June 23, 2005

Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Farts, But You Were Laughing Too Hard To Ask

This is from an e-mail received from my sister-in-law, Jody, so I can in no way claim credit for any of this material. It's good information though. Very useful.

#1 - What makes farts stink?

The odor of farts comes from small amounts of hydrogen sulfide gas and mercaptans in the mixture. These compounds contain sulfur. Nitrogen-rich compounds such as skatole and indole also add to the stench of farts. The more sulfur-rich your diet, the more sulfides and mercaptans will be produced by the bacteria in your guts, and the more your farts will stink. Foods such as cauliflower, eggs and meat are notorious for producing smelly farts, whereas beans produce large amounts of not particularly stinky farts.

#2 - Why are stinky farts generally warmer and quieter than regular farts?

Most fart gas comes from swallowed air and consists largely of nitrogen and carbon dioxide, the oxygen having been absorbed by the time it reaches the anal opening. These gases are odorless, although they often pick up other (and more odiferous) components on the way through the bowel. They emerge from the anus in fairly large bubbles at body temperature. A person can often achieve a good sound with these voluminous farts, but they are commonly (but not always!) mundane with respect to odor, and don't feel particularly warm.

Another major source of fart gas is bacterial action. Bacterial fermentation and digestion processes produce heat as a byproduct as well as various pungent gases. The resulting bubbles of gas tend to be small, hot, and concentrated with stinky bacterial metabolic products. These emerge as the notorious, warm, SBD (Silent-But-Deadly), often in amounts too small to produce a good sound, but excelling in stench.

#3- How much gas does a normal person pass per day?

On average, a person produces about half a liter of fart gas per day, distributed over an average of about fourteen daily farts. Whereas it may be difficult for you to determine your daily flatus volume, you can certainly keep track of your daily numerical fart count. You might try this as a science fair project: Keep a journal of everything you eat and a count of your farts. You might make a note of the potency of their odor as well. See if you can discover a relationship between what you eat, how much you fart, and how much they smell.

#4 - How long does it take fart gas to travel to someone else's nose?

Fart travel time depends on atmospheric conditions such as humidity, temperature and wind speed and direction, the molecular weight of the fart particles, and the distance between the fart transmitter and the fart receiver. Farts also disperse (spread out) as they leave the source, and their potency diminishes with dilution. Generally, if the fart is not detected within a few seconds, it will be too dilute for perception and will be lost into the atmosphere forever. Exceptional conditions exist when the fart is released into a small enclosed area such as an elevator, a small room, or a car. These conditions limit the amount of dilution possible, and the fart may remain in a smellable concentration for a long period of time, until it condenses on the walls.

#5 - Why is there a 13 to 20 second delay between farting and the time it starts to smell?

Actually, the fart stinks immediately upon emergence, but it takes several seconds for the odor to travel to the farter's nostrils. If farts could travel at the speed of sound, we would smell them almost instantly, at the same time we hear them.

#6 - Is it true that some people never fart?

No, not if they're alive. People even fart shortly after death.

#7 - Why are beans so notorious for making people fart?

Beans contain sugars that we humans cannot digest. When these sugars reach our intestines, the bacteria go wild, have a big feast, and make lots of gas! Other notorious fart-producing foods include corn, bell peppers, cabbage, milk, and raisins. A friend of mine had a dog who was exceptionally fond of apples and turnips. The dog would eat these things and then get prodigious gas. A dog's digestive system is not equipped to handle such vegetable matter, so the dog's bacteria worked overtime to produce remarkable flatulence.

#8 - What things other than diet can make a person fart more than usual?

People who swallow a lot of air fart more than people who don't. This can be cured somewhat by chewing with your mouth closed. Nervous people with fast moving bowels will fart more because less air is absorbed out of the intestines. Some disease conditions can cause excess flatulence. And going up in an airplane or other low-pressure environment can cause the gas inside you to expand and emerge as flatulence.

#9 - Is a fart really just a burp that comes out the wrong end?

No, a burp emerges from the stomach and has a different chemical composition from a fart. Farts have less atmospheric gas content and more bacterial gas content than burps.

#10 - Is it harmful to hold in farts?

There are differences in opinion on this one. Certainly, people have believed for centuries that retaining flatulence is bad for the health. Emperor Claudius even passed a law legalizing farting at banquets out of concern for people's health. There was a widespread belief that a person could be poisoned or catch a disease by retaining farts. Doctors I have spoken to recently have told me that there is no particular harm holding in farts. Farts will not poison you; they are a natural component of your intestinal contents. The worst thing that can happen is that you may get a stomach ache from the gas pressure. But one doctor suggested that pathological distention of the bowel could result if a person holds in farts too much.

#11 - How long would it be possible to not fart?

A captive fart can escape as soon as the person relaxes. This means that a lot of people who assiduously refrain from farting during the day do so at great length as soon as they fall asleep. Having been on a great many overnight field trips, long bus trips, and trans- Pacific flights, I can personally vouch for the fact that lots of people do fart voluminously as they doze off. So the answer to the question would be, you can refrain from farting as long as you can stay awake!

#12 - Do all people fart in their sleep?

The gas accumulates in the night and they vent it upon awakening.

#13 - Where do farts go when you hold them in?

The doctors agree that the fart is neither released nor absorbed. It simply migrates back upward into the intestine and comes out later. It is reassuring to know that such farts aren't really lost, just delayed.

#14 - How can one cover up a fart?

There is a company called Fartypants that sells underwear designed to absorb the odor of farts If you should be caught without your Fartypants, another ploy is to blame the dog or cat, if one should be present, or complain about how the wind must be blowing from the direction of the paper mill. As for the sound... if you are in a large group of people, act oblivious and innocent, or glance quickly at the person next to you, as if you think he/she did it. Other strategies include coughing or suddenly moving your chair so that people think that they misheard the fart. If you are with one other person, you can act as if nothing happened, and the other person may believe he was mistaken in thinking he heard a fart. Another strategy is not to cover it up, but to proudly proclaim the fart as your own grand accomplishment and to issue a challenge to the others to outdo that one if they think they can.

#15 - Is it really possible to ignite farts?

The answer to that is yes! However, you should be aware that people get injured igniting flatulence. Not only can the flame back up into your colon, but your clothing or other surroundings may catch on fire. A survey done by Fartcloud (the site, alas! is no more) indicates that about a quarter of the people who ignited their farts got burned doing it. Ignition of flatulence is a hazardous practice. However, if you want to try it, and you don't have a friend to light your fart for you, might find it easier to accomplish the job using the Fartlighter. There have also been cases in which intestinal gases with a higher than normal oxygen content have exploded during surgery when electric cautery was used by the surgeon.

#16 - Why is it possible to burn farts?

Farts burn because they contain methane (usually) and hydrogen, both of which are flammable gases. (Hydrogen was the same gas that was used in the ill fated Hindenburg dirigible.) Farts tend to burn with a blue or yellow flame.

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Posted by Ryan at June 23, 2005 01:53 PM

#14 - Having been stationed in Charleston, SC, down-river from a paper mill, I can say with all honesty that I WISH a paper mill could smell as good as a fart.

That's only MY experience, though.

The Dirty Mushroom looks like it can emit some foul ones; maybe paper mills aren't so bad.

Posted by: Rob@L&R at June 23, 2005 03:35 PM

A quarter of people who ignite their farts get burned? Damn, I am either incredibly talented or the lighters are drunk morons.

Show of hands, who among your readers, has NOT lit a fart on fire? And, if so, what food preperation did you undertake for the rectal fireworks show?

I'm definitely guilty. Anal pyrotechnics is just too damned funny not to partake.

Posted by: Johnny Huh? at June 23, 2005 03:52 PM

I have lit many of my own personal anal torches.

Posted by: Ryan at June 23, 2005 04:09 PM

I can honestly say that I have never lighted one of my own, nor have I even seen one, live-and-in-person.

Not that I don't chuckle at the thought.

Posted by: Rob@L&R at June 23, 2005 06:09 PM

i made it all the way through this with general interest without laughing until i hit "Fartypants".

i know a lot of people who would be getting those for christmas, but it looks like they're no longer in operation (fartypants.com is dead).

Posted by: leblanc at June 24, 2005 01:52 PM

oh but wait - you can get these instead:


Posted by: leblanc at June 24, 2005 01:56 PM

This is a good one I came across a while back.


Note the name of the guy who submitted the story....

Posted by: Strider at June 26, 2005 02:16 PM

man i just tried to light my fart on fire! o my god it hurt my ass so bad i thought my ass hole was gone! look dont do it....it is painful!

Posted by: ikillufoo at October 21, 2005 11:34 PM
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