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.

The Most Popular Netflix Show in Every Country
most popular Netflix show in each country map
most popular Netflix show in each country map key

If you're bored with everything in your Netflix queue, why not look to the top shows around the world for a recommendation? recently used Google Trends data to create a map of the most popular show streaming on Netflix in every country in 2018. The best-loved show in the world is the dystopian thriller 3%, claiming the number one spot in eight nations. The show is the first Netflix original made in Portuguese, so it's no surprise that Portugal and Brazil are among the eight countries that helped put it at the top of the list.

Coming in second place is South Korea's My Love from the Star, which seven countries deemed their favorite show. The romantic drama revolves around an alien who lands on Earth and falls in love with a mortal. The English-language show with the most clout is 13 Reasons Why, coming in at number three around the world—which might be proof that getting addicted to soapy teen dramas is a universal experience.

Pot comedy Disjointed is Canada's favorite show, which probably isn't all that surprising given the nation's recent ruling to legalize marijuana. Perhaps coming as even less of a shock is the phenomenon of Stranger Things taking the top spot in the U.S. Favorites like Black Mirror, Sherlock, and The Walking Dead also secured the love of at least one country.

Out of the hundreds of shows on the streaming platform, only 47 are a favorite in at least one country in 2018. So no hard feelings, Gypsy.

Roadside Bear Statue in Wales is So Lifelike That Safety Officials Want It Removed

Wooden bear statue.

There are no real bears in the British Isles for residents to worry about, but a statue of one in the small Welsh town of Llanwrtyd Wells has become a cause of concern. As The Telegraph reports, the statue is so convincing that it's scaring drivers, causing at least one motorist to crash her car. Now road safety officials are demanding it be removed.

The 10-foot wooden statue has been a fixture on the roadside for at least 15 years. It made headlines in May of 2018 when a woman driving her car saw the landmark and took it to be the real thing. She was so startled that she veered off the road and into a street sign.

After the incident, she complained about the bear to highways officials who agreed that it poses a safety threat and should be removed. But the small town isn't giving in to the Welsh government's demands so quickly.

The bear statue was originally erected on the site of a now-defunct wool mill. Even though the mill has since closed, locals still see the statue as an important landmark. Llanwrtyd Wells councilor Peter James called it an "iconic gateway of the town," according to The Telegraph.

Another town resident, who wished to remain anonymous, told The Telegraph that the woman who crashed her car had been a tourist from Canada where bears are common. Bear were hunted to extinction in Britain about 1000 years ago, so local drivers have no reason to look out for the real animals on the side of the road.

The statue remains in its old spot, but Welsh government officials plan to remove it themselves if the town doesn't cooperate. For now, temporary traffic lights have been set up around the site of the accident to prevent any similar incidents.

[h/t The Telegraph]


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