Drones, jeeps, GPS—you probably wouldn’t be surprised to learn that those inventions had military origins and were later adapted for civilian use. But look through your medicine cabinet, pantry, or junk drawer, and you’ll find a number of products that were originally developed for the front lines. In our latest episode of The List Show, Mental Floss editor-in-chief Erin McCarthy breaks down the stories behind nine inventions that might not exist without the military, from bug spray to Epipens.
The next time you’re enjoying a mosquito-free afternoon outside, take a moment to thank the military. During the early 1940s, the armed forces were using a repellent that had to be reapplied every two hours—not exactly convenient when you’re in life-or-death situations. The USDA worked for a decade before they came up with a solution that repelled bugs for 10 hours. The Army put the stuff to use immediately and by 1957 it was available for commercial use. Today we know it as “DEET,” the compound that’s found in a large number of insect repellents. Contrary to popular belief, DEET doesn’t actually kill mosquitoes; it interferes with their neurons and receptors so they don’t detect human-smelling chemicals like lactic acid and carbon dioxide.