Proof: https://twitter.com/lonniegjohnson/status/1096052843541393408

Hello, again Reddit! In celebration of Black History Month, Reddit has asked me to stop by for another AMA with you fine folks and I am happy to oblige! A few updates since my last chat! So far in February 2019 I have:

Opened the newest wing of my STEM Center, an eSports Arena with NFL Hall of Famers Steve Young and Jerry Rice - Received TWO lifetime achievement awards - Celebrated the groundbreaking of the new science center, “The Lonnie Johnson Educational Complex”, at my old high school in Mobile, AL - Was honored at halftime of the Atlanta Hawks vs. Los Angeles Lakers game - Been honored with the featured article on the United States Patent and Trademark Office homepage (www.uspto.gov) - Graced the front page of Reddit with a picture of me from my freshman year at Tuskegee University (https://www.reddit.com/r/OldSchoolCool/comments/aqedfb/lonnie_johnson_inventor_of_the_super_soaker_1973/) - Participated in a celebratory Black History Month AMA!

....and we are only halfway through the month!

EDIT: This was fun as always; I will drop back in later to respond to some more questions. You can always find me lurking on Reddit!

Comments: 622 • Responses: 34  • Date: 

pll_160 karma

If you had one piece of advice for your teenage self, what would it be?

I love you

Iinex209 karma

Learn more chemistry as well as electronics and mechanics.

suaveitguy146 karma

Any of your patents you think are still undiscovered gems that haven't seen their full potential realized?

Iinex94 karma

Yes!!!

suaveitguy143 karma

Does AI scare you with its potential?

Iinex264 karma

For a long time we were fearful that we would destroy ourselves when we first released atomic energy. Inventing and the evolution of knowledge is something that mankind has engaged in from the beginning. It is not going to stop. We are hard-wired to survive. I am confident we will be able to harness its potential.

suaveitguy111 karma

How has Atlanta changed in the last ten years?

Iinex215 karma

More traffic and more sophistication, but still too busy for hate.

OccasionallyWright91 karma

Is your lab still doing nextgen battery research, and if so, how is it going? What is the future of energy storage?

Iinex105 karma

Yes. It's going well. We have restarted our Lithium Air project, and I am very excited about its potential impact on the future of energy storage.

all4reddit79 karma

[deleted]

Iinex153 karma

I was working in my machine shop when my assistant handed it to me and said, "hold this".

HereForTheMilfs60 karma

I have a few honest questions, and by all means i mean no disrespect. Do you feel it is necessary to celebrate a Black History month? Do you feel that we should not all celebrate all of our lives every day of every month instead of trying to dedicate a month to it?

Iinex200 karma

In an ideal world it would not be necessary. But unfortunately there are groups of people in America who are still unfamiliar with other groups in America. This unfamiliarity causes apprehension and sometimes fear of groups different from themselves. It's fear of the unknown as well as fear of stereotypical images. It's almost like if someone looks different, then they must be different. In reality we are all the same. I think celebrating the contributions of various groups gives us a basis for appreciating each other more.

anickbagoffunk52 karma

What music should I listen to right now to best get in the groove of Black History Month?

Iinex137 karma

I like Sam Cook. He was the first person to wear an afro and his music defined soul.

suaveitguy47 karma

As a holder of numerous patents, do you think they are generally good for the world at large? What do you think of genetic patents?

Iinex83 karma

The patent system is great. It motivates people to not only create novel ideas, but more importantly to take risks, make investments and bring those ideas to reality. This is one of the more important ways of improving the quality of our lives.

Patents are written so that anyone skilled in the area of the patent can use the patent to reproduce the invention so that when the patent expires, the innovation is available for anyone in the world to make and produce the product. Any modifications or regulations applied to the patent system should have the general theme of improving quality of life at the forefront.

suaveitguy40 karma

Which has had a worse net impact on the world: chemistry or marketing?

Iinex129 karma

Marketing. Chemistry is predictable. Mother Nature always knows what reactions will occur under what conditions. Marketing can be based on perception and misunderstandings, and sometimes will even PROMOTE misunderstandings in order to sell.

jdfsociety36 karma

What's a book you would recommend to anyone?

Iinex87 karma

"Slavery By Another Name" by Doug Blackmon

Triggered_Nometry34 karma

[deleted]

Iinex149 karma

I drive a Tesla, but Edison lights my house.

FuzzyMeep732 karma

Is Die hard a Christmas movie?

Iinex72 karma

According to the powers that be, it is shown every Christmas. Who am I to blow against the wind?

suaveitguy31 karma

What's the fix for plastic pollution?

Iinex95 karma

There are plastics that are based on wood, paper, and other plant based materials and are therefore biodegradable. Since we rely on packaging extensively, having materials that are more sustainable makes sense. In terms of cleaning up, it would be great if someone could invent a more profitable way of extracting waste products from the environment.

inevitablescape26 karma

If you could have dinner with three people, who are either dead or alive, who would they be, and why?

Iinex112 karma

My dad. I'd love to have a talk with him.

President Obama. I want my dad to know that there was a black president.

President Kennedy. He demonstrated the power of vision as a means for achieving a more ideal world. His vision opened my perspective on engineering and a more just society.

suaveitguy26 karma

Who was your hero growing up?

Iinex82 karma

My dad.

suaveitguy24 karma

What are your thoughts on academic publishing and its costs etc..? How about 'publish or perish' for academics, is it helpful to anyone?

Iinex52 karma

The value of published research and expanding the human knowledge base cannot be overstated.

BATIRONSHARK21 karma

Is there any underrated or not we’ll know figure from black history you would like us to know about ?

Iinex92 karma

Many. Barrington Irving immediately comes to mind. He was the first African American pilot to fly solo around the world (and also the youngest). He also shared a picture with me showing a group of outstanding students that he had been mentoring. One of them was Trayvon Martin.

EDIT: As promised, for accuracy.

MaoPowNow25 karma

The first pilot to fly solo around the world was Wiley Hardeman Post. Mr. Irving was the youngest person to do so, and the first black person.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wiley_Post

Iinex36 karma

Thank you for the correction. I will edit my previous post at the end of the AMA.

lizziebennettsbff19 karma

Have any of your kids or grand-kids "caught the bug" and become scientists/inventors?

Iinex51 karma

2 of my sons and a nephew are engineers. One grand-daughter wants to be an engineer.

Thanhtacles18 karma

How much do you know about the nerf modding community and what do you think of it? I think it's a great way to tech STEM to young people

Iinex32 karma

I lurk in r/nerf A LOT

WEBEKILLINGUM15 karma

Would you rather be attacked by a One bear sized goose or 100 goose sized bears?

Iinex35 karma

One bear sized goose. Just one thing to destroy.

SaveCat14 karma

what's the most unique issue you've faced in your line of work?

Iinex30 karma

What's unique about my line of work is that at least some portion of the problem associated with an invention has not been solved before. It's like designing and building all the pieces of the puzzle as you're putting it together. There is research and then there is engineering. The research part is figuring out the unknown. The engineering part is applying the new knowledge you've developed.

mas123414 karma

What is your opinion on Universal Basic Income?

Iinex42 karma

I think competition is healthy, and I think hard work should be rewarded. Different people are driven by different type of rewards. Some are monetary, some are driven by social responsibility, and some are driven by personal relationships. They're all important. We are where we are after millions of years of evolution. One has to be careful of dramatic change. That said, as AI continues to evolve and robots improve productivity we will need to consider alternative means for distributing the great wealth that will be created.

selflessGene11 karma

What was your time at Tuskegee University like?

Iinex24 karma

My time at Tuskegee was a time of growth. Studied engineering a lot. The academics at times were overwhelming, but I also grew socially. A lot of great friends. A lot of fun times. A lot of fun memories.

Bran_Solo9 karma

Hey Dr. Johnson!

Seems like we have a big problem these days where science is sufficiently advanced that it's become voodoo that most people don't understand and they distrust it. Look at what's happening with climate science and vaccinations for example.

What do you think we could be doing to improve this? Why doesn't the public trust experts anymore?

Iinex16 karma

This is going to become more and more a challenge as technology and AI continues to evolve. It's interesting that our brains evolved over millions of years as we adapted to changes in our environment and our increasing understanding of our world. Now we're facing a situation where knowledge is advancing much faster and our environment is changing much faster. I suspect we're going to continue to increasingly rely on AI to help us with our decision process. The need to improve the intellectual prowess of our general population is ever expanding.

shartnado38 karma

Is one of your nicknames Lon John Silver?

Iinex14 karma

My hair is starting to get a little gray.

Greggthegrim7 karma

What are the current limitations or disadvantages of the Johnson Thermal Electrical Converter when it comes to its actual application compared to the theoretical efficiencies of ~60%?

Iinex12 karma

Effectively and efficiently containing hydrogen.

coldcoldnovemberrain4 karma

What at some of the challenges that you encounter in mentoring students in African American communities about pursuing STEM careers? Also what are your thoughts on separating the "NERD" or "uncool" association with Math or STEM. What can be done to make it as cool as the latest trendy topic.

Iinex17 karma

It really is about having them experience success with technology. Having them create and build things builds confidence in their own abilities. Once they experience success, they will want more. The key is having them perform STEM related tasks before they realize that they're doing STEM, and before they develop a fear that they can't. The other thing of course is to make it fun.

Fortunately these days it's cool to be a nerd. Unfortunately, there are people who tend to discourage others because they lack confidence in themselves, and project that lack of confidence onto others. It is our responsibility to help them experience success in STEM because of the critical role it will play in their futures.

Mercutio333333 karma

Why?

Iinex5 karma

Why not?

skalthof2 karma

How has your race affected your career and what obstacle has been the hardest for you to overcome?

Iinex14 karma

Early in my career I was always under-estimated. I learned early on that I could use this to my advantage. My peers would not expect much from me, and I used that time to learn and figure out how to make progress to get ahead.

The hardest obstacle to overcome was the 8 years it took to get someone to license the Super Soaker. There were numerous times I wanted to give up and go back to government work, but I persevered because I knew I had a good product.

Itroll4love2 karma

Favorite ice cream flavor?

Iinex10 karma

Butter Pecan.

MOTHERFUCKERIAM1 karma

Cops or robbers?

Iinex4 karma

Engineers.