The Genius Engineer Behind the Super Soaker

We may be dating ourselves here, but we can remember the days before the Super Soaker. Those were dark times, when most water guns were flimsy, transparent pistols that dribbled as much as they sprayed. Fortunately, today’s children will not have to suffer as we did; they will never know a world without Super Soakers. For that, we can thank Lonnie Johnson.

Despite the massive success of his pump-powered water cannon, Johnson would not describe himself as a toymaker—he’s an engineer, through and through. His love of engineering started early; as a child, he built a lawnmower-go-kart hybrid and nearly burned down the house while trying to brew his own rocket fuel.

Growing up in the South during the 1960s and '70s, Johnson faced tremendous obstacles. Among other injustices, Johnson was barred from academic institutions and warned not to aim too high. Still, he kept his eyes on the stars and, by 1975, Johnson had a master’s degree in nuclear engineering. Over the next few decades, he would put his brilliant mind and perseverance to work for the Air Force Weapons Laboratory, NASA’s Galileo mission to Jupiter, and Strategic Air Command, where he helped design the first stealth bombers.

In 1982, Johnson was experimenting with different nozzle shapes and pressures on a heat pump prototype when it shot a powerful stream of water across the bathroom. The idea for the Super Soaker sprouted from that moment, and several years, pitches, and patents later, the toy finally entered the market.

Today, Johnson has his name on nearly 100 patents, including a moisture-sensing diaper alarm, a wall-mounted mailbox, a flashlight attachment for a cordless drill, and a whole lot of very advanced technology. His ideas have helped advance aeronautics and space exploration. He also has made summer a lot more fun—but you already knew that.

Header image via YouTube // Great Big Story.

© 2017 USPS
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Speedy Delivery: Mister Rogers Will Get His Own Stamp in 2018
© 2017 USPS
© 2017 USPS

USPS 2018 Mister Rogers stamp
© 2017 USPS

After weeks of mailing out this year’s holiday cards, postage might be the last thing you want to think about. But the U.S. Postal Service has just given us a sneak peek at the many iconic people, places, and things that will be commemorated with their own stamps in 2018, and one in particular has us excited to send out a few birthday cards: Mister Rogers.

In celebration of the 50th anniversary of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, Fred Rogers’s groundbreaking PBS series that the USPS says “inspired and educated young viewers with warmth, sensitivity, and honesty,” the mail service shared a mockup of what the final stamp may look like. On it, Rogers—decked out in one of his trademark colorful cardigans (all of which were hand-knitted by his mom, by the way)—smiles for the camera alongside King Friday XIII, ruler of the Neighborhood of Make-Believe.

Though no official release date for Fred’s forever stamp has been given, Mister Rogers is just one of many legendary figures whose visages will grace a piece of postage in 2018. Singer/activist Lena Horne will be the 41st figure to appear as part of the USPS’s Black Heritage series, while former Beatle John Lennon will be the face of the newest Music Icons collection. Sally Ride, the first American woman in space, will also be honored.

Can You Spot the Christmas Pudding?

Whether it’s a sheep hanging out with Santa Claus or a panda bear hiding among some snowmen, regular Mental Floss readers know that hidden picture brainteasers are one of our favorite things. And the optical experts at have released a delicious one, just in time for Christmas. Somewhere in the midst of all these holiday-themed goodies above, there’s a holiday pudding just waiting to be discovered. Can you spot it? Your time starts … now.

If you give up, or are the kind of person who reads the last page of a book before the first one and just wants to know the answer, scroll down to see where it’s hiding.



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