comedy · funny · science · Uncategorized

Farts

Questions I’ve always wondered about farts are:

  • How do I cover up a fart?
  • Why do I like the smell of my own farts?
  • And, am I inhaling poo particles when I fart?

The bell rings, signaling the end of playtime. My friends and I gleefully run back into the classroom, joyful endorphins course through our blood stream, the result of an hour of chaotic exercise. I plop to the ground folding both arms and legs during the free fall, to gracefully stick the landing of a child eager to learn.

The teacher harps about the schedule for the rest of the day. All of a sudden I feel the gas cultivate in my bowels. My sphincter stalls allowing me time to conjure a cover up plan. On recollection, I can’t figure out whether it was the social anxiety and fear of getting caught, or just a metabolism issue, but either way during primary school I must have spent, cumulatively, at least a full week figuring out how to disguise my farts.

The gas builds and the sphincter has stalled all it can. Will I go for a loud noise simultaneous to my fart, or will start early with the noises, perhaps wriggle my shoe in such a way as to squeak a recognizable sounding toot and try to camouflage the real culprit along with them.

Sketches(1)

And when all else failed and the obnoxious, mean boy sitting at the front of the mat, whipped his head around, arm out stretched, pointing a finger even before he had a target to blame, as long as I whipped backwards with the same vigor and judgment as he had I would be okay. This unfortunately mean that poor Hannah Tramaine was always left to take the blame (but she wasn’t really doing herself any favours in that regard anyway).

But what I always remember is that I was more concerned about the sound rather than the smell. Fortunately for the others around me, that might not have been the case.

It seems, that the surprise of a smell, plays a big part in our perception of its intensity, and more often than not, our disgust for that smell. It has to do, like most things with smells, with the path that smells take to the brain.

The olfactory bulb is closely connected to the emotion regulating area of the brain one part of this area is the anterior cingulate cortex. Being surprised by someone opening a door from the other side right as you do, goes through much more logical processing before we truly react to the threat, while a surprise windy pop receives a much more visceral, unregulated response, usually one similar to the young boy at the front of the class, whether you mean to or not.

So when in doubt, go for a Loud and Proud rather than a Silent But Violent (or maybe just give the poor sod next to you a heads up).

While a social stigma remains about farts, the science of farts addresses factors both psychological and evolutionary. And that is most prevalent in the explanation of the most important question about farts…

Why do I like the smell of my own farts?Sketches(3)

(by that I mean the general ‘ I ‘ , personally I am indifferent to my own farts, a neither here nor there stance on my own back doors breeze’s, but having older brothers and a particularly smell conscious father, I am very aware of the phenomenon).

Addressing the psychology first. The more familiar you are with something, the more likely you are to prefer it. So you preferring your fart is like a sort of Stockholm syndrome for your butt.

The reason why we are so familiar with our unique toots is because we are also very familiar with our bodies bacteria’s farts (hint: They’re the same thing). In our guts it is bacteria that helps breakdown the food we eat into useful energy. While poop is just our nutrient drained food; farts are the result of the process of food to poop. While ass whistles happen just the same in all of us, we all have different bacteria and different amounts of bacteria inside of us. This is what causes our very own ‘Eau de toilette’.

While Stockholm butt syndrome addresses one side of our love affair, the other side is our evolutionary development to stay away from sources of disease. Even our ape ancestors knew the ancient saying – don’t shit where you eat.

But this gets flipped when addressing ourselves. We need to be somewhat okay with our own smells in order for us to maintain proper hygiene. This has also been shown in Mothers perceiving their own children’s poop as less offensive as other babies.

And before I finish, I need to address one last question.

When you fart, am I breathing in your poo particles?

Sketches(4)

Having older brothers, I was always the target of a well-aimed cupcake or blow dart

Cupcake
Urban Dictionary definition

(the more directional version of a cupcake). As they did, they would burst into laughter screaming Poo Particles! From then on I had been deathly afraid of breathing in poo. I used to play water polo and got really good at holding my breath, but I really only did it so that I could hold my breath for the entire time it took me to go to the bathroom.

What I found out is that with pants and underwear on, there’s pretty much a zero chance of swallowing airborne poop. The bacteria all get trapped. This is for certain. So the answer is yes, you fart out poo particles but no, I won’t be breathing them in.

Although it does make me wonder about confined spaces, like little bathrooms where underwear must be removed before initiating the drop off. Might there be fighter jets airborne then? From what I can see is, still no. While the fart smell molecules are light and float and mix with the air, the poo particles are heavier and sink down, especially when aimed downward at the bowl. Once toot has been completed the poop particles are polar (with a positively charged end and a negatively charged end) and are attracted to other polar substances. One of which is the water in the bowl. But this makes me think twice about farting in the shower.

 

References:

McBurney, D.H., J.M. Levine, and P.H. Cavanaugh, Psychophysical and social ratings of human body odor. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 1976. 135(3): p. 135-138.

Case, T.I., B.M. Repacholi, and R.J. Stevenson, My baby doesn’t smell as bad as yours: The plasticity of disgust. Evolution and Human Behaviour, 2005. 27: p. 357-365.

Curtis, V., R. Aunger, and T. Rabie, Evidence that disgust evolved to protect from risk of disease. Proceedings of the Royal Society, 2004. 271: p. 130-134.

Hart, B.L., Behavioural adaptations to pathogens and parasites: five strategies. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, 1990. 14: p. 273-294.

Somerville, L.H., T.F. Heatherton, and W.M. Kelley, Anterior cingulate cortex responds differently to expectancy violations and social rejections. Nature Neuroscience, 2006. 9(8): p. 1007-1008.

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