10 Inventors Who Came to Regret Their Creations

by Kenny Hemphill

Just because someone's invented something, it doesn't mean that they're happy with the end result.

1. J. Robert Oppenheimer — The atomic bomb.

via iStock

It's J. Robert Oppenheimer who, as director of the Los Alamos Laboratory during World War II, is credited with the creation of the atomic bomb. 

Despite past associations with left wing organizations, Oppenheimer welcomed the opportunity to play a part in the war effort. Later, however, he had mixed feelings about the bomb. "I have no remorse about the making of the bomb … As for how we used it, I understand why it happened and appreciate with what nobility those men with whom I'd worked made their decision. But I do not have the feeling that it was done right. The ultimatum to Japan [the Potsdam Proclamation demanding Japan's surrender] was full of pious platitudes. ... our government should have acted with more foresight and clarity in telling the world and Japan what the bomb meant," he said.

Albert Einstein, whose work made the bomb possible but who had no role in developing actual weapons, was less equivocal. He believed Germany was attempting to create an atomic bomb to use against the Allies in World War II, and he signed a letter to President Franklin Roosevelt encouraging him to support U.S. research into producing one as well. Years later, he regretted it. "Had I known that the Germans would not succeed in producing an atomic bomb," he said, "I would have never lifted a finger."

2. Mikhail Kalashnikov — AK-47.

via iStock

Kalashnikov designed the rifle that bore his name for the Russian army at the end of the Second World War after witnessing terrible casualties in battle and being injured himself. Designed to be a simple automatic rifle that could be made cheaply using the mass production methods available at the time, Kalashnikov, who died in 2014, lived long enough to see his creation be responsible for more deaths than any other assault rifle.

"I keep coming back to the same questions. If my rifle claimed people’s lives, can it be that I…, an Orthodox believer, am to blame for their deaths, even if they are my enemies?" he wrote in a letter to the head of the Russian Orthodox church in 2010.

3. Tim Berners Lee — the double slash.

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Given what Sir Tim did for all of us when he developed HTML and created the World Wide Web, he's got a fair amount of credit in the bank. If he did have any major regrets about the web, we wouldn't find it too difficult to forgive him, but his mea culpa relates to only two characters, the '//' at the beginning of every web address. "Really, if you think about it, it doesn't need the //. I could have designed it not to have the //," he said, according to Business Insider.

4. Ethan Zuckerman — the pop-up advert.

If you've ever found yourself yelling at your computer screen in frustration as yet another pop-up ad leaps into view, obscuring the content behind it, Zuckerman is the person to blame.

Now head of the Center for Civic Media at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Zuckerman wrote an essay for The Atlantic last year entitled "The Internet’s Original Sin," in which he took full responsibility for the pesky blighters. Working as an employee of web host Tripod at the time, Zuckerman explained that the company, which provided free web pages for consumers, had spent five years looking for a way to generate revenue.

"At the end of the day, the business model that got us funded was advertising. The model that got us acquired was analyzing users’ personal homepages so we could better target ads to them. Along the way, we ended up creating one of the most hated tools in the advertiser’s toolkit: the pop-up ad."

Explaining that the intention had been to allow adverts to appear when users visited a page without necessarily associating the advert with the content of the page, Zuckerman explained, "We came up with it when a major car company freaked out that they’d bought a banner ad on a page that celebrated anal sex. I wrote the code to launch the window and run an ad in it. I’m sorry. Our intentions were good."

5. Dong Nguyen — Flappy Bird.

Flappy Bird was a sensation a year ago. What looked like a crude and simple game proved to be hugely addictive thanks to it hitting that sweetspot between infuriatingly difficulty and being just playable enough to make you think that next time you'll do better. Downloads soared and controversy raged until, after 50 million downloads and advertising revenue that was hitting around $45,000 a day, Nguyen had had enough and announced that he was going to withdraw it from app stores. "I cannot take this anymore," he tweeted. Apparently, the publicity generated by the game had attracted the attention of the world's press and Nguyen was bombarded with calls, tweets, and emails.

The removal of the game from app stores did little to quell the publicity. Nguyen received death threats, while phones with the game already installed sold on eBay for small fortunes, and app stores were flooded with copycat titles.

6. Bob Propst — the office cubicle.

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While working as a consultant for Herman Miller in the 1960s, Bob Propst introduced America to the open plan office and with it, the office cubicle. It was, he told the New York Times in 1997, designed to "give knowledge workers a more flexible, fluid environment than the rat-maze boxes of offices."

Companies saw his invention as a way to save money,  doing away with individual offices and replacing them with open plans and cubicles. Propst came to lament his invention. "The cubiclizing of people in modern corporations is monolithic insanity," he said.

7. Vincent Connare — Comic Sans.

Sunny Ripert, Flickr // CC BY SA-2.0

"If you love it, you don't know much about typography." An anonymous critic of the font Comic Sans didn't say that, for those are the words of its designer, Vincent Connare, talking to the Wall Street Journal. Connare followed up that comment, however, with this: "If you hate it, you really don't know much about typography, either, and you should get another hobby."

Connare's view, and one shared by lots of others, is that the problem with Comic Sans is not with the font itself, but its overuse and misuse. Designed for a Microsoft application aimed at children to be used as a replacement in speech bubbles for Times New Roman, Connare never imagined it would become so widely used and derided.

8. Tom Karen — Raleigh Chopper.

Paul Townsend, Flickr // CC BY ND-2.0

Before the BMX arrived on the scene in the late 1970s, if you wanted a bike that wasn't of the drop-handlebarred racing variety, Raleigh's Chopper (pictured up top) was one of the few options. Loved by millions for its comfortable saddle, laid-back seating position, and those huge Harley Davidson-esque handlebars, it was one of Raleigh's best-selling bikes in the 1970s.

However, its designer, Tom Karen, wasn't enthusiastic when a comeback for the Chopper was mooted last year. He told The Telegraph: "The Chopper wasn’t a very good bike. It was terribly heavy so you wouldn’t want to ride it very far. There was some guy who rode it from Land's End to John O’Groats for a good cause and by the end he was cursing it."

9. Kamran Loghman — Pepper spray.

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Kamran Loghman worked for the FBI in the 1980s and helped turn pepper spray into weapons grade material. He also wrote the guide for police departments on how it should be used. The spray has been used numerous times by police in the US, but following an incident at the University of California in 2011 when police sprayed the bright orange chemical on what the New York Times described as "docile protestors," Loghman spoke out. "I have never seen such an inappropriate and improper use of chemical agents," he told the Times.

10. John Sylvan — Coffee capsules.

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When John Sylvan invented coffee pouches and machines which could turn them into steaming cups of joe, he had no idea of the monster he had created. Sylvan's invention gave rise to systems like Nespresso and Tassimo and made it easier than ever for millions of us grab a regular caffeine fix. "I feel bad sometimes that I ever did it," he said a few years ago. "It's like a cigarette for coffee, a singleserve delivery mechanism for an addictive substance."

This story originally appeared on our UK site.

7 Massage Guns That Are on Sale Right Now

Jawku/Actigun
Jawku/Actigun

Outdoor exercise is a big focus leading into summer, but as you begin to really tone and strengthen your muscles, you might notice some tough knots and soreness that you just can’t kick. Enter the post-workout massage gun—these bad boys are like having a deep-tissue masseuse by your side whenever you want. If you're looking to pick one up for yourself, check out these brands while they’re on sale.

1. Actigun 2.0: Percussion Massager (Black); $128 (57 percent off)

Actigun massage gun.
Actigun

Don't assume you need a professional masseur to provide relief—this massage gun offers 20 variable speeds and can adjust the output power on its own according to pressure. Can your human massage therapist do that?

Buy it: Mental Floss Shop

2. JAWKU Muscle Blaster V2 Cordless Percussion Massage Gun; $260 (13 percent off)

Jawku massaging gun.
Jawku

This cordless, five-speed massager uses a design that's aimed to increase blood flow, release stored lactic acid, and relieve sore muscles through various vibrations.

Buy it: Mental Floss Shop

3. DEEP4s: Percussive Therapy Massage Gun for Athletes; $230 (23 percent off)

Re-Athlete massage gun.
Re-Athlete

Instant relief is an option with this massage tool, featuring five different attachments made to tackle any muscle group. You can squeeze in eight hours of massage time before you have to charge it again.

Buy it: Mental Floss Shop

4. Handheld Massage Gun for Deep Tissue Percussion; $75 (15 percent off)

Massage gun from Stackcommerce.
Stackcommerce

With five replaceable heads and six speed settings, this massage gun can easily adapt to the location and intensity of your soreness. And since it lasts up to three hours per charge, you won't have to worry about constantly plugging it in.

Buy it: Mental Floss Shop

5. The Backmate Power Massager; $120 (19 percent off)

Backmate massage gun.
Backmate

Speed is the name of the game here. The Backmate Power Massager is designed for fast, effective relief through its ergonomic design. Fast doesn’t need to mean short, either. After the instant relief, you can stimulate and distract your nervous system for lasting pain relief.

Buy it: Mental Floss Shop

6. ZTECH Percussion Massage Gun (Red); $80 (46 percent off)

ZTech massage gun.
ZTech

This massage gun looks a lot like a power drill, and, similarly, you can adjust its design for the perfect fit with six interchangeable heads that target different muscle areas.

Buy it: Mental Floss Shop

7. Aduro Sport Elite Recovery Massage Gun (Maroon); $80 (60 percent off)

Aduro massage gun.
Aduro

Tackle large muscle groups, the neck, Achilles tendon, joints, and small muscle areas with this single massage gun. Four massage heads and six intensity levels allow this tool to provide a highly customizable experience.

Buy it: Mental Floss Shop

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links. If you haven't received your voucher or have a question about your order, contact the Mental Floss shop here.


17 Surprising Facts About Frida Kahlo

Guillermo Kahlo, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain
Guillermo Kahlo, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

The life and work of Frida Kahlo—one of Mexico's greatest painters—were both defined by pain and perseverance. Getting to know how Kahlo lived provides greater insight into her masterful paintings, which are rich with detail and personal iconography.

1. Frida Kahlo was born in the same house she died.

Frida Kahlo was born on July 6, 1907, in a building nicknamed “La Casa Azul” for its vivid blue exterior. There, she was raised by her mother, Matilde, and encouraged by her photographer father, Guillermo. Years later, she and her husband, Mexican muralist Diego Rivera, made it their home as well. And on July 13, 1954, Kahlo died there at age 47.

2. Frida Kahlo's beloved home is now a museum.

Casa Azul is also known as The Frida Kahlo Museum. As a tribute to Kahlo, Rivera donated the house in 1958 as well as all of the artwork, created by both him and Kahlo, that it contained. Much of the interior has been preserved just the way Kahlo had it in the 1950s, making the space a popular tourist attraction that allows visitors a look at her work, life, and personal artifacts, including the urn that holds her ashes.

3. A third of Frida Kahlo's paintings were self-portraits.

Kahlo folded in symbols from her Mexican culture and allusions to her personal life in order to create a series of 55 surreal and uniquely revealing self-portraits. Of these, she famously declared, "I paint myself because I am so often alone, because I am the subject I know best."

4. A surreal accident had a big impact on Frida Kahlo's life.

On September 17, 1925, an 18-year-old Kahlo boarded a bus with her boyfriend Alex Gómez Arias, only to be forever marred when it crossed a train's path. Recalling the tragedy, Arias described the bus as "burst(ing) into a thousand pieces," with a handrail ripping through Kahlo's torso.

He later recounted, "Something strange had happened. Frida was totally nude. The collision had unfastened her clothes. Someone in the bus, probably a house painter, had been carrying a packet of powdered gold. This package broke, and the gold fell all over the bleeding body of Frida. When people saw her, they cried, ‘La bailarina, la bailarina!’ With the gold on her red, bloody body, they thought she was a dancer."

5. Frida Kahlo’s path to painting began with that collision.

The accident broke Kahlo's spinal column, collarbone, ribs, and pelvis, fractured her right leg in 11 places, and dislocated her shoulder. Those severe injuries left her racked with pain for the rest of her life, and frequently bedbound. But during these times, Kahlo picked up her father's paintbrush. Her mother helped arrange a special easel that would allow her to work from bed. Of her life's hardships, Kahlo once proclaimed, “At the end of the day, we can endure much more than we think we can.”

6. Frida Kahlo once dreamed of being a doctor.

As a child, Kahlo contracted polio, which withered her right leg and sparked an interest in the healing power of medicine. Unfortunately, the injuries from the train accident forced the teenager to abandon her plans to study medicine.

7. Frida Kahlo’s poor health shaped her art.

In the course of her life, Kahlo would undergo 30 surgeries, including the eventual amputation of her foot due to a case of gangrene. She explored her frustrations with her body's frailty in paintings like The Broken Column, which centers on her shattered spine, and Without Hope, which dramatically depicted a period where her doctor prescribed force-feeding. On the back of the latter, she wrote, "Not the least hope remains to me ... Everything moves in time with what the belly contains."

8. Frida Kahlo didn’t view herself as a surrealist.

She rejected the label, saying, "They thought I was a Surrealist, but I wasn’t. I never painted dreams. I painted my own reality."

9. Frida Kahlo’s tumultuous marriage sparked more pain and paintings.

Frida Kahlo with Diego Rivera and a pet dog, Mexico City, 1940s
Frida Kahlo with Diego Rivera and a pet dog, Mexico City, 1940s
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

When Kahlo met Rivera, she was a student and he was already a father of four and on his way to his second divorce. Despite a 20-year age difference, the pair quickly fell for each other, spurring Rivera to leave his second wife and wed Kahlo in 1929.

From there, they were each other's greatest fans and supporters when it came to their art. But their 10-year marriage was wrought with fits of temper and infidelities on both sides. They divorced in 1939, only to remarry a year later. Paintings like Self-Portrait with Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird, The Two Fridas, and The Love Embrace of the Universe boldly illustrated their relationship from Kahlo's perspective.

10. Frida Kahlo grieved privately and publicly for the children she never had.

Modern doctors believe that the bus accident had irreparably damaged Kahlo's uterus, which made pregnancies impossible to carry to term. In 1932, she painted Henry Ford Hospital, a provocative self-portrait that marks one of several devastating miscarriages she suffered.

The piece would be displayed to the world in a 1938 gallery show. But Kahlo kept private personal letters to her friend, Doctor Leo Eloesser, in which she wrote, "I had so looked forward to having a little Dieguito that I cried a lot, but it's over, there is nothing else that can be done except to bear it.'" This letter, along with others from their decades-long exchange, were released in 2007, having been hidden for almost 50 years by a patron worried about their contents.

11. Frida Kahlo once arrived to an art show in an ambulance.

In 1953, toward the end of her short life, the painter was overjoyed about her first solo exhibition in Mexico. But a hospital stay threatened her attendance. Against doctors' orders, Kahlo made an incredible entrance, pulling up in an ambulance as if in a limousine.

12. Frida Kahlo is rumored to have had several famous lovers.

When she wasn't recovering from surgery or confined to a recuperation bed, Kahlo was full of life, relishing the chance to dance, socialize, and flirt. While American sculptor Isamu Noguchi was in Mexico City for the creation of his History as Seen from Mexico in 1936, he and Kahlo began a passionate affair that evolved into a life-long friendship.

Three years later, while visiting Paris, the bisexual painter struck up a romance with the city's "Black Pearl" entertainer Josephine Baker. And many have speculated that the artist and activist also bedded Marxist revolutionary Leon Trotsky, while he and his wife Natalia stayed in Kahlo's family home after they were granted asylum in Mexico in 1936.

13. Frida Kahlo was fiercely proud of her heritage.

Though she'd lived in New York, San Francisco, and Paris, Kahlo was always drawn back to her hometown, Mexico City. She favored traditional Mexican garb, the long colorful skirts she was known for, and the Huipile blouses of Mexico’s matriarchal Tehuantepec society. Perhaps most telling, she told the press she was born in 1910, cutting three years off her age so she could claim the same birth year as the Mexican Revolution.

14. Frida Kahlo had several exotic pets.

Casa Azul boasts a lovely garden where Kahlo had her own animal kingdom. Along with a few Mexican hairless Xoloitzcuintli (a dog breed that dates back to the ancient Aztecs), Kahlo owned a pair of spider monkeys named Fulang Chang and Caimito de Guayabal, which can be spotted in Self Portrait with Monkeys. She also cared for an Amazon parrot called Bonito, who would perform tricks if promised a pat of butter as a reward, a fawn named Granizo, and an eagle nicknamed Gertrudis Caca Blanca (a.k.a. Gertrude White Shit).

15. Frida Kahlo has emerged as a feminist icon.

Though in her time some dismissed this passionate painter as little more than "the wife of Master Mural Painter (Diego Rivera)," Kahlo's imaginative art drew acclaim from the likes of Pablo Picasso and film star Edward G. Robinson. After her death, the rise of feminism in the 1970s sparked a renewed interest in her work. Kahlo's reputation eclipsed Rivera's, and she grew to become one of the world's most famous painters.

Feminist theorists embrace Kahlo's deeply personal portraits for their insight into the female experience. Likewise, her refusal to be defined by others' definitions and the self-love shown in her proud capturing of her natural unibrow and mustache speak to modern feminist concerns over gender roles and body-positivity.

16. Frida Kahlo’s personal style has become a vibrant part of her legacy.

Frida's art and its influence were not simply spawned from the paint she put to canvas. Her distinctive personal style has proved influential in the world of fashion, inspiring designers like Raffaella Curiel, Maya Hansen, Jean Paul Gaultier, and Dolce & Gabbana. (In 2019, Vans even launched a collection of shoes featuring her work.)

17. Frida Kahlo's work is record-breaking.

On May 11, 2016, at the first auction to put a major Frida work up for sale in six years, her 1939 painting Dos desnudos en el bosque (La tierra misma) sold for over $8 million—the highest auction price then paid for any work by a Latin American artist.

This story was updated in 2020.