly. UFOs Put Stephenville in The Stephenville sightings had all the
about the lights. On Jan. 11, Joiner World Spotlight, said the Fort Worth elements of a classic UFO incidentfirst
called Maj. Karl Lewis, public affairs Star-Telegram. CNN showed up, along reports, official denials, independent
officer of the 301st Fighter Wing at the with ABC, the BBC and other TV crews witnesses stepping forward. The Texas
Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base Fort from as far away as Japan. So did Bill dairy town of 17,000 with the statue of a
Worth (formerly Carswell Air Force Base OReilly and Larry King. A longtime UFO cow in the main square had joined
and now used by all the services). Lewis fan, King devoted a segment to Stephen- Roswell, Area 51 and other small places
said the base had nothing flying the ville and interviewed Gaitan and Joiner. as an iconic name in the annals of UFOs.
night of the sightings. Other nearby Jake and Dorothys Caf, near the court-
bases issued similar denials. house square, became a favored jour-
It all added up to the most dramatic nalist hangout. One day I went into on the december nIght I drIve
UFO incident in more than a decade. Jake and Dorothys for coffee, the way I from Dallas to Stephenville, the moon
Texas Town Abuzz Over Dozens of UFO always do, Huse says, and there was a is in congruence with Venus and Jupiter:
an f-16 banks after ejecting a string of flares designed to fool antiaircraft missiles.
The military does not discuss details of flares for fear of betraying decoy strategies.

PagE on further review ...

military flareS

The two planets and crescent suggest a

flags heraldic pattern. By the end of the
evening, the sinking moon is huge and
orange, like a Ferris-wheel-size slice of
cantaloupe hung in the trees.
The illusion that the moon is bigger
near the horizon is just one of the tricks
our eyes play on us when we observe
objects in the heavens. Humanity has
long infused these mysterious shapes
and lights with portents and meanings
interpreted according to the cultural
notions of the day. The star-related dei-
ties of the Egyptians, the godlike comets
of the Greeks, the mysterious shapes in
the skies of Renaissance frescoesall
were forerunners of flying saucers. The
tendency to believe in the paranormal
appears to be there from the beginning, an f-16 banks after ejecting a string of flares designed to fool antiaircraft missiles.
Christopher Bader, a Baylor University The military does not discuss details of flares for fear of betraying decoy strategies.
sociologist, told LiveScience. What
claimed that no told the Arizona
changes is the content. Few people
warplanes were in Republic, so he
believe in fairies and elves these days. the area. Two started to puke
But as belief in fairies faded, other months later, them out, one after
beliefs, such as belief in UFOs, emerged officials from another. Illumina-
to take its place. Davis-Monthan air tion flares on
There is no dispute that UFOs exist force Base near parachutes form
Tucson cited a long-lasting shapes
that is, objects flying through the sky
I t was the biggest logbook error and in the sky, but other
that are unidentified. (In fact, one in UfO sighting in confirmed that airplane flares act
seven Americans say they have seen years, witnessed by Maryland air much differently.
UFOs.) But that, of course, does not thousands of National guard a-10 Decoy flares spoof
mean they are ships from a distant gal- Phoenix residents pilots completing a the sensors of
a string of bright training exercise antiaircraft missiles.
axy. We humans tend to leap to conclu-
lights that appeared ejected leftover Infrared decoys form
sions, imagining alien spacecraft while illumination flares heat signatures that
around 10 pm on
discounting more likely explanations. Mar. 13, 1997, near Phoenix before resemble those of
Over the centuries, the technology to before disappearing returning to base. airplanes. Since
record UFOs has evolved from marks on over the Estrella One of our guys had some missiles
clay to video clips, and the causes of mountain range. The about 10 or so left, discriminate targets
air force initially Lt. col. Ed Jones by their movement,
sightings may have changed from
comets to secret aircraft, but the psy-
chological pattern endures: It is the
Why are people who see isolated lights so
story of people projecting hopes and
fears onto objects in the sky. seeing, sure they are observing a solid UfO? The
not same reason the ancients saw figures in the
stars: a need to make sense of whats
believing around us, says Stanford ophthalmology
the mutual ufo network (mufon), professor Michael Marmor. If you see lights
that seem to form a circle, you try to fill it
which is probably the most influential
in, he says. viewing the illusion developed
organization within the highly combat- by psychologist gaetano Kanizsa in 1955
ive and suspicious UFO community, (opposite), observers think they see an intact
received so many reports about the triangle brighter than the surrounding space.

photograph by Defense imagery

March 2009 P M I N v E S T I g aT E S : PagE


Stephenville lights that the Colorado- lights; their reporter Joiner had not. She
based group set up an open hearing in left the paper to run a Web site about the
nearby Dublin, Texas, birthplace of sightings, funded by Allen. The Dublin
Dr Pepper and golfer Ben Hogan. On Citizen, however, continued to pursue
Sat., Jan. 19, some 500 people streamed the story. Publisher and editor Mac
into the 1909 brick building that is McKinnon, a former Air Force historian
home to the local Rotary Club. Every- whose office is hung with model war-
where I turned there were TV tripods, planes from his days in the service, saw
says Steve Hudgeons, a Fort Worth con- some curious lights in January. I believe
struction project manager and chief of the military has all sorts of exotic pro-
MUFONs investigations in Texas. pulsion systems and other technologies
Many people in attendance were we dont even know about, he says. He
simply curious. A few wore tinfoil caps. assigned the story to reporter Jon
But more than 200 people came forward Awbrey, who also saw lightsa triangle
to tell their stories, with some sightings with squares at the corners.
going back 30 years. Hutcheons and Awbrey put me in touch with Dublin
other MUFON investigators considered police chief Lannie Lee. In January two
about 20 reports to be substantive and of his men had taped one of the lights
The 1997 phoenix lights were actually relevant to the Jan. 8 incident and prom- using the dashboard video in their
parachute-equipped illumination flares. ised to publish a report. patrol car. He had not made the tape
On Jan. 23, 12 days after denying it public. I didnt want any notoriety to
kinematic decoys are
had planes in the air, the military be attached to the department, the
designed to fly as fast
as the warplane that reversed itself. According to a carefully mild-mannered chief says.
ejects them, at least worded press release issued by Air Force He pulls out a VHS tape and leads
briefly. Some even Reserve Command Public Affairs, Ten me to the back of the station and puts it
come with thrusters, F-16s from the 457th Fighter Squadron in the machine. On the screen, a dot
says Dennis clark, a were performing training operations appears against a black sky and begins
engineer at BaE
from 6 to 8 pm on Jan. 8 in the Brown- to dance. The camera zooms in on a
Systems. These flares wood Military Operations Area [MOA], shimmering, bouncing but otherwise
extinguish quickly, which includes the airspace above featureless circle of light. It goes on
which from the ground Erath County. like that for about an hour, Lee says.
could appear to be Why the flip-flop? It was an internal The reports from January reminded
unearthly acceleration.
communications problem that has now another Dublin resident, machinist
New missiles have
sensors that use color been fixed, says 301st Fighter Wing Ricky Sorrells, of a huge object he says
to distinguish target spokesman Lewis. Inconsistent disclo- he saw in December when he was deer
airplanes, so a new sures by the military have often fueled hunting. I looked at it through the
type of multispectral UFO speculation. The military changed scope on my deer rifle, Sorrells tells me
flare changes hues to its story about Roswell numerous times over burgers at the Dublin Dairy Queen.
defeat them.
after 1947, when Air Force officials first He is a big man who has just come in
claimed to have captured a flying sau- from hunting, dressed in full camou-
cer, then denied it. flage. He describes what he saw as a
Adding to the atmosphere of mis- huge gray object, the color of galva-
trust is the militarys refusal to release nized metal, with no rivets, bolts or
details of operations, including train- seams. It was about 100 ft tall and
ing flights. Lewis declines to give specif- about 300 ft up in the air, he says, com-
ics on hardware or tactics used over paring the height of the object to the
Erath County. During training, he says, grain elevator where he once worked.
we fly like we fight. It was the first of several sightings for
By mid-February the Empire-Tribune Sorrells. He captured one of them on
had lost interest in the Stephenville video. In the Dairy Queen, he unfolded
PagE P M I N v E S T I g aT E S : March 2009


on further review ... later described as saucer-shaped observers perceive

saucerlike objects. craft was quickly phenomena in the
cultural he had no photos to embraced by sky. Sure enough,
influenceS bolster the first and
most famous report
popular culture,
showing up in
over the next few
years UfO sightings
of a flying saucer. comics, movies, increasingly
In Fate magazine, even childrens toys. mentioned silvery,
arnold wrote: astronomer carl saucer-shaped

o n June 24,
1947, pilot
Kenneth arnold
I would have given
almost anything that
day to have had a
Sagan noted that
depictions of UfOs
in entertainment
objects. Such UfO
iconography is
reinforced by a
claimed he saw movie camera. often have a strong cultural feedback
gleaming aircraft he his vision of influence on how loop: a report offers

1948 1950 1956 1967 1975

In this alien- Marine corps Teenage brothers Nearly two years

centric maga- officer and avia- Dan and grant before Star
zines first issue, tion enthusiast Jaroslaw claim to Wars, James
Kenneth arnold Donald Keyhoes snap sensational Earl Jones
recounts his first book Polaroids of a stars in this
then-famous contends that UfO over Lake St. re-enactment of
UfO sighting the air force is While it may not have lived up to its clair, near Detroit. Betty and Barney
over Washington covering up tagline as the greatest shock film of The images make hills alleged alien
state. evidence of all time, this sci-fi B-movie classic front-page news abduction out-
UfOs. features ray harryhausens special- and survive initial side groveton,
effects magic as animated flying expert scrutiny, N.h., in 1961.
saucers with now-standard shapes but the boys
obliterate practically every inter- later admit its
national landmark. a hoax.

his cellphone and handed it to me. I well as an Airborne Warning and Con- positive, nonsubjective way to observe
saw a tiny video of a barely discernable trol System (AWACS) plane were in the UFOs. Studies from the Condon Report,
white shape moving through the sky. area. But so, they claim, was a mysteri- published in 1968 by the University of
ous large object, without the required Colorado, to the Air Forces Blue Book
transponder that identifies and locates project to a 1997 evaluation by the Soci-
after Its dublIn open hearIng, aircraft. The report concludes that a ety for Scientific Exploration, however,
MUFON filed Freedom of Information very large unidentified craft or object have found that radar can be fooled in
Act requests with the military branches was tracked on radar for over an hour. simple ways. Anomalous propagation,
and other governmental agencies. Only Most of the time, the object was either or false echoes, is most often caused by
the Federal Aviation Administration stationary or moving at speeds of less ground clutter, often a result of low-
and the National Weather Service than 60 mph. At 7:32 pm, the object was level temperature inversions that muf-
acknowledged they had relevant infor- tracked accelerating to 532 mph in 30 fle ground radars electronic pulse and
mation and forwarded radar data. seconds and then slowing to 49 mph lead to a circular scatter of returns
In July, the group released its report, only 10 seconds later. based on hits from buildings and trees.
which suggests that several fighters as Radar blips would seem to present a In extreme examples, called ducting,

photographs by everett collection (1956, 1975 anD 1977)

March 2009 P M I N v E S T I g aT E S : PagE


intriguing new process, no matter UfO sightings The UFO Incident). save our planet sighting. Today
details; the how conclusively evolve with the But a darker strain or transport us to camera phones and
entertainment debunked. Just as culture. By the 60s, emerged, when a better one. video cameras are
industry amplifies the ancients were classic saucer tales of gray In recent years, ubiquitous. and yet
those images; and inclined to see gods images had started aliens performing most UfO reports clear, detailed
future sightings and flaming chariots to fade. Instead, experiments on have grown far less images have all but
confirm their in the skies, modern people began human abductees sensational; many disappeared from
existence. hoaxes humans became reporting more flourished. UfO sightings these days the photographic
pie-plate photos, primed to see direct contact with stories sometimes simply describe record. Even the
crop circles, Alien saucers and aliens aliens (who often took on spiritual lights in the sky. clearest recent
Autopsy: (Fact or whenever something resembled the dimensions: aliens arnold regretted images are little
Fiction?) on the fox strange appeared big-eyed creatures were godlike not having a camera more than glowing
networkabet the overhead. seen in the Tv movie creatures coming to at hand during his dots and squiggles.

1977 1983 1987 1987 2008

More than 300 horror novelist Ed Walters On March 14,

people in the Whitley Strieber takes photos 2008, residents
hudson valley describes his of a purported of Wesley
report seeing v- abduction by the spacecraft over chapel, fla., are
and boomerang- visitors. a 1989 the florida spooked by a
UfOs evolve from sleek saucers shaped lights movie based on panhandle hovering, rotat-
to clusters of lights in Steven in March 1983. the book stars but acciden- ing triangle of
Spielbergs Close Encounters of the Its a hoax by christopher tally leaves the blue lights and
Third Kind. The film brings religious pilots flying out Walken; in 1999, model (made of a blinking red
overtones to the topic, implying that of Stormville, the National Styrofoam plates light. The sheriffs
belief in aliens is a matter of faith, N.y., who rig their UfO conference and bowls) in his office confirms
not science. E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial planes with extra names Strieber house when he its a hoaxa
(1982) echoes that theme. Together, lights before for- UfOlogist of the moves, and new homemade bal-
the films gross over $1 billion. mation flights. year. owners find it. loon with lights.

the temperature inversion can bend the whether it was in the Brownwood MOA. experienced by Peggy Delavergne. On
beam all the way back to the Earths sur- They had a huge amount of data, the night of Nov. 18 she saw lights while
face, so a surprising radar blip turns out McGaha says, and they just pulled a driving her children home to Stephen-
to be a hill or a building. With the intro- few bits of information out of it and ville after a basketball game in Dublin.
duction of more advanced filtering soft- drew a line. At first there were two very bright gold
ware over the past decade, the number In the fall, just when it seemed as lights, she says. Then there were more
of UFOs attributed to false returns has though Stephenville might be forgot- lights, like a string of pearlsnot quite
decreased significantly. ten, the sightings began again. People a circle and not quite egg-shaped. My
Former Air Force pilot, astronomer were no longer hesitant to come husband was in another vehicle, and he
and longtime UFO skeptic James forward. Their descriptions often com- saw them too. He called me on his cell-
McGaha believes that some such form pared the lights to arc welding or burn- phone and asked me, Do you see that?
of radar scatter was responsible for the ing magnesiumlights bright enough I dont know whether it was from some-
returns that MUFON interpreted as a to interrupt a little league football game where else or from the military, but
solid object. The FAA did not describe in Stephenville. The descriptions fol- something is going on out there.
any such object, nor was it clear lowed a pattern similar to the one A high school student named Carli

62 Top-Secret aircraft
On further review ...

sightings and lore. its possible the

And official denials governments
Crutcher shot a photo of the lights that feed rumors that the responses to current
government isnt sightings of
Mac McKinnon ran in the Dublin
telling us about alien classified craft
Citizen. It shows streaky, stringy forms. ships. The CIA whether manned or
estimates that over remotely operated

what's in the sky? Some skeptics, S py and stealth

with bizarre,
half of the UFOs
reported from the
50s through the
are equally evasive.
The result is an
ongoing source of
like McGaha, believe that the Stephen-
bat-shaped wings, 60s were U-2 and UFO reports and
ville, Phoenix and many other sightings others with SR-71 spy planes. At conspiracy theories.
can be attributed to military aircraft triangular silhou- the time, the Air Here are the
and evasion or illumination flares. ettes that imply Force misled the Earth-built craft that
Flares have a long association with otherworldly public and the media likely have lit up 911
UFO sightings. One night in late Febru- designshave long to protect these switchboards over
generated UFO Cold War programs; the years.
ary 1942, the sky over Southern Califor-
nia lit up with strange blinking lights
near various defense plants. In what has
become known as the Battle of Los Ange-
les, the Navy unloaded four batteries of
antiaircraft artillery at what turned out to
be a balloon carrying a red flare. A decade
ago, mysterious lights seen by thousands
of Phoenix residents were actually left-
over flares dumped by A-10 pilots with
the Maryland Air National Guard.
Some Erath County residents dis-
miss the flare theory. Ive seen military
flares, Allen says. They are not even
the same color as the ones I saw. But
evasion-flare technology evolves rapidly,
as the military tries to keep one step
ahead of the increasingly sophisticated
tracking capabilities of antiaircraft mis-
siles. At one time evasive maneuvers
consisted of sharp turns against the RQ-3 Darkstar
sun. When missiles got smarter, pilots 1 Lockheed Martin/
began dropping bright flares; infrared
seekers homed in on the decoys while
warplanes fled from the field of view.
But todays missiles can track far
more than the heat signatures of
First Test Flight: 1996 Deployment: None (it was canceled in
engines. They can pick out targets 1999) Declassified: 1995 Size: 15 ft long; 69-ft wingspan
among decoys by discerning a war- Performance: 288 mph (cruising speed); 45,000+ ft (max. alt.)
planes movement and shape. Spectral UFO Link: The official life span of this unmanned spy plane was
sensors on missiles can even detect the brief and disappointing, with a crash and a program cancellation
after just three years. But in 2003, Aviation Week reported that a
color differences between a jet engine similar stealth UAV was being used in Iraqfueling speculation that
and a flare. In response, the military has the government scrapped the craft publicly only to secretly
deployed a variety of flares that can resurrect it for clandestine missions.
move under their own power and
change color.
People in Erath County are certainly
familiar with warplanes. During my
First Test Flight:
2 3 1964
Deployment: 1966 to
1990, 1995 to 1998
Declassified: 1964
Size: 107 ft long;
u-2 sr-71 blackbird 56-ft wingspan
Lockheed Martin Lockheed Martin Performance: 2432
mph (max. speed);
85,000 ft (max. alt.)
UFO Link: The tailless
spy plane has an even
more unusual cross
section than the u-2.
This area 51 alum was
briefly reactivated in
the 1990s, and rumors
First Test Flight: of a followupthe
1955 now-legendary aurora
Deployment: projecthave supplied
1957 to present both ufo believers and
Declassified: skeptics with a possible
1960 Size: 49 ft source of unexplained
long; 80-ft wingspan sightings.
410 mph (max. First Test Flight: 2006
speed); 85,000 ft 4 Deployment: unknown
(max. alt.) UFO Link: plane spotters photos
UFO Link: and videos blew the top-secret cover
Designed for off a 5-minute inaugural flight in
high-altitude palmdale, calif. The hybrid airshipit
reconnaissance, the p-791 uses gas and a wing shape for
u-2s long, gliderlike Lockheed Martin liftfuels speculation that classified
wings and silver airships quietly roam the night skies.
color would have
been notable to
observers on the First Test Flight: 1981
ground and in the 5 Deployment: 1983 to 2008
sky. in the 1960s Declassified: 1988
the airplane was UFO Link: This long-range stealth
painted black to fighter, which could stay aloft
avoid reflections. indefinitely thanks to midair
The u-2 is also f-117a nighthawk refueling, remained classified
famous for being Lockheed Martin through much of the 1980s during
among the first test flights at tonopah test field
classified planes to range in nevada, 80 miles from the
be flown from the legendary area 51 groom lake facility. along with the b-2 spirit, the
air forces secret batlike f-117a was a perfect candidate for triangular ufo sightings.
test facility at
groom lake,
nev.aka area 51.

b-2 spirit
Northrop Grumman

First Test Flight: 1989 Deployment: 1997 to present

Declassified: 1988 Size: 69 ft long; 172-ft wingspan
UFO Link: although the long-range bomber was never a true black aircraft, since it was
displayed to the public approximately eight months before its first flight, an airborne b-2 is a
ufo report waiting to happen. it looks like an alien craft from nearly any angle and specifi-
cally like a flying saucer when viewed head-on or in profile.

photograph by getty images (b-2)

on further review ...

natural nightlightS
the horizon around
dusk or dawn; it
trails only the moon
in luminosity; and
depending on the air
mass in front of the
viewer, the planet

T he skies over
Earth are home
to regular displays of
can be magnified
into a ball or seem
to skip around.
bizarre natural lights World War II pilots
that could be mistaking it for a
mistaken for UfOs. Japanese plane
once shot at it.
venuS: plaSma:
Its responsible for Some 60 miles
the greatest number up, electrons that
of sightingsinclud- shower the
ing one by Jimmy atmosphere interact
carter in 1969. The with neutral atoms
planet usually and release bursts of
appears just above photons. In 2006,
the United
Kingdoms Defence
leonid meteor Intelligence Staff
blast on nov. concluded that the
18, 2001, left resulting aurora
this eerie ring.
generates a number
of the countrys
annual sightings.
camera T he most provocative imagery to emerge from the Stephenville
sightings came from resident David caron, who videotaped
about 25 million
pass through
effects squiggling, multicolored lights on Jan. 19, 2008, that he says must the atmosphere
have been a UfO (below, left). you could see it much better dailysome
through the camera than just with the naked eye, he told the resulting in showy
Stephenville Empire-Tribune. That might have been the problem. midair displays that
video cameras record at about 30 frames per second, says have been mistaken
george reis of Imaging forensics. This recording refreshes twice for UfOs since
per second, so very long exposures are being used. caron was as early as 1965,
likely filming a distant, stationary light. a handheld exposure of a when residents of
bright light results in light streaks from camera movement that Kecksburg, Pa.,
would look like these images, reis says. The color shifts, he adds, were bewildered
may be from color mosaic filtration on the cameras ccD chip. The by a meteor.
history channels UFO Hunters reproduced a similar effect with a lenticular
video camera set to night mode zoomed in on a cluster of colored cloudS:
lights across the lab (below, right). UfOlogists on Internet forums Stratified and
did the same by shooting the star Sirius, which is known for its saucer-shaped, they
luminescence and vivid coloring. tend to form near
mountains. In July
2008, the North
Wales Pioneer ran a
residents strange
imagesof a
lenticular cloud.

screen grabs: David carons (above, left),

and the history channels re-creation.

p h o t o g r a p h b y s t e p h a n i e D e r o u g e ( j o n a w b r e y ) ; a s s o c i at e D p r e s s ( v e n u s )
March 2009 P M I N v E S T I g aT E S : PagE


visit, I get a taste of the 3200-square- chairs staking out runways and bases. until June 2008, the onlyF-35 test
mile Brownwood MOA in action. Heli- Brownwood is used by Navy, Air Force plane, the AA-1, was in Fort Worth, but it
copters and jets fly day and night. One and Army units, Douglass says, includ- was not in the air that night. Its
afternoon, while Im driving to Dublin ing Apache helicopters, B-1s, C-130s and restricted to daytime flight, Kent says,
on Highway 377, a T-38 Talon super- F-16s. There are AWACS from Tinker so that chase planes can monitor it.
sonic jet trainer rips past only a few AFB in Oklahoma City and KR-135 tank-
thousand feet above the road. ers from Altus in southwest Oklahoma.
The MOA is well-known to the lead- The airspace is especially active these stephenvIlle Is only the latest In
ing civilian authority on Texas airspace, days, with the new F-35 tactical fighter a long list of UFO incidents that are
Steve Douglass. The author of Military being assembled at a factory in Fort likely based on military operations,
Monitoring and an expert consulted by Worth and tested in the MOA. Lock- starting with the Battle of Los Angeles.
Aviation Week, Douglass has been track- heed Martin spokesman John Kent con- Whether the recent Texas sightings
ing operations from his base in Amarillo firms that on Jan. 8, 2008, the firstand were flight exercises involving evasion
for a quarter century. He is part of the flares or tests of an existing plane, a new
so-called interceptors network, the plane or a UAV, any military activity in
plane spotters caricatured in the film the area is likely to remain unexplained
Broken Arrow as those guys in lawn for awhile. We now know about the
secret programs behind the UFO sight-
ings of decades ago. But what of pro-
grams that are still secret?
In the past, many projects sponsored
by DARPA, which was behind the origi-
JOn AwbRey nal Stealth and UAV research, have
begun as secret black programs before
as far as what i showing up as public white ones. One
saw, it was example: stratospheric sensors devel-
probably mili- oped for high-altitude airships under the
tary. think of ISIS program, which may have existed
the secret for years before it was made public in
2004. (Its funding for 2007 was $24.7
aircraft in the
million.) These sensors could be used
60s; we have on huge wing- or boomerang-shaped
no idea what blimps that can fly at altitudes of more
theyre produc- than 60,000 ft and hover unmanned for
ing now. and months. There have been many sight-
theyre never ings of large, slow-moving triangle-
going to tell us. shaped airships, says Steve Douglass,
starting with a sighting near Antelope
Valley, Calif., in 1990. For many years
airliners and ground observers have
reported boomerang-shaped craft near
Groom Lake.
The tethered aerostat lighter-than-
air craft, which appeals to many agencies
as a so-called poor mans satellite, also
may trigger sightings. The Air Force uses
these surveillance systems along the
U.S.-Mexico border to support antidrug
operations. The departments of Defense
and Homeland Security are evaluating
P M I N v E S T I g aT E S : March 2009


on further review ...

unmanned inflatables 500 ft long.

2 The militarys secrecy exasperates
4 some Stephenville locals, even veter-
ans. Its been 30 years since I was in
5 the Air Force, James Huse says, but
1 I dont understand why they wouldnt
come out and tell the truth. If they
have the capability of putting on a
show like that all they have to do is
1 4 tell us. Wed get out our lawn chairs
and watch.
But the Air Forces legitimate need
for secrecy extends beyond its black
programs. It releases information
about all domestic flights on a case-
top 10 ufo hotSpotS by-case basis, says Capt. Rose
an uptick in sight- Richeson, of the USAF Air Education
ings over Santa reporteD ufo inciDents and Training Command. Usually we
rosa county, fla., (19472005) dont mind talking about training,
could stem from
she says. But we would not talk about
the presence of
an air wing that specifics if it were a matter of national
tests every fighter, Major Metro counties security, or give details about training
bomber, unmanned 1 Los angeles, ca: 1346 methods or mission scenarios that

W here is UFO
country? To
find out, PM con-
aerial vehicle
and weapon in
the air force
2 King, Wa: 621
3 cook, IL: 468
4 Maricopa, aZ: (424
could be used by enemies of the
United States.
sulted the center inventory. Military 5 San Diego, ca: 348 Meantime, Stephenville has set-
for UfO Studies, refueling lanes tled uneasily into its newfound noto-
which maintains a crisscross the Less Populated counties: riety as a UFO site. Some locals have
database of sight- nation, and lights 1 Westmoreland, Pa: 396
become skeptical about the motives
ings reported from from air tankers 2 Saguache, cO: 263
3 Santa rosa, fL: 242 of MUFON. Who funds it? asks
1947 to 2005. and warplanes
Illinois-based flying at night in
4 yakima, Wa: 227 Steve Allen. And a certain amount of
cUfOS gathers close formation
5 rockingham, Nh: 183 backbiting has set in among some of
data from UfO could appear as the eyewitnesses. Lee Roy Gaitan wor-
reporting groups triangles of light ries that some locals who have report-
and public records, from the ground. ed sightings are just not credible
including Project Psychology may Special Use
airspace and cast doubt on his genuine
Blue Book. (If sev- also play a role.
account. Some people stretch a
eral people report Westmoreland Military refueling
the same sighting, county, Pa. (pop. flight Paths story, Huse says. Others resent the
cUfOS registers it 362,326), which way they have been depicted. I made
as a single event.) records more the mistake of saying it was as big as a
for a broad com- sightings than the Wal-Mart, Allen says. People have
parison, we ranked metro houston
been teasing me about it ever since.
both metropolitan area (pop. 3.9
and more sparsely million), includes I didnt call them flying saucers
settled counties. Kecksburg, the or extraterrestrials, Huse says. All
Why did these location of a I said was that it was unidentified fly-
10 top the list? reputed 1965 UfO ing objects, and Im sticking to that.
Perhaps because crash. residents I couldnt identify them. People in
some are close to there may be more
military training likely to report Erath County, Huse says, arent nuts
zones called Spe- strange lights to or hicks. We are just ordinary people
cial Use airspace. a UfO group. who happened to look up. PM

On The Web > What appeared in the sky over Stephenville? Watch the raw footage and judge for yourself at
A creative renovation can turn even the most subpar
subterranean room into a comfortable retreat.

b y Harry Sawyers p h o t o g r a p h s b y Scott Jones


1 2

Its hard to pinpoint the worst part of Danny Tracewski and Courtney
Jansens pre-renovation basement (1) in Brookhaven, Pa. The rickety bar comes
to mind, with its sticky, matte black counter surrounded by mustard-colored brick and sooty
gray grout. Or theres the foam drop ceiling with knobby plastic fluorescent fixtures and, beneath
it, an industrial brown carpet best suited for indoor soccer. The couple wanted a space where
they could work and entertain guests. Instead, says Jansen, Were afraid to go down there.
When HGTVs James Lunday and his Rip & Renew team first looked at the basement, they
saw unrealized potential. The lifelong carpenter and his renovation crew typically tear a place
apart and start from scratch (2), rebuilding with inexpensive materials that they customize to
overcome a rooms limitations. In this case, Lunday explains, We used light and dark to create
depth and give the illusion of a high, wide space. Says Jansen, Now, we spend pretty much all
our time down there. PoPular Mechanics tagged along to see how they pulled it off.

PoPularMechanics.coM | March 2009 69

Pull Out the Old Track
DeAling With new ceiling panel
Drop Ceilings dimensions meant that
lunday (center) couldnt
When things in a home reuse existing track (6).
go wrong, they often go Hang the New System
wrong in the basement, The crew mounted new
between floors, lunday ceiling track intermit-
says. Drop ceilings allow tently to joists using
access to critical twisted wire and metal
plumbing and electrical hardware (7). The
3 lines, but they havent supports wouldnt be
traditionally been an visible, so lunday could
attractive solution. install them quickly.
Fortunately, drop ceiling Mount Recessed Lighting
design has steadily Fluorescent tube lighting
improved. even if a can make a bad drop
basement is not ready ceiling worse. The Rip &
for a full renovation, Renew crew installed
replacing the ceiling can standard round recessed-
provide dramatic change. can fixtures throughout
armstrongs 2 x 2ft
raised ceiling panels (8).
using templates that
came with the lights, the
crew cut the panels with
4 a utility knife to fit the
fixtures, and decorative
MAnAging flanges hid the knifework.

unfinished masonry can

often pose a problem
when converting a
basement to a living
foundation walls may
need to be masked, and
ugly brick or tile may have
to go. The couple, who
described their base-
ments brick as awful,
dealt with both issues.
Hammer It Tearing down 1 x 2in. lath on the brick
nonstructural brick and vertically using concrete 9
ripping up old tile are the anchors. The lumber
types of jobs that call for became a base for
renting a compressor mounting plywood or
and pneumatic demoli- drywall. Two design
tion tools, such as an air elements added a
hammer and chisel. The feeling of height:
Rip & Renew crew also Fluorescents concealed
used a sledgehammer to beneath the plywood
knock loose bricks from cast light upward (4), and
the wall supporting the a stained plank lunday
bar (3). calls a beer shelf caps
Hide It removing the knee wall (5).
structural brick in a
basement can be
impossible, as was the
case with the knee wall
ringing the rooms
perimeter. To conceal it,
contractors mounted 10

70 March 2009 | PoPularMechanics.coM

Divide Public From

MAxiMizing A Private By hanging three
sMAll spACe hollow-core doors from
an overhead ceiling
confronted with a track, lunday created a
shoebox-shaped room, room-dividing screen.
lunday chose finishes This separates a private
that would maximize the office area from the
small, squat area. The media room. The doors
light maple floor adds slide on casters in a
brightness and warmth, track that lunday
while low-slung furniture mounted to joists before
keeps lines of sight clear. the drop ceiling was
he calls the result indus- installed (9). The crew
trial modern meets a routed -in.-deep
country living room. vertical lines into the
While specific to this doors and darkened
basement, his solutions them with a stain pen.
use principles that apply Use Functional Furniture
to any long, low space Made of a solid door, the
that needs to be made desk folds up, Murphy-
more livable. bed-style, on a pair of
chains (10). as a result, it
provides ample work
space when needed, but
also tucks out of the way
when the couple wants
to entertain guests in
their brand-new
basement (11). PM

On The Web > Find more basement solutions at
Classic DIY


What We used

Ridgid Peddinghaus

That was something new.

by Roy Berendsohn
photographs by Brad Paris


Men have been
heating and
hammering metal
for 10,000 years.
We figured it was
high time we
learned how too.

If you want to work with metal, theres one

thing you have to confront: You need heat. With
it, you can make the toughest metal submit to
your will. Without it, youll never gain full mas-
tery over this stubborn material.
Over the years, I have been frustrated by my
inability to work hot steel. Ive bolted metal
together, welded it and soldered it. But I
couldnt shape it, and so large swaths of the
mechanical realm were off-limits to me.
But blacksmithing never felt alien. My father
is a metallurgist, descended from generations

M A R C H 2 0 0 9 73
Classic DIY

of 19th-century blacksmiths and born in Ger- and handed me the welding gun: You take it from here. I slid on a mask
many to shipbuilders whose forges scattered and picked up where hed left off. As I worked, Mike crouched over my
sparks over the shores of the Elbe River and the shoulder and fired off bits of advice. Get more weld metal on the vertical
North Sea. I grew up in rural Connecticut surfaces, he said. Youre getting too much spatter; reduce your travel
among Yankee mechanics who could forge any- speed and your electrode stick-out. When I found it difficult to see through
thing, machine anything, build anything, fix
anythingand Ive been trying to live up to
those old-timers standards all my life. It wasnt
hard to finally decide to take another step, and
teach myself some blacksmithing skills.

the Forge
Maybe its because our smokestack industries
are in decline that a rising number of Americans
feel the need to get their metalworking fix in
home workshops. The Artist-Blacksmiths Asso-
ciation of North America counts a membership
(July 1941)
of 4000 hobbyists and professionals. Some peo-
ple estimate there are more blacksmiths in this
country today than there were during the 1800s. the welding glare and
And you dont have to poke around long to find smoke, he said, Deal
dozens of Web sites offering friendlyeven pas- with it. Look at the
sionateadvice from artisans, along with equip- weld puddle, not the
ment ranging from anvils and tongs to air-driven arc. I learned more
power hammers. about welding in that
First, I needed a forge. I considered buying a half hour than I had
gas-powered model, but the fact was that I in years of fooling
wanted to build my own. So I settled on a design around on my own.
that can be executed in an afternoon using parts After we com-
purchased at a home center, a masonry supply pleted the stand, we
yard and an auto parts store. The forge would riveted sheetmetal
burn coal, rather than gas, to make things sim- into a hood and fash-
pler. And the design had another virtue, at least ioned a chimney from a 5-ft piece of stovepipe. Then, we troweled refractory
as far as I was concerned. It was based on plans cement (the kind used in furnaces and kilns) into the sink. We ran steel and
published in Popular Mechanics in July 1941. PVC pipe from the drain to the output port on a shop vacuum. The same
I enlisted the help of Mike Allen, our senior line would supply air both to the sink (to feed the fire) and, through a Y joint,
auto editor and a crack metalworker. He glanced to another pipe leading into the chimney (to help pull the smoke up and
at the old plans and said, Sure, we can build away). We installed a valve to let us direct the air where we wanted it. We also
this. Within days, Mikes house and the shop cut pressure-treated 4 x 4 lumber to make a block for the anvil, then hoisted
behind it swirled with activity as the UPS guy the anvil onto the block using a tow strap hooked to a ceiling-mounted elec-
delivered in rapid succession a 275-pound anvil, tric winch. Finally, we hammered 1 8 -in.-thick steel flat stock into straps to
tools, materials and four 50-pound boxes of attach the anvil to its block. Believe me, 15 minutes spent pounding cold
blacksmiths coal shipped from Pennsylvania. steel can convince anybody of the need for a forge.
Once the supplies were in, we set to work Now we just had to let the furnace cement cure overnight.
building the forge, beginning with its stand. I
cut steel parts and handed them off to Mike, Firing
who laid them out on the shop floor, clamped the Coal
them together and temporarily tack-welded I arrived at Mikes shop early next morning to find him puttering around, a
them with small globs of steel. cup of coffee in hand and another, recently poured, waiting for me on the
With the stand tacked, he flipped up his mask workbench. Ready for fire? he asked.


Wh at We used
A two-basin stainless-



On The Web
Weve updated PM
forge plans first
published in 1941.
See popular

W h at W e u s e d

Furnace trow-
eled protect
it (


protected cardboard
box. an
astonishing Btu.

Twenty-gauge metal
and stove-
hood materi-
als available
Classic DIY

Wh at We used
Wolf-jaw tongs are a
general-purpose tool, and
the best choice for begin-
ning smiths.

basic skills

metal over
to make a

Secure a heated bar in
a vise and turn one end

W hat We used
Striking Tools
by a 40-ounce ball-peen projects

into a bulbous shape.

Lay the bar the

an angle.

choosing steel
Low-carbon steel (top)


We carried the forge outside and in a light autumn wind the metal over the anvils edge and picked up our
used a propane torch to ignite crumbled shipping paper 48-ounce blacksmith hammer. A few whacks
and kindling split from the pallet the anvil was shipped were all it took to put a neat bend in the bar.
on. When the fire was bright and hot, we coaxed some After decades spent struggling with hacksaws
coal onto it, and watched anxiously as it gave off a faint, and rivet guns, I cant tell you how gratifying it
yellow-green, sulfurous smoke. was to put a hammer to glowing steel and bend it
We added more fuel. The fire like putty. Mechanical justice was done.
smoldered stubbornly, but when A long day followed as Mike and I practiced
we turned on our high-powered the basics of the blacksmiths age-old craft:
vacuum, the blast of air knocked bending, flattening, twisting, tapering and
our little coal pile out of position. upsettingstriking a bar to thicken and enlarge
We pushed the smoldering pieces its hot end. We used angle iron to form the best
back with a steel bar and tried coal-handling tool Ive seena curved fire pok-
again, without success. er worthy of a shipyards smithing shop. And we
Mike grabbed an air hose and felt sufficiently emboldened to try our hand at
nozzle from his shop compressor forging a demolition chisel from a 3 4-in.-dia bar
and applied a gentle draft. Now of tool steel, a high-
the coal started to glow. We added carbon material far
more fuel, and the smoke nearly We watched tougher than the
disappeared. We turned on the in awe as a stuff found at hard-
shop vacuum again. With that, an yellow-white ware stores. We had
impressive rushing sound came glow took shape to let the steel soak in
up from the forge, and the center in the center of the forge fire three
of the coal mound reddened like a
stoplight. A few moments later, a
the coal, and the times and swing the
hammer for several
bright yellow flame jumped from
steel was lost minutes before it
the fuel, and then a ghostly blue in the glare. began to yield.
glow took shape above it. As it hov- The light was At sundown, we
ered, the blue light looked like a too intense to called it quits and let
living thing. look at without the fuel bed cool into
Once the coal was burning well eye protection. ash. We swept the
on its own, I took a piece of scrap shop floor and put
metal from the shop floor and wiggled the steel away our tools for the night, already planning
into the volcanic fuel bed. A couple of minutes future projects. Teaching ourselves forge con-
later, we slid the metal out to find that it had struction and basic blacksmithing in two days
merely turned a light shade of bluestill not was a good piece of work. But Mike had plans for
enough heat. Mike rotated the valve to make the a serpentine iron rack to store motorcycle hel-
vacuums entire air output rush into the fire, mets, while I wanted another go at shaping my
feeding the flames. (This is where the old black- own tools, designed uniquely for my needs.
smithing term full blast comes from.) We Thats how I imagine the Iron Age was launched
watched in awe as a yellow-white glow took in prehistory, in a forge like the ones archaeolo-
shape in the center of the coal, and the steel was gists have found scattered throughout Africa and
lost in the glare. The light was too intense to the Middle East. Some guy needed a better tool,
look at without shaded eye protection. and figured out a way to make one.
It was dark by the time I dropped into the
Working seat of my car and headed home. As I merged
the Steel onto the highway and into a traffic jam, I saw
A couple of minutes later, I picked up my tongs the taillights of the cars ahead in a new way.
and withdrew the steel. The end was now glow- Just for tonight, they didnt represent a hassle.
ing bright yellow and spitting sparksthe tem- They looked like a gigantic bed of glowing
perature must have been up around 1900 F. I laid coals, waiting for its steel. PM


The first gun to shoot doesnt sound like a gun at all. The noise
is high and buzzing, like a chain saw or a leaf blower. It stops, then starts up
again. From my perch on the engine cover of a special operations gunboat, I
can see the source of this weird racketsomeone on one of the other boats
gliding down Kentuckys Salt River is firing a minigun into the woods. Every
second, hundreds of 7.62 mm bullets pour out of the spinning machine-gun

by Erik sofgE PhotograPhs by chad hunt

March 2009 | POPULarMEchaNIcS.cOM

a live-fire exercise on Kentuckys Salt
river offers a rare window into the
secretive, dangerous world of the
Pentagons black-ops boat crews.
barrels. Im pushing up my helmet, trying to spot the gun- targets or even the foliage on the riverbank.
ners targets, when someone close by yells Contact, and This one-sided engagement has already covered the floor
the boat Im sitting in erupts in gunfire. Now the shell cas- of the 33-ft-long boat with hundreds of spent casings. But the
ings are landing in my lap as twin M240B machine guns rat- simulated fight isnt over yet, even as the diesel engines
tle a couple of feet away. When the aft-mounted .50 caliber throttle up and the boat speeds off. The aft gunner continues
starts thumping, the pressure from each shot feels like a to rattle away on the .50-caliber, and clouds of dirt are still
punch in the gut. blooming on the offending bank.
The volume of fire builds as two other Special Operations
Craft-Riverine (SOC-R) boats join in, but no one is shooting Sh a dow Fi g h T erS
back. This is a live-fire exercise at Fort Knoxand the thou-
sands of rounds tearing through the air on this day are all Theres a good reason SOC-R boats
outbound. The torrent of gunfire does not seem to rattle the bristle with machine guns: Riverine
members of Special Boat Team 22. craft fight in extremely close quar-
Many of these Special Warfare Combatant-craft Crewmen, ters. The enemy could be 20 yards
or SWCCs, have survived firefights along the Tigris and away, crawling along the rivers edge.
Euphrates rivers in Iraq. Fast, heavily armed SOC-R boats are Other than the boat captain, who sits
used mainly to insert or extract Navy SEALs, Army Rangers in a shielded compartment while
and other special forces personnel. If the enemy interferes, driving, the crew is almost entirely
the SWCC response is, in military speak, violence of action. exposed. A well-coordinated ambush
The SOC-Rs five weapon mounts provide a 360-degree field could wipe them all out within sec-
of fire. Anyone who decides to shoot at us will immediately onds. Although SOC-R boats are
regret that decision once we start shooting back, says Mike, highly maneuverable, avoiding a
my designated SWCC spokesman, his face patterned with fight while on a narrow river isnt
green and black grease paint. We have an overwhelming always an option. Your best defense
amount of firepower at our disposal. Its pretty insane. is to shoot, Mike says.
A fog of gun smoke builds over the river as the boat crew Members of Special Operations
fires, and when I inhale, the smoke burns the back of my Forces (SOF) involved in fieldwork
throat. Its no longer possible to make out the demolished never release their full names to the

fa s t- M o v i n g f i E l d s o f f i r E

Special operations gunboat crews prefer to stay out of the fight but are equipped to win it if need be. Each craft can apply an array of
withering fire in any direction. They have a variety of interchangeable mounted weapons to choose from, and carry personal arms in
case crew members fallor must fleefrom the boat.
Swimmer degrees
Platform degrees

radar arch

Boat Captains
helo Lift Tie-down degrees helo Lift Tie-down
I L L U S t r at I O N S b y d O g O

M240B 7.62 mm GAU-17/A minigun MK-19 40 mm M2HB .50 caliber

all-purpose machine Six rotating barrels fire grenade launcher Machine gun able to
gun that uses stan- a max of 6000 7.62 accurately shoots 40 place single or rapid
dard NaTo rounds. rounds a minute. grenades a minute. shots at 2000 yards.
press. SWCCs are in the same multibranch military family as Vietnam-era Swift boats back to the regular-Navy PT boats of
Green Berets, Rangers and SEALs, and all are considered by World War II. Unlike those predecessors, SWCC units do not
the Pentagon to be high-value targets, meaning they could patrol, but instead train allied troops and participate in tar-
be personally targeted by the nations enemies. (Officials geted raids. (The older units also didnt parachute from trans-
wont say whether any SOF has ever been stalked in such a port airplanes with their boats, the way SWCCs do.) Training
fashion.) During our live-fire ride-along, the restrictions on is intense: Aspiring crewmen are expected to be able to per-
what we can describe extend to communications gear, the form 79 sit-ups in 2 minutes and swim 500 yards in 10 min-
armor on the SOC-R hulls, tactical maneuvers and details of utes. Their physical strength is needed to handle heavy gear
the boat-mounted sensors. each crewman wears at least 70 pounds of ballistic protection,
Special operations boat crews trace their heritage through weapons, radios and medical gearand also prevents injury.
But physical conditioning doesnt totally prevent back dam-
age caused by the repeated impact of fast-moving boats slam-
ming across waves. Many veteran SWCCs have scars from back
surgeries made necessary by these shocks to their vertebrae.
The military wont discuss specific SWCC missions, but it
will say that SOC-R teams have faced heavy, regular action
along the river systems of Iraq. Theyre out there, and theyre
engaging, says Rich Evans, Naval Special Warfare Group 4
command master chief. Theres been a couple of missions
that ended up in the largest firefights that guys on the water
have been in since Vietnam.
Since Sept. 11, 2001, the Special Forces have received an
increasing share of personnel and fundingthe SOF budget
rose by more than 80 percent between 2001 and 2006. Evans
says that the number of SWCCs is growing at a fast pace
because of bureaucratic changes within the Defense Depart-
ment. In 2006 the Pentagon changed the source rating of
the SWCCs unitsthe military equivalent of making a short-
term civilian job into a permanent position. Now, most guys
who get into naval special warfare stay in, Evans says. They
dont go back to the fleet.
The majority of the 650 total SWCC members, split into
East and West Coast teams, conduct operations on coastal
There are no seats vessels (see page 82). Members of Team 22, based in Stennis,
on the SOc-r,
other than the Miss., who make up a tiny fraction of the total SWCCs, are the
boat captains only ones who operate the SOC-R. These river crews conduct
Special in the center.
warfare The Pentagon mainly clandestine combat missions, often operating at night
Combatant- overhauled SWcc
craft riverine craft with little or no air support. Coastal teams, in contrast, spend
for clandestine more of their time these days training friendly international
missions in 2002,
replacing Vietnam- forces. In the schoolhouse at SWCC school, you can choose
era gunboats. which team you want to be on, Mike says. I specifically
picked [Special Boat Team] 22, because its the most up-close-
and-personal, aggressive team that the SWCCs have. I mean,
youre on a river, youre a lot closer to any enemy; whereas, you
know, its a huge ocean.

a M er i CaS M oST h e av i Ly
Sig Sauer P228
a rM ed v eh i CLe
This reliable 9 mm pistol
is a favorite in special
ops circles. The SOC-R wasnt made to be versatile. Instead, it is a special-
ized tool built to help the SWCCs engage the enemy in tight
surroundingsand prevail. The SWCCs told its builder,
United States Marine, of Gulfport, Miss., that the craft could
have a draft no deeper than 2 ft when fully loaded with arma-
ments, ammunition, crew and passengers. It had to be com-
Special Ops Peculiar pact enough to fit inside a C-130 military aircraft, narrow
Modification M4A1 enough to slide through tight river passages and light enough
a black-ops kit can add
a noise suppressor, day/ to be hoisted by a Chinook helicopter. In Iraq, the helicopters
night scope and laser
spotter to a standard rifle.

POPULarMEchaNIcS.cOM | March 2009 81

othEr naval sPEcial-
W a r fa r E b o at s

MK V Special Operations Craft NSW Rigid Inflatable Boat

SeaLs in a small inflatable boat can access these The primary mission of these extreme-weather
medium-range Mark vs using a ramp on the stern. in craft is the short-range transport of SoF to and
addition to Special operations Forces (SoF) delivery, from enemy beaches. They also conduct recon
Mark vs are used to intercept and board enemy ves- and resupply.
sels and to launch unmanned aerial vehicles.
Length: 36 ft 0 in. Max Speed: 45+ knots
Length: 81 ft 2 in. Max Speed: 48 knots Range: 200+ nautical miles Hull: Glass-
Range: 500+ nautical miles Hull: Aluminum reinforced plastic with air-filled sponson
ted with GAU-17/A miniguns. The electrically powered rotat-
ing barrels allow for bursts of up to 6000 rounds per minute.
(Shooting at that rate through a single barrel could melt the
weapon.) M240B light machine guns are fitted into the mid-
mounts. Finally, the boat has an aft-mounted .50 cal that has
the slowest output but the biggest punchenough to pene-
trate light vehicle armor and most building materials. This
weapons position is vital: It can cover the boat crews as they
escape from an overwhelming threat.

h e av y Fi r e o N M u d dy waT er
Weve just simulated a hot extract, with the boat pushed up
against a bank long enough for nonexistent passengers to
scramble onboard. Other SOC-R teams provide covering
fireagain, their targets disintegrate before I even have a
chance to notice them. Chewing up entire swaths of riverfront
property is a prelude to the getawayour minifleet of SOC-Rs
is on the run from the exfiltration site, .50 cals thumping
away. Sometimes on our special op missions, we just run
away and come back and fight another day, says Commodore
Evin Thompson, former head of Naval Special Warfare Group
4, which runs the SWCCs.
With a series of bangs, a wall of smoke suddenly fills the
river behind us. This is another trick the SOC-R crews can
employ as they exit a fightfiring smoke canisters from four
rear-facing launchers. Whats interesting about the riverine
environment is that if you get in trouble, you can either go up
the river or down the river, not left or right, Thompson says.
On the way back, the flotilla pauses for an all-out exhibi-
tionall four boats decimate a broad stretch of riverbank.
Red tracer rounds streak through the dust kicked up by pre-
ceding shots, some of which chop lines along the waters sur-
face. With all boats firing, there are at least 12,000 rounds a
minute coming at that bank.
Miniguns like these are usually found With this part of the exercise over, most of the SWCCs
only on helicopters or armored vehi-
cles. but small special operations head back to their trailer house for a break, but one boat gets
river gunboats need heavy firepower the job of helping us with a photo op. The SOC-R speeds past
to survive close-quarters combat.
a few times as we watch from the river bank, showing off how
quickly it can come to a full stop. The crews last trick is a
high-speed reverse: Everyone on board is cheering as the
nimble craft whips its aft around 180 degrees, throwing one
SWCC off balance. He manages to hold on before hitting the
water, and his crewmates quickly pull him back. When we
sling these gunboats to lift them over dams, making possible make it back to land, Mike is eagerand amusedto see the
an extra element of surprise. footage; he was the one who almost went overboard.
Although the boats twin waterjets and 440-hp Yanmar After ditching me and our photographer, the troop is get-
diesel engines give it a hefty power-to-weight ratio, its speed ting ready to go out again. The sun has already slipped
and tight turn radius are facilitated by the hull design. The behind the tree line, but the crews still face a long session of
slope of the SOC-Rs V-shape belly essentially allows the boat overwhelming-firepower training ahead. Once its dark, they
to skate along the surface, with relatively little drag on the will run maneuvers, firing thousands more live rounds while
hull. There is no hanging rudder or propeller blades to snag wearing night-vision goggles.
on submerged roots and rocks. After nearly 4 hours of daylight operations, the plan is to
The guns, however, are the SOC-Rs central attraction. spend 8 to 12 more hours on the river. This is part of the
Although tanks and light armored vehicles might have a final stretch of training before Mikes group of roughly 50
more powerful cannon, theres arguably more firepower per SWCCs deploys to Iraqby early spring, they may already
square inch here than on any other military vehicle. be there. He wishes me luck as we part, and walks back
The two forward weapon mounts of the boat Im in are fit- toward the boats. PM

POPULarMEchaNIcS.cOM | March 2009 83

workbench plans + More hot
water + choosing pliers

This sturdy
bench and peg-

shop, reborn board replaced

a slapdash
rEma kI ng a c l u ttE r E d wo r k a r E a In to a s h ow P I E c E wI t h
dIa mond-PlatE P E gbo a r d , a h E av y -d u ty w orkb E n c h an d
rollI ng tool sto r a gE . B Y j o s e p h t r u i n i

When i first set up my basement bench provided a large surface on and stacks of lumber. The pegboard
workshop nearly 15 years ago, I which to build projects and fix furni- ran out of space for any more hooks,
didnt have much time or money to ture, and the pegboard kept dozens and it strained under the weight of
invest, so I just banged together a of hand tools neatly organized and my ever-growing tool collection. It
2 x 4and-plywood workbench and readily accessible. was clear that my shop needed a
mounted a sheet of perforated peg- Eventually, though, the system facelift. but rather than just tidying
board to the wall. became overloaded. The workbench up the tools and clearing off the
this rudimentary layout served got buried under an impenetrable workbench, I decided to strip the
me well over the years. the work- pile of old tools, half-done projects entire space down to the bare floor

PhotograPhs by AnjA Hitzenberger POPUL ARMECHANICS.COM | MARCH 2009 85

and walls and start from scratch.
P M D I y h o M e /// P e g b o a r D W o r k b e n c h my primary goal was to create a
better-organized work space, but I
also wanted it to look great. so I built
How to it out of materials not ordinarily found
Build It in a home shop, including fat black
iron pipe, rock-hard maple butcher
block and polished aluminum dia-
mond-plate pegboard. I couldnt be
happier with the results.

Installing the Pegboard

at first glance, it may seem that
commercial-quality diamond-plate
pegboard is just too extravagant for
residential use. maybe. but my old peg-
board sagged, and hooks came loose
as the holes elongated. The diamond
plate will easily stand up to the rigors
of an active workshop. besides, its just
plain coolan important performance
1 characteristic in my book.
true, this stuff is several times
The pegboard forms its own guide for boring into the more expensive than the pegboard I
substrate. Simply drill through peg holes to fasten the
board. Use a carbide-tip masonry bit and hammer drill to replaced, but its about in line with
bore into concrete block or solid concrete. Use an ordinary other top-quality building materials.
wood-boring bit and drywall screws to attach to drywall
and wood framing. I paid $135, plus shipping, for two
panels that measure 45 in. on each
With pilot holes side (
bored and spacers
3 installed, drive I was able to install the pegboard in
attachment screws minutes. In my case, the panels needed
into the substrate. to be fastened to a concrete-block
Use masonry
2 screws such as Tap- wall, but studs would work just as well.
A PegBoard X2 cons to install the I used a hammer drill and a -in.
panel is tray- panels to concrete carbide-tip masonry drill to bore the
shaped. It has a block or solid con-
crete. Use drywall required holes through the panel and
cavity behind it to
allow space for the screws for drywall into the masonry (1). The panels come
hooked tool holders and wood framing.
with small peel-and-stick plastic spac-
that fit through
the peg holes. To Cut the pegboard around any surface-mounted electri- ers that maintain the proper distance
ensure a consistent cal boxes. If youre installing the pegboard over existing from the wall in order for the home-
cavity behind each surface-mounted electrical boxes, switches or plastic- owner to insert hooks (2).
panel, it comes covered cable, replace them with metal conduit and
with a package boxes. Conduit and metal boxes provide maximum protec- with mounting holes bored and
of peel-and-stick tion to electrical wiring and devices located in work areas. spacers applied, all that remained
spacers that should was to drive the fasteners home. I
be attached to the 4
panels back before used x 2in. tapcon masonry
its installed. screws and turned them in with an
ordinary cordless drill driver (3)no
heavy equipment necessary. If youve
never used these unique fasteners,
you owe it to yourself to try them
( they can even be
removed and repositioned easily.
about the only tricky thing that
you may have to do is cut the peg-
board to fit around outlet boxes (4). I
used a jigsaw and a high-speed steel
blade with teeth shaped to cut alumi-
num. The simplest way to make these


openings is to saw a u shape and
P M D I y h o M e /// P e g b o a r D W o r k b e n c h then cut out the corners.

building the workbench

I like the old-fashioned, robust look of
1-in. threaded steel pipe. years ago,
After pipe and fit- you had to cut and thread such pipe
tings are painted, yourself, but these days, local home
spin the parts centers will do the work for you. That
together by hand,
made it an easy material for building
5 and then tighten
them up with a pair the legs of my workbenchone that
of pipe wrenches
turned in opposite
gave me both a solid frame and a dis-
directions. 6 tinctive look.
working with precut threaded pipe
Use floor flanges on the threaded vertical sections of the is very simple and convenient. I put
leg assembly to form the foot at the base and the attach-
ment point for the bench top. Turn the flange onto the together two assemblies, each one
vertical sections, stopping only once the threaded portion shaped like an h and made of five
of pipe is fully engaged in the flange and is snug.
straight lengths joined by a pair of t fit-
tings. Four floor flanges are threaded
onto the top and bottom of the verti-
cal legs of each h. Each flange is noth-
ing more than a disc of metal with a
large threaded hole in its center and
smaller unthreaded holes drilled
through its circumference.
to dress up the pipe, I individually
spray-painted each part with a glossy
black paint that has a hammered tex-
ture. before applying the paint, I wiped
down the steel with a clean rag moist-
ened with mineral spirits and covered
the threads with masking tape. keep-
ing the threads bare of paint enabled
me to turn the vertical parts of the h in
and out during the assembly, so I could
7 fine-tune the components and make
The H-shaped sure everything was the same height
leg assembly is 8 an especially important consideration
fastened to the on a wavy concrete basement floor.
bench top by driving A fir plywood backsplash/tool shelf improves the useful-
screws through the ness of the bench. This is nothing more than an L-shaped From there, I simply had to remove
attachment holes in assembly with decorative sawn brackets. Once the shelf is the tape, turn the pieces together by
the rim of the floor assembled, bore -in.-dia pilot holes through it and into
flange. Use a -in.
hand and snug them up with a pair of
the bench top. Next, fasten the shelf to the top with 1 in.
bit and bore 1-in.- drywall screws. pipe wrenches (5). Then I spun on each
deep pilot holes into floor flange (6). to install the leg assem-
the top. Then drive The crowning touch
in 1-in. No. 12 bly, I flipped the top over and used a
of the new work
wood screws. area is serious 9 drill driver to bore pilot holes and drive
tool storage. Two hefty wood screws through the flange
rolling Craftsman holes and into the top (7). a word of
tool chests (model
59299) are sta- advice if you do this project: dont
tioned beneath the undersize the pilot holes. The laminated
bench; each has a
600-pound capacity.
maple top is very tough, and it doesnt
take screws easily. once the top
was installed, I built the tool-hanging
backsplash/shelf and screwed it to the
tops back edge (8). when everything
was done, I rolled two craftsman tool
cabinets into place (9) and put my tools
awayin their sleek new home. PM


If these simple steps dont substan-
tially reduce the problem, it may be time
to upgrade how you produce hot water.
Yes, that may include installing an elec-
tric or gas instantaneous water heater,
homeowners Clinic but thats a mechanically complex solu-
tion, since it requires additional plumbing
by roy berendsohn
and fuel connections. And if you opt for
the electric water heater, it may also
require a dedicated electrical circuit.
It would probably make more sense
to go with a larger conventional water
heater, since the gas, plumbing and vent
connections for the existing heater are
already in place. Look for an appliance
with a large tank (50 gal) thats insu-
lated with as high an R-value as possible
(ideally, R-25).
Additionally, the heaters recovery
rate should also be as high as possible.
This is the rate at which the water heater
can raise the temperature of the inlet
water by 90 F. Its expressed in gallons
per hour (gph). Typical 50-gal water heat-
ers have recovery rates in the range of
40 gph, but there are heavy-duty models
that go as high as 50 to 60 gph. A few
companies, such as Bock Water Heat-
ers, even offer residential products with

Getting powerful burners that enable recovery

rates as high as 109 to 170 gph. Thats

More typically what you would expect from a

small commercial water heater.

Hot Cleaning Concrete

Water My 5-year-old concrete driveway has
black stains. What are they and how
do I remove them? Ive tried bleach
and concrete cleaners, to no avail.

Q We never seem to have

enough hot water. Its
not a very big house, so its
The stains probably come from tan-
nins, which are present in oak leaves,
acorns and the nuts of other trees, such
not like the water is cooling
off on its way to the faucets.
Also, we have a reasonably
A You have lots of options, but
before you call a plumber, take a
few energy-conserving steps. First, flush
as hickory. These are some of the most
common stains on exterior concrete
and some of the hardest to remove.
new gas-fired water heater in the water heater. That will remove any First, make a mild solution of wood
the basement. I dont under- sediment thats interfering with heat bleach (oxalic acid crystals) dissolved in
stand it, really. Im consider- transfer from the flame to the water water. Try an inconspicuous area first.
ing installing an instanta- above. Next, insulate pipes carrying the Apply it to the stains, scrub and rinse.
neous water heater or other heated water to fixtures. Finally, insulate That might do the trick. If not, either pres-
equipment to improve this. the hot-water tank itselfjust be sure sure wash the concrete using a nozzle
photograph by alamy

What are my options? not to install insulation over the vent or that produces a broad fan-shaped spray
thermostat. Finally, remove the burner- pattern or use a rental rotary floor scrub-
chamber access cover and, with the light ber and a brush designed for concrete
out, inspect the flame while the heater is and uneven surfaces. No matter what
firing. The flame should be compact and method you use, go easy. Overly aggres-
blue. If its yellow or oddly shaped, the sive cleaning can remove the protective
burner may need to be cleaned. top layer of concrete. This exposes a

90 marCh 2009 | popUl armEChaNICS.Com

comparatively weak lower layer that and-dirty construction, you cant go
is far more prone to damage from rain, wrong by installing one. It will keep the Using Wood Filler
sun and freezethaw cycles. ridgeline from sagging in the future. And
it will simplify construction by providing Im preparing to do some
Roof Framing a sturdy connection point at the peak of exterior fix-up work this
spring and plan to touch up
Im building a free-standing garage, the roof. Besides, unless you frame the some rotted exterior wood
and Im wondering if it needs a garage with roof trusses, the town will with two-part epoxy wood
ridgeboard. Ive looked at some old almost certainly require a ridgeboard to filler. I like the way the
product looks after its
garages, sheds and outbuildings, and grant the building permit. smoothed, but I hate using
Ive noticed that many did not have For a truly sturdy roof, use a ridge it because its so much
ridgeboards, while others used just a that is at least as wide as (and preferably harder than wood. It takes
forever to sand down. Is
piece of tongue-and-groove siding or wider than) the end cut of the rafter that
there a filler thats easier
sheathing. Is a ridge needed? meets it. A simple way to ensure this in to use but still stands up to
Most stick-framed roofs (those not most cases is to use a ridge thats one outdoor use?
framed with trusses, in other words) lumber size wider than the rafter that
have a ridge, a horizontal piece of lumber meets it. If youre using 2 x 6 rafters, for
at the apex of the roof where the rafter example, use a 2 x 8 ridge.
peaks are fastened. There are excep-
tions, especially among sheds and other Not-So-Royal Flush
small structures. The carpenters who My toilet flushes poorly. How do I
threw up many of those old buildings correct that?
were reluctant to use any more lum- There are several things you can do. First,
ber than was absolutely necessary. In see whether the tank is filling with water
fact, despite their reputation for solid adequately. Lift the tank lid and check
construction, many older houses are so that the water is up to the fill line. If its Stick with the filler
scantily built its a wonder theyve stood not, a new fill-valve assembly or adjust- youre using, but dont
as long as they have. ments to the old one are in order. wait until its fully cured
So, let me put it this way: A little Next, be sure that the waterjet to start work on it. First,
more lumber is always better than a holes on the bottom of the bowls rim dig out rotted wood with
little less lumber. While a ridgeboard are clear. Use a small mirror to check a beat-up chisel. Next,
can be omitted or minimized in down- this. Clear the holes with a stub of wire goop the filler generously
onto the repair area. The
filler hardens quickly, so
without waiting very long,
take a razor-sharp chisel
p r o b l E m S o lv E d (not the one you used to
dig out the rot) and pare
hurry Up away excess filler before
C I R C U L AT O R S d O N T I N C R e A S e H O T W AT e R , B U T T H e Y it hardens.
C A N H e L p G e T I T T O Y O U M O R e Q U I C k LY. youll be amazed. The
stuff will come off the
surface in nice big curls
although its an from it to the faucet. that have the consistency
expensive fix, one When the devices of hard chocolate. repeat
way to increase thermostat activates with another layer if nec-
hot-water comfort is the pump, it moves essary. after two or three
to install a hot-water the cooled water in applications, you should
circulatorit will the hot-water supply have a surface thats
ensure water com- into the cold-water pretty close to what you
ing from the faucet supply and back to need. Sand the remaining
is hot as soon as you the water heater. filler smooth, prime the
open the tap. The autocirc is entire surface and paint
The $240 laing installed at the sink with a semigloss or gloss
autocirc, for farthest from the exterior paint.
example, mounts water heater. The
to the wall under a only tricky thing is
sink. The hot-water that you have to
and cold-water sup- install an outlet
ply lines enter the receptacle under
device and lead up the sink.

popUl armEChaNICS.Com | marCh 2009 91

if necessary, or simply scrub
Assumin the items
above check out, li the lid
and ush the toilet. Watch
the flapper valve. It should
move up briskly but then set-
tle down ently so that suf-
cient water moves throuh
to do its job. If the flapper
settles down too soon, youll
et an anemic ush. Adju
the appers chain so it ays
up lon enouh to allow for
proper water movement.

Cuttin Down
Im doin an inexpensive
kitchen x-up and I want
to know how to cut a few
inches o the po-formed
laminate kitchen counter I
bouht at a home center.
Its the kind that has a
curvin backsplash.
ere are a number of ways
to cut down a counter. You
can tip it upside down and
cut throuh the counter
itself and the backsplash
with one pass of a circular
saw. e blade may not pass
entirely throuh the back-
splash, thouh. You can n-
ish the cut usin a crosscut
saw. Reduce the likelihood
of chippin the laminate by
applyin a rip of maskin
tape to it alon the cut line.
Make sure that the tape is
carefully alined with the cut
line that you mark on the
counters back. Obviously,
if the saw blade misses the
tape, then the tape hasnt
done much ood. Also, youll
need to support the scrap
piece as you make the cut

Calling all DIYers!

Have you built a one-of-a-kind
proje in your home workshop
or arae? If so, enter it in
PMs DIY Rally by April 1.
Winners will be featured in
the maazine. Entry form at:
because it can tear free and leave a appliance, you dont need to do any-
raed ump. thin else. If the cut end faces out into
You can also do a ood job usin the kitchen, xin the end cut is a bit
a handsaw. Typical plaic laminate is more tricky. You can lue a piece of
not as touh as youd think. A sharp plaic laminate on the end and very
eiht-point crosscut saw will slice carefully rout o the excess usin a
throuh a faceup counter pretty read- laminate trimmer. ere are two down-
ily. I surprised some neihbors once sides, thouh: You can damae the
by cuttin a counter for them usin a counter, and it puts a laminate seam
perfely ood handsaw that they had across the counters facenormally
downairs. I think they were expe- the end pieces go on first, then the
in a bi produion. Inead, I had the front ede is applied, then the top. It
counter cut in about 5 minutes. may be easier to carefully sand and
Assumin the cut end faces an spray paint the cut end. FC



Linesman Lon-Nose Tonue-and- Diaonal

Be for: Cuttin Be for: Cuttin Groove Cutters
copper cable. copper wire and Be for: Grip- Be for:
Details: bendin hooks pin pipe, plumb- Cuttin wire in
e round-back in wires to t in ttins and a tiht spot.
tip (shown), over terminal oddly shaped Details: Some
known as a New screws. e parts, such as are fored
Enland nose, tool reaches broken bolts. from chrome
allows reamin into tiht spots Details: Invented vanadium
inside the cut to pull o wire by Channellock in eel for extra
edes of metal terminal 1933, these pli- touhness and
conduits. Varia- conneors. ers also work as corrosion
tions include ver- Details: Heavy- blacksmith tons resiance in
sions to pull sh duty types have or for holdin damp envi-
tape and others the features of a cold chisel as ronments.

that chop nails, linesman pliers, its ruck with Oset-handle

screws and such as hih- a hammer. Also types excel at
bolts. Also called leverae cuttin. called water- ush-to-surface
side cutters. Also called pump pliers. cuts. Also called
needle-nose. dikes.
Brake reBuild + compression
testing + master cylinders

S AT U R D AY M e c h A n i c

Most hydraulic
brake calipers have
only one or two
moving parts. Heres
how to make them
move again after
they freeze up.

rebui ldi n g a d if f iC u lt- its a beautiful spring day, and a quick warmup and youre off for a
to-fi nd br a k e C al iP e r a perfect time to break the winter loop around town.
mi ght be y o u r o n ly seal on the garage and drive around all of which is fine, until the engine
solution to getting that in your classic Corvette, vintage seems a little reluctant to maintain
Classi C Ca r o u t o n th e
motorcycle or whatever pride and joy speed. as you turn a corner, you catch
roa d a ga in . b y M i k e A l l e n
you happen to have stashed inside. that unmistakable whiff of burning
off with the cover, and the engine sweat socksyouve got a dragging
turns over willingly, thank goodness. brake caliper. sure enough, one of the

PhotograPhs by Dennis Kleiman POPUL ARMechAnicS.cOM | MARch 2009 95

P M D I Y A u t o /// B r A k e c A l I P e r r e B u I l D Use some non-
scratching tool,
like a popsicle
stick or this nylon
cable tie, to pry
the seal loose
front wheels is too hot to touch. you blasted or shot-peened to remove from its groove.
limp the few blocks home at low speed. any and all corrosion and rust. after a
now your saturday morning drive has quick inspection, its reassembled with
just mutated from a fun-filled jaunt into a new piston, seal and bleeder bolt.
an afternoons worth of work chasing inside the box with the like-new caliper
down a replacement caliper. a quick assembly, youll find fresh sliding pins
trip to the auto parts store, followed by and any other hardware that should be
a round of phone calls to dealerships replacedand sometimes, new pads
and stores within an increasingly large as well. all you need to do is install the
radius turns up nothing. youll have to caliper, bleed it, and youre back on
rebuild the caliper yourself. the road in a few minutes. often, the
most brake calipers that fail get modest price of this rebuilt assembly is
replaced with either a new part or a less than the over-the-counter price of
rebuilt one. indeed, we picked up a the aggregate parts youd have to buy
rebuilt caliper for this story at the local separately to rebuild the unit yourself. traveling to tomorrow afternoons car
naPa store. industry-wide, its com- no wonder pro mechanics rarely bother show. one savvy counterman, an old-
mon practice to return used calipers to rebuild calipers anymore. school guy, has a suggestion: he knows
to a central rebuilding station where but youve gotten the bad news that the cylinder bore on your caliper is
the caliper assembly is rebuilt. it will be from at least a half-dozen countermen common to several other cars. and he
stripped to the basic casting, cleaned in the last hourno rebuilt, or even does have generic brake piston seals
of all vestiges of road grime by auto- new, calipers until the middle of next in your size. you rush over to his store
mated equipment, and glass-bead- week. and that scotches your plan for and pick up a set of seals and a couple
of pints of fresh brake fluid. Price: less
Start by removing than your lunch at the fast-food drive-
the caliper assem- through window.
bly from the
steering upright.
one caveat: if your frozen caliper is
Break all the bolts a rear caliper, with attendant parking-
loose, includ- brake cables and internal antipush-
ing the bleeder,
before removing back hardware, youll need to consult
the brake line. the service manual for rebuild advice.
And dont forget also, take note that were talking
to wear a particle Brake
mask. Brake about calipers here. if your rotors are
Pad Rotor
out of true, worn too thin or scored
A-Arm by the dragging pads, youll need to
remove and machine or replace them
as well. your brake system is not a
good place to cut corners. okay, im
off my safety soapbox. you may now
return to your regularly scheduled
saturday mechanic.

brake it down
first loosen the lug nuts, block
the rear wheels and get the car up
Sliding on jackstands. heres your chance
Pin Piston to break all of the caliper bolts loose
Pad Anti- while that caliper is still mounted to
Dust Seal Rattle something solid. Judicious tapping and
some penetrating oil should help break
Housing the bleeder bolt loose. use a flare-nut
wrench on the bleederits less likely
to round off the small, hollow bolt.
odds are, if the rubber flex line
screws directly into the caliper casting,

96 MARch 2009 | POPUL ARMechAnicS.cOM

you may need to remove
the rubber brake line at
the far end first. ditto
when using a flare-nut
wrench on the brake
line. Consider replacing
the steel or rubber brake
lines if they are older than
We sawed this
your dog. GM caliper in
half so you could
on the bench see insidethis
shows evidence
strip the caliper of the of serious corro-
pads, shims, springs and sion pitting
in the base of
sliders or pins. remove the bore. We
the outer dust seal, too. cleaned it with
now you need to remove 600-grit paper.
the pistonbut youll
quickly realize theres no
way to grab it. get a
piece of wood slightly thicker than the metal means replacement will be into the bore. once the piston is
both brake pads stacked together. Put necessary. ive had replacement pis- squared up, it should slide in all the
that wood in the caliper aft of the pis- tons machined out of stainless-steel way with moderate finger pressure. if
ton, and add low-pressure compressed bar stock for oddball cars. not, find out why. remove the piston
air to the inlet port. Pop! your piston is to get the o-ring free, use something again, install the new seal, lubricate
out. and so is your little finger if youre that wont damage the caliper bore. again with fresh fluid and push it on
not paying attention. The same goes odds are, corrosion built up between home. add the outer dust boot, and
for your corneas if you dont cover the the piston and bore is what made things reinstall the freshly rebuilt caliper.
whole deal with a shop towel to con- stick. unlike surface damage to the repeat on the other side. dont be lazy
tain the flying brake fluid. if the piston piston, minor pitting of the bore is no and rebuild or replace only one side.
is stuckwhich is how we got into this big dealthe square-cut o-ring seals brakes should always be maintained
messthe process may take a little between its recessed groove and the as an axle set, not one corner at a time.
more time and pressure. if your caliper piston, not to the outer bore. Clean up top off the reservoir with fresh fluid,
has more than one piston, use more the bore surface with wet 600-grit wet- and bleed the system (see bleeding
wood, clamps or whatever to release or-dry paper, then thoroughly clean the your brakes, april 07).
one at a time. entire caliper of all dirt, rust, abrasives
inspect the piston. rebuild kits usu- and old brake fluid with hot, soapy brake Pad tech
ally include a new piston, but if youre water. some two-piston calipers may not all brake pads are created equal.
gleaning from generic parts, you may have internal rubber sealsso no hydro- Theres a choice today of various friction
be stuck, literally. minor surface carbon solvents, please. materials used in pads to do the work
blemishes can be polished out with wet all clean and dry? lubricate the pis- of actually stopping your car. asbes-
2000-grit sandpaper, but any pits in ton with clean brake fluid and slide it tos used to be a major component of
brake pads, but osha regulations now
Once everything make this carcinogen scarce. organic
is clean, put it all materials such as kevlar, often found
back together. Piston
Be sure to tidy O-Ring in oem brake applications, represent a
up or replace any compromise of pad life, braking aggres-
sliding pins or siveness, dusty wheels and noise. if
raceways so the
caliper can move youre interested in a longer-lasting pad
back and forth as material, look into a premium metallic
the pads wear.
or ceramic lining. These materials can
sometimes squeal or hiss, wear out the
discs faster and cover the front wheels
with ugly dust. Performance cars, like
that Corvette of yours, might stop bet-
ter with metallic pads. The downside is
Dust Seal Pin Bushings
that those polished rimsaside from
the costwill be covered in gray dust
after a days drive. PM

POPUL ARMechAnicS.cOM | MARch 2009 97

dont say i
didnt Warn you

I tried to replace the

Car Clinic spark plugs on my 2006

F-150. They were so tight
that a couple of them
by Mike allen
broke off in the cylinder
head. Now what?

Patience, Grasshopper.
ive been warning people
recently that leaving
new-style precious-metal
spark plugs in place for
their normal 100K service
life will marry them to the
soft aluminum cylinder
head, resulting in stripped
threads when its time to
replace them. technical

service bulletin (tsb)

no. 08-7-6 requires a spe-
cial procedure to get the
job done. soak the plug
with carb cleaner for a few
minutes after cracking the
threads loose. This will

a Low blow
a compression allow some of the carbon
test can be very that has built up between
diagnostic, but
the plugs ground shield

only if done
Im trying to resurrect a properly. and the cylinder head to
classic Datsun sedan dissolve. next, work the
thats been sitting in my the iron liner, but plenty of rust above or plug out with a back-and-
garage for years. hey, it gets below. a pitted, rusty surface doesnt
forth rotation to clear
better mileage than my seal as well as one in good condition,
the carbon. The tsb
pickup. The compression on although some rusty surfaces will
then details an elaborate
all cylinders is only around procedure to remove the
clean up a little if you run the engine parts of the plug that are
110 pounds. Why is it so low? for a while. left behind. options are:
i l l u s t r at i o n b y b r a d l e y r . h u g h e s

I think you need to redo that com- Find a Ford mechanic who

a It could just be that the cylinder

walls are rusty and the rings arent
sealing wellbut in that case Id expect
pression test in a few days, because I
suspect it wasnt done properly. Start
by warming up the engine, but not
will either attempt this
procedure or remove the
cylinder head. The tsb
more cylinder-to-cylinder variation. so hot that you burn yourself while ends by suggesting a
smear of antiseize com-
odds are, all four arent rusting equally, removing the plugsall of them. The
pound on the area to pre-
because the pistons couldnt have all compression numbers are heavily influ- vent this from recurring.
stopped the same distance up the cyl- enced by how fast the engine spins
inder wall when the engine was shut during testing, and removing the plugs
down years ago. Theres generally no will reduce drag. be sure the battery
rust where a piston has held oil next to is fully charged and in good enough

98 MarCh 2009 | PoPul arMeChaniCs.CoM PhotograPh by dennis kleiman

P M D I Y A U T O /// c A r c l I n I c q + A problemand do ethanol additives
in gas contribute to it?
alcohol, in concentrations as high as 10
percent, is used to reduce carbon mon-
shape to deliver a full current to the ful of engine oil in each cylinder imme- oxide emissions because the alcohol
starter motor. If the battery is low, the diately before doing a second com- molecule contains oxygen, something
engine wont spin fast enough to get a pression test: If the reading improves missing in the petrochemical soup we
good reading. much, youve got bad rings. call gasoline. alcohol is corrosive, and
The most common mistake people Im seeing a lot of complaints about
make when doing a compression test Corrosive Question failing fuel-gauge senders. Dont blame
is not opening the throttle fully while I have a 2002 Chevy Impala whose the petroleum companiesalcohol
cranking the engine. a closed throttle fuel gauge failed after 50,000 miles. percentages are mandated by the EPa.
will leave a vacuum in the intake, low- I used an additive to the gas to biodegradable ethanol is used instead
ering the reading. In fact, even low clean the corroded contact points of MtbE and EtbE, since these harmful
barometric pressure will affect it. I on the gauge. This may have helped chemicals were found in groundwater,
prefer the screw-in-style compression clean the fuel pump, but it did almost certainly from leaking under-
gauge to the type that just seals with a nothing for the gauge. The only fix ground storage tanks. Flex-fuel cars,
rubber stopper. Crank the engine over someone suggested to me was to rated to run on mixtures of ethanol as
for six full pulses to be sure youre get- install a new fuel pump and gauge high as 85 percent, have more alcohol-
ting the highest reading. unit. And that costs more than tolerant parts in the fuel system.
Still low? try spraying a teaspoon- $400. What is the cause of this Now, about your problem: the
fuel-gauge sender is a simple rheostat
with metal contacts that slide along a
resistor as the float goes up and down.
the MeChaniCs heads uP gauges fail when these contacts start
to get dirty and corroded. Its a simple
an uplifting experience procedure to clean or replace this unit
FINE-tuNE your brakE-PEDaL PLay For ProPEr which is indeed available without buy-
FEEL aND PErForMaNCE. ing a new pump. Problem is, the whole
business is located inside the fuel tank,
locknut which has to be drained and removed.
Its not a simple task if you dont have
a lift or a floor jack and stands. Its
potentially dangerous too. That makes
the labor to have this done a significant
issue. but $400 to replace the pump
sender assembly is a decent price. you
could yank the tank yourself if you feel
up to it and try cleaning the contacts
with some 400-grit wet-or-dry sandpa-
"" Play per and electrical contact cleaner.
The cheapest solution is a 30-cent
grease pencil to write the mileage of
Pushrod the last fill-up on the windshield.
REACH DOWN and lift up is adjustable. First, make
the brake pedal with your sure the brake pedal
fingers. There should be pivot is moving freely Sign of the times
approximately to piston will never return Ive seen rust and disin- I recently purchased crossbars for
i l l u s t r at i o n b y b r a d l e y r . h u g h e s

in. of free play before it to its fully extended tegrated bushings freeze
hits the upper stop. Is position. That, in turn, this joint. Same for the
my 2008 Toyota Highlanders roof
there more or less move- will trap brake fluid in the clevis on the pushrod. All rack. The instructions on removing
ment than that? Several master cylinderwhich you need to do now is to the rear caps were very ambiguous.
things can go wrong will prevent the pistons loosen the jam nut and I attempted to remove these end
here: If the pedal pivot in the brake calipers or shorten or lengthen the
gets sticky and doesnt drums from returning, pushrod by turning it caps, but it appeared that I was
allow the pedal itself to and your brakes will drag. until theres enough clear- going to destroy these flimsy plastic
return freely, or if youve Too much play will give ance. A small amount of pieces. Any assistance would be
replaced the master you a low, spongy pedal. clearance at the clevis
cylinder and the amount Fortunately, the pushrod should translate to greatly appreciated.
of pedal free-play is too between the brake pedal about a quarter-inch at I read the instructions too: youre right
small, the master-cylinder and the master cylinder the pedal. M.A. not very helpful. Maybe the instructions
in the box with the rack parts was dif-

100 MarCh 2009 | PoPul arMeChaniCs.CoM

P M D I Y A U T O /// C A R C L I N I C Q + A than those attached with a screw or
bolt. It makes life simple on the produc-
tion line, I uess, but for those of us who
may need to remove these pieces sev-
ferent, but the shop manual pae I ot to expe from Toyota. eral times over the life span of the car,
from AllData specically said these plas- More enerically, interior and exterior its fruratin. Dismantlin an interior
tic trim pieces are fraile and may need trim pieces seem to be ettin more or front fascia today is like playin pick-
to be replaced aer theyre removed. and more fraile, and they are more up icks. Hello, automakers? Cant trim
is is not the level of quality Ive come and more often snap-in parts rather pieces be made more robu aainlike
in the old days?

Solved Simply
I have a 1993 Chrysler
Fih Avenue with around
120,000 miles on the
ticker. Every time I art
the car and press the
brake to put it into drive
or reverse, the ABS
liht comes on for a few
seconds and I can hear the
ABS pump. Also, the ABS
liht comes on occasion-
ally when I press hard on
the brakes. When that
happens, I ill hear the
pump. e brakes are ne
Every time any car with
ABS is started, the ABS
com puter oes throuh
a power-on self-test: The
first time the brake pedal
is depressed, the hydraulic
pump and solenoid valves
in the ABS control unit cycle
briey. So yours sounds like
its workin as desined.
And if you press the brake
pedal firmly enough, the
ABS syem will kick in and
prevent the wheels from
lockin up. When that hap-
pens, the ABS liht on the
dash comes on and the
pump motor runs briefly.
So this also sounds like its
workin as desined.
Unless these symptoms
have ju cropped up, theres
no problem.

Under Pressure
In your column that
appeared in the O. 19,
2008, edition of e
Boon Globe, you say,
Its impossible to see
if your tires are underinated More important, its low enouh to
without a tire-pressure aue. affect handling and braking, espe-
I dont believe this atement is cially in rainy or snowy conditions.
entirely accurate. I ju purchased Any driver who relies on the TPMS
a 2008 Subaru Tribeca with a to tell him he needs air is oin to
tire-pressure monitorin syem spend a lot of miles drivin on dan-
(TPMS). In cooler temperatures, erously underinated tires. e DOT
the pressure in the tires has one dropped the ball when they set the
down, and the monitorin syem permissible amount of underinfla-
alerted me to this fa (the tire tion. eres ill no subitute for a
was about 5 or 6 pounds below $10 tire aue in your love box.
its required pressure). I admit the
syem doesnt provide aual False Positive
pressure readouts, but its a ood I have a 1994 Jeep Cherokee
safety check. Dont you aree? Sport. e brakes have been
All cars and liht trucks sold in the bled multiple times and I ill et
U.S. since 2007 have a TPMS, as sponiness in the pedal. e front
man dated by the Department of disc brakes work, but the rear
Transportation (DOT). And I predi brakes never seem to et up to
that these syems will have little pressure. When the vehicle is up
ee on how poorly the American on blocks, the front wheels op
drivin public maintains its tire pres- if the brakes are applied, but the
sures. Ju the opposite: consum- rears keep turnin. I have replaced
ers, bein the lazy dolts they are, the rear cylinders and the maer
will assume their tire pressures are cylinder. Whats oin on here?
ne because the TIRE PRESSURE e sponiness is probably air in the
warnin liht on the dash isnt lit. syemif you have ABS, the manual
ere are two types of syems. calls for a conventional bleed, fol-
The bestand more expensive lowed by a bleed with the Chrysler
uses a radio transponder mounted scan tool to cycle the pump and sole-
inside the tire. With this type, you noids in the ABS controller, followed
can usually call up the individual tire by a second conventional bleed.
pressures on a dashboard display. Sound like a lot of work? Ive ot-
e second uses data from the ten ood at workin on brake sys-
ABS/traction-control system. An tems without ever introducin any
underinated tire will have a rollin air into the syemits ill possible
radius smaller than the other three, to successfully ush the syem with
and consequently will rotate faer fresh uid without hookin it up to
than the others. When the differ- the tricorder.
ence in rotation becomes extreme As far as the ineffectiveness of
enouh, the low-pressure alarm the rear brakes: If you have the rear
oes o. ere are several problems suspension at full droop with the
with this. If the outside air temp frame up on stands, the load com-
oes from very hot to very cold, all pensation valve will interpret that as
four tires will lose pressure equally, a lihtly loaded rear suspension and
and the alarm wont sound. reduce the brake pressure to the
eres an even bier issue, as rears to nearly nothin. I bet the situ-
far as Im concerned: Neither type of ation will be dierent if you put the
monitorin syem sets o the warn- ands underneath the axle inead
in indicator until, as youve discov- of the frame rail. Give that a try and
ered, the pressure is 5 or 6 pounds let me know how it works out. FC
too lowthe spec required by law is
25 percent below the recommended
Calling all DIYers!
pressure. Have you built a one-of-a-kind proje in
And thats ju plain too low. Its your home workshop or arae? If so,
low enouh to accelerate tire wear enter it in PMs DIY Rally by April 1.
Winners will be featured in the
and raise rolling resistance to the maazine. Entry form at: popular
point where it aes fuel economy.
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Make your PC boot Faster

th er e s no n e e d t o su FFe r t h rou g h s l oW s tart u P s .
PMs sPeCial regiMen oF os tWeaks and soFtWare surgery
C a n sP e e d t h i n g s uP. b y E r i n S c o t t b E r g

Why cant a computer be more but newer operating systems can devices are installed, the startup pro-
like a television? When you push the take longerMicrosoft Vista actually cess gets even longer. and these
power button on a tV, it just turns tends to boot more slowly than its slow boot times can lead to bad
on. Computers, on the other hand, predecessor, Windows XP. (Microsoft behavior. Many users become so
bootas in, they take so long to get claims its next-generation operating frustrated that they leave their com-
started that you want to stick your system, Windows 7, should provide puters on constantly, wasting elec-
boot into them. drastic improvements in boot time.) tricity and delaying valuable os
you would think that the march additionally, boot times increase security updates.
of technological progress would have with a computers age. as you use but take heart: There are steps
reduced boot times over the years, your PC and more programs and you can take to speed things along.

Photogr aPhs by k yoko hamada POPUL ARMECHANICS.COM | MARCH 2009 105

P M D I Y T E C H /// M A K E Y O U R P C B O O T F A S T E R check programs that load at startup
and disable anything unnecessary.
you can also access the list of
startup applications in either Vista or
depending on the configuration of targets trial software and puts it on a XP through the Msconfig utility (type
your computer, many of the various chopping block for you to eliminate. msconfig into the run box in the
system checks and processes that on a dell laptop we analyzed, start menu). select the startup tab,
take place during boot-up may be decrapifier found several programs then uncheck any applications you
unnecessary or irrelevant to you. a imploring users to get high speed think might be slowing your startup.
variety of tricks of varying sophistica- internet! from service providers both options allow you to disable a
tion can reclaim valuable minutes or angling for new business. delete! programs startup component without
seconds of get-up-and-go time. We completely removing it. so if you dis-
tested expert tactics on three well- reconfigure able something and then discover that
used computers in PMs tech lab. Pushy software it was vital to the operation of your
some startup slowdowns come from PC, you can always turn it back on.
ditch dusty Programs software that you do use, but dont inevitably, youll find programs in
as a general rule, an uncluttered com- necessarily need running in your sys- your startup configuration that youve
puter is a fast computer. The easiest tems background. Many programs never heard of before. to sort it all
step to speed startup is to remove have components that load at startup, out, consult an online reference such
software that you no longer use. Many then monitor your os constantly. That as sysinfo. This site categorizes start-
of these seemingly fallow programs makes perfect sense for antivirus soft- up entries according to how neces-
are running active background pro- ware that must continually watch for sary they are. on one of our test PCs
cesses that launch every time you suspicious activity on your PC, but its we found avgtray.exe configured as a
push the power button. This doesnt probably not necessary to have the startup operation. this miniprogram
just slow down your startup, it chews software that came with your digital was a part of the aVg antivirus soft-
up raM and drags down the overall camera always running so that it can ware suite and was designed to
performance of your PC. instantly offload pictures. launch aVg from an icon in the sys-
to get a full list of installed soft- there are a few ways to check tem tray at the bottom right of the
ware, check Control Panel in Vista and which programs are muscling into Windows home screen. sysinfo cate-
select remove Programs (in XP go to your startup sequence. in Vista, you gorized avgtray.exe as users Choice,
add/remove Programs). if you find can manage startup applications meaning that its not imperative to
programs that youre not using or that through Windows defender, Micro- the PCs operation but could be use-
support equipment you no longer own, softs built-in program that monitors ful, so we decided to keep it. Many of
eliminate them. for spyware, pop-ups and performance the items we found in the startup
one of our test computers, a drags. defender has an integrated tool menus of our test PCs were software
3-year-old XP machine, had more called software explorer that lets you that could be started on an as-needed
than two dozen programs that hadnt basis, but didnt need to be launched
been used in years. after we removed at startup, so we disabled them.
them, the machines boot time was
reduced from 2 minutes 45 seconds Cut the splash screen
to 2 minutes 21 seconds. across all Macs if youre serious about shaving every
three of our computers, the biggest Need last second of startup time, dip into
offender was aiM instant-messaging Speed,
software. removing it shaved an aver- Too
age of 8 seconds off boot time. In our tests, mac oS X natively booted faster than microsoft Vista, but Macs
even brand-new PCs can be junked are susceptible to slow boot times too. And often, its because of the same
up with useless applications, known as problems. If your Mac is taking a long time to boot, the main culprit is probably
trialware, that load processes at start- startup software, says Ben Casey, a Mac technician at TekServe in New York.
up. since these programs arent for- Check for erroneous applications and delete what you dont need launching every
mally installed on your system, they time. If you have multiple accounts on one Mac, edit the list of startup programs
may not show up in your remove Pro- for individual users by going to the Accounts panel of System Preferences and
grams list. that shouldnt stop you selecting Login Items. Also, look in the universal startup folder, which controls what
loads for all users. (It is called Startup Items, in the Library folder on your hard
from getting rid of them if you have no
drive). The shorter these lists, the quicker your machine will start up.
intention of using the software. If your computer is still taking too long to boot, try clearing your caches using a
The easiest way to purge unwanted free piece of software called Onyx ( The first boot
trialware is by using a program called, after purging your caches will take longer than usual, because the computer needs
believe it or not, PC decrapifier. This to reconstruct those caches from scratch, but the resulting up-to-date caches will
free, downloadable tool specifically allow for a faster boot time. E.S.


PM Boot Test
We took three well-used PCs and ran them through a battery of
cleanups and reconfigurations to see how much time we could trim
from startup. The result was a 30 percent improvement. E.S.

00:00:00 1:15:00 2:30:00

A v era ge i n i ti a l boot ti me | 2 min 29 sec

Measured from push of power button until OS was fully loaded

A v era ge boot ti me a fter fi x es | 1 min 47 sec l Remove old programs 18 sec

Fixes were sequential, so the order may have affected results l Reconfigure software 16 sec
l Eliminate splash screen 6 sec
l Tweak BIOS 1 sec
l Clean up registry 1 sec

together. to get to the bios on most

computers, you hit one of the function
keys (usually F2, F10 or F12; your com-
puter should prompt you on the screen is upgraded, the registry isnt always
during startup). The bios checks each updated properly, so it can end up full
drive attached to your computer for an of outdated, useless entries. unlike the
operating system to boot from, but it Msconfig utility and bios, casual dele-
the boot tab in the Msconfig utility, doesnt always check in the most logi- tions from the registry can cause irre-
which controls the settings for the cal order. on one of our test laptops, versible damage, so it is no place for an
boot initialization/configuration file. the bios was looking at the usb drive inexperienced computer user to go tin-
generally, users should tread carefully and optical drive before checking the kering on his own. but a good software
when tinkering with boot.ini, but one hard drive where the os is installed. i solution can help clean it out for you.
easy edit is to check the /noguiboot rearranged the boot order to check the Free programs such as CCleaner and
option. This saves time by skipping the hard drive first. glary utilities, as well as more fully fea-
Windows startup animation. Most bioss scan the computer tured pay software such as system
memory for errors at startup, but if you Mechanic ($50), are available for down-
edit your bios havent made any modifications to load online and will scrub the registry
before the operating system loads up your raM or noticed any errors, this for keys left over from old applica-
on your computer, software on the probably can be skipped. if your bios tions no longer resident on your
motherboard known as the bios has a Quick boot or skip Memory machine. These may be delaying boot
(basic input output system) governs Check function, you can save a few time by causing the computer to scan
the configuration of the PCs hard- extra seconds. for nonexistent programs during
ware. as with the boot.ini file, its advis- startup. a clean registry makes the
able to tread carefully in the bios to Clean up the registry whole process more efficient.
avoid disabling something important, The registry is a database in both Win- how much time youll gain overall
but a few well-placed tweaks can save dows Vista and XP that stores informa- depends entirely on how messed up
valuable seconds when you boot. tion about your hardware, software your computer was in the first place.
The bios sets the boot sequence preferences and user profiles. When- Cleaning out all of the digital clutter
for your PC and makes sure all the ever you change something in Win- still wont make your computer
componentslike the video card, dows, it is logged in the registry. but instant-on, but it should make the
memory and hard drivefunction when software is deleted or hardware wait more bearable. PM
MP3 Player Connection Sound Quality

RCA Port

Very Good
Digital Clinic
by Seth Porges StereoWith
Stereo With
Line-In Port

Cassette adapter

Wired Fm

iPod Auto
Control? WirelessFM
Wireless FmTransmitter

Q best
My car doesnt have a built-in iPod dock. Whats the
way to play my MP3s while I drive around?

A Buy a new carjust kidding. While some new vehicles have iPod docks,
owners of dockless vehicles can patch together a method for streaming
their MP3s through the built-in stereo. Effort and expense will vary, and some
setups will sound much better than others.

Option 1: Wireless FM Transmitter well. And while this problem is particu- To use one, simply plug one end
I n Sta l l at Io n : Easy larly pronounced in cities with crowded into the MP3 players headphone jack
S ounD q u a l It y : Poor airwaves, the issue exists nearly every- and the other into the tape deck.
FM transmitters are the most popu- where in the country. Theres another If your automobile has a cassette
lar and convenient way of playing an downside to FM transmitters: Even player, there is no easier way to get
MP3 device through a car stereo. They under ideal conditions, FM radio just interference-free listening.
typically plug into an iPods dock or cant deliver excellent sound quality.
headphone jack to create what is That being said, FM transmitters Option 3: Wired FM Modulator
essentially a low-wattage pirate radio are extremely convenient and, with InS ta l l atIon:Moderate
stationpowerful enough to be picked many models selling for as little as SounD qua l Ity: Good
up by your car radio inches away, but $15, affordable. If you decide to use With wireless FM transmitters, the
not strong enough to interfere with one, choose a model that lets you pick signal has to travel through high-traffic
neighboring car radios. any FM frequency (some restrict you to airwaves on its way to your car
Unfortunately, these transmitters a few stations on the top or bottom of antenna. Wired FM modulators, which
need to compete with real (and far the spectrum). This will increase your usually come as small boxes with a
more powerful) radio stations and are odds of finding an open channel. few cords running out from them,
easily swamped by 6000 watts of clas- intercept the connection between the
sic rock. When this happens, the sound Option 2: Cassette Adapter cars antenna and radio, allowing you
that comes out of the speakers can be In StallatIo n : Easy to inject your iPods signal directly into
a cacophonous mix of static, local So u n D q u alI t y: Good this wired pathway. The result is dra-
radio stations and whatever your iPod Audio cassette adapters take advan- matically improved sound quality
is playing. This problem is exacerbated tage of an increasingly rare feature: a although the final result is still ham-
by FCC regulations, which prohibit FM cars tape player. These adapters are pered by the limitations of FM radio,
transmitters from broadcasting at shaped exactly like a cassette tape. which is far from audiophile-friendly.
greater than 18.75 nanowatts, essen- They are cheap (around $15), common- These modulators are inexpensive
tially ensuring that they wont work place and deliver decent sound quality. (they can be found online for as little as

108 marCh 2009 | PoPul armEChanICS.Com I l lU s T r AT I o n By m a r k c a b u e n a

$15) and relatively easy to put in, as crank some tunes. Unfortunately, mo this cord into the ereos RCA jack and
lon as you are comfortable ddlin car ereos lack this port. Inallin a the other end into your MP3 players
with your car ereos wires. new car stereo that has one is one headphone jack. Finally, tune your e-
To install one, position yourself method for ettin excellent sound reo to either CD or Auxiliary (the
underneath the dash. Reach up and usin your iPod. New ereos with the exa settin depends on your ereo).
unplu the antenna from the back of port can be purchased for under $100
the ereo and plu it into the modula- and inalled either by you or a profes- Frozen Screens
tors antenna input. Take the modula- sional. (Some shops oer free inalla- Im an avid tailater. Is there
tors output cord and conne it to the tion with purchase.) any daner in brinin my LCD TV
ereos antenna input. You can then out into the cold? Can the liquid
set the modulator to run at any FM fre- Option 5: RCA Port cryals freeze?
quency. Pick one with weak competin IN STALL ATION: Moderate Tailate with condence. LCD manu-
sinals (usually at the very top or bot- S OUND QUALITY: Very Good facturers regularly test their sets to
tom of the spectrum), and plug the Some car stereosprimarily ones make sure they can hold up to freezin
modulators audio output cord into your with CD playersinclude an RCA jack temperatures. Sony, for example, chills
iPods headphone jack. in the back. Hijackin this audio connec- its TVs for a full day at both 14 F and
tion from the CD player will provide minus 4 F. e ndins: While the sets
Option 4: Stereo excellent sound quality for music com- can survive a Green Bay winter with-
With Line-In Port in o an iPod. Fir ep: Remove the out suerin any permanent damae,
IN S TA L L AT IO N : Moderate ereo. If there is an RCA port, you will the cold can cause piure quality to
SO U N D Q U A L I T Y: Very Good see dual jacksone with a red and one suer. At low temperatures, the aual
If youre lucky, your car ereo has a with a white input (similar to the RCA liquid material will move slowly, creat-
headphone-size line-in port riht on jacks on home ereos). RCA-to-head- in a blurry imae, a Sony representa-
the front. If so, all you have to do is jack phone cords can be bouht for a few tive told me. is will improve once
your MP3 player into this hole, tune dollars at just about any electronics the material warms up. e aion on
your ereo source to Auxiliary, and ore. Plu the red and white ends of the eld may look a bit blurry, but the
P M D I Y T E C H /// D I G I T A L C L I N I C Q + A dried under the Home button. Get-
tin to the oendin pocket detritus
required him to o beyond the kind of
reversible surery that tech-savvy
TV will bounce back before the next iPhone owners have pioneered over
ame kicks o. TECH TIP the pa year. He aually had to break
A sneaky way to brihten your photos. open parts that were lued toether
Button Lint basically killin the patient. If, like
Ive had my iPhone for nearly two Glenns, your phone is no loner under
years. Recently, Ive had to press warranty, buyin a new one may be
the Home button harder for it to your only option.
respond, and sometimes have had to
try several presses. Whats up? Free Books
In all likelihood, the culprit is nothin If a camera has an automatic I have an E Ink e-book reader, but
more than simple pocket lint. PM exposure, its lens as a lot like a the co of buyin books is addin
pupil in an eye. at is, its aperture
senior technoloy editor Glenn automatically expands when it up. Is there any leal way of usin my
Derene had a similar problem with his senses darkness, and contras if reader to view e-books for free?
r-eneration iPhone. Because his theres an abundance of liht. Because their static screens dont
Knowin this, its easy to manipu-
phone was no loner under warranty, late an automatic exposure to let in icker like an LCD, E Ink e-book read-
havin Apple x or replace it would more liht. Simply place your ner ers such as the Amazon Kindle and
have co him about as much as buy- over the lens for a few seconds. Sony Reader are easy on your eyes
Sensin darkness, the camera will
in a new iPhone 3G. So, once his open up its aperture. As soon as you and easy on their own batteries. (ey
Home button opped workin almo remove your ner, the aperture will draw power only to load new paes,
altoether, Glenn decided to crack quickly bein to close aain. If you not to display the content, allowin a
open the case and perform dianosis snap your shot within about 1 single charge to last through thou-
second of movin your ner, the
through dissection. His findings: lens will let in more liht than usual, sands of paes.) While the manufac-
Seventeen months worth of lint had and your photo will be extra briht. turers miht love it if every e-book you
read was purchased from
their online ores at about
$10 a pop, you have other
options. The Internet is
lled with Web sites eaer
to dispense virtual versions
of books that have lapsed
into the public domain. And
some of these sites, such
as ManyBooks, have even
beun oerin up versions
that are specially formatted
for the Kindle (.azw files)
and Reader (.lrf). You wont
nd any recent be sellers
in the public domain, but
its filled with time-tested
classicsmore Huckleberry
Finn than Harry Potter.
Brinin a Web-found
e-book to your reader is
easydownload it onto an
SD card and insert it. FC

Calling all DIYers!

Have you built a one-of-a-kind
proje in your home workshop
or arae? If so, enter it in
PMs DIY Rally by April 1.
Winners will be featured in
the maazine. Entry form at:
For advertising rates call Angela Hronopoulos (212) 649-2930, fax: (646) 280-2930, or Tim Fountain (212) 649-2929, fax: (646) 280-2929.
Send advertising material to: Hudson Yards, 2501 McGavock Pike, Ste 1702, Nashville, TN 37214. Attn: Melissa Gilliam.
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for more information
> chriStophEr higginS
> agE: 42
>YEarS on Job: 11

1. Strong Floor
2 Before higgins can crush
bridge components, he needs a
good foundation. This 5-ft-thick
concrete pad is reinforced with
four layers of steel bars; it can
withstand up to 5000 psi.

2. Load Frame
This structurebuilt of
hot-rolled steel columns and
girdersis anchored to the
strong floor. It holds bridge
parts while researchers
squeeze and stress them.
3. Hydraulic Actuators
hydraulic arms each apply up
6 to 500,000 pounds of force
to parts in the load frame; a
4 spreader beam disperses force
across the parts. Were trying
to mimic 50 years of service life
in a short time, higgins says.

4. Sensors
higgins and his crew embed
or attach as many as 200
sensors to bridge pieces. Each
sensor is hard-wired and feeds
data into computers as forces
on the bridge parts increase,
offering valuable information
on how and when bridges fail.
5. Cameras
When concrete fractures,
your first reaction is to duck,
higgins says. Were usually
not looking when it goes.
he records tests with digital
still and video cameras,
then examines the footage
Chris Higgins has destroyed more bridges than any flood or frame by frame to find hidden
earthquake. a structural engineer at oregon State Universitys
Kiewit Center, he casts concrete bridge parts and exposes them to stresses that cause 6. Safety Shields
real-world bridges to fail, such as repeated freeze-and-thaw cycles and the weight and Destroying bridges is danger-
pressure of traffic loads. higgins also examines bridges in the fieldbut he doesnt dam- ous work; to avoid concrete
shrapnel, higgins stands
age them. honest. People ask, are bridges safe? he says. Thats like saying, are people behind a panel of -in.-thick
disease-free? Every one is unique. Every one is different. Michael Milstein polycarbonate safety glass.

116 March 2009 | POPUL arMEchaNIcS.cOM PhotograPh by robbie mcclaran