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15 Explosive Facts About Farts

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Farting. Breaking wind. Passing gas. Cutting the cheese. There are a million different ways to discuss blowing the butt trumpet. Everyone does it, even the most delicate of ladies. And admit it, it's usually funny. Here are 15 fascinating facts about the good old fart. 

1. James Joyce thought farts were sexy.

"I think I would know Nora's fart anywhere,” the author wrote in December 1909 of his muse. “I think I could pick hers out in a roomful of farting women."

2. Gerald Ford would blame his farts on the Secret Service. 

The 38th president would turn to his Secret Service agents and loudly proclaim things like ”Jesus, was that you? Show some class!” instead of owning up to his own farts. He clearly never heard “whoever smelt it, dealt it.”

3. Sometimes flatulence isn’t actually from digestion.  

According to a 1942 medical paper, people often attribute gas to indigestion, when it may be something else entirely. The author writes:

The chronic belcher is swallowing air because he is nervous or frightened; the woman who bloats may have only an angioneurotic edema of her bowel; the man who feels as if he had gas in his stomach may have only a duodenal ulcer or constipation, and the man who is passing much flatus may only be chewing gum and swallowing much air with the saliva.

4. “The magical fruit" probably doesn't really make you toot any more than other foods.

A 2011 study found that most people do not fart more if they eat more beans. While a sudden increase in bean intake may cause some flatulence for a few people, it normalizes over time [PDF].

5. Farting is a fetish.

A 2013 paper in the Archives of Sexual Behavior describes a 22-year-old man who is sexually aroused by flatulence. The fetish is also known as eproctophilia.

6. It’s possible to think too much about your farts

In a psychological case study about a 33-year-old woman who was having obsessing thoughts about farting, the poor farting soul was essentially instructed to "fart harder," for a whole year. The paradoxical instructions helped rid her of the obsessive thoughts.

7. Someone has patented reduced-fart snacks.

In 2001, an entrepreneur named Massoud Kazemzadeh, who has a degree in food engineering, secured a patent for “reduced-flatulence, legume-based snack foods.” The snacks were designed to have all the nutrition of a bean, but none of the toots. The patent also includes this gem: “For most people, flatus generation rates are typically between 16 and 64 milliliters [0.54 to 2.16 oz] per hour.” (Of course, we now know, thanks to that 2011 study, that eating beans doesn't lead to more farting, so this type of snack might not be necessary.)

8. You can buy a pill that claims to make your farts smell like chocolate. 

Which, of course, was a challenge that Benjamin Franklin set the world over 230 years ago. A French man named Christian Poincheval sells fart pills that supposedly make your gas smell like chocolate, rose, or ginger, depending on your preference. They retail for about $21 each.

9. There’s such a thing as “defensive flatulence.”

In 1996, a psychoanalyst published a case study of a boy who had been neglected and abandoned by his parents, and subsequently used farting as a defense against the world. “When feeling endangered, Peter had developed a defensive olfactive container using his bodily smell and farts to envelop himself in a protective cloud of familiarity against the dread of falling apart, and to hold his personality together,” the researcher wrote.

10. Fart jokes are eternal. 

Fart jokes have existed since at least 1900 BCE. A Sumerian quip about a woman farting in her husband’s lap is the world’s oldest recorded joke. Humor and farting have been bosom buddies ever since.

11. Smelling farts could be good for you.

A 2014 study found that hydrogen sulfide, the gas that makes farts and rotten eggs smell particularly gross, might prevent mitochondrial damage. The study was talking about direct treatment of cells with hydrogen sulfide, and was in no way related to farting, but we’ll be using it as an excuse to let ‘em rip until someone tells us otherwise.

12. Some NFL teams take a stand against farting.

Denver Post reporter Nicki Jhabvala tweeted a tidbit from an interview with Broncos linebacker Von Miller earlier this year that included mention of a “fart tax” imposed for any flatulence during meetings. Miller said he was the worst offender on the NFL team. Unfortunately, it seems the whole thing was a joke, which may be for the best, since such a penalty would raise a whole lot of questions—would it be based purely on number of occurrences, or severity of sound or smell?

13. Farts can ruin careers. 

In 2014, an opera singer sued her hospital over a botched medical procedure during the birth of her child that left her with excessive flatulence. The lawsuit alleged that “As a result of her incontinence and excessive flatulence,” the singer was unable to work, as the New York Post reported.

14. There’s a whole business in fart-filtering clothes.

Several companies make underwear and other garments that are designed to trap bad smells. Shreddies underwear, for instance, uses a layer of activated carbon cloth to absorb even the most deadly of stinkers. According to a tech reporter who donned the underoos before trying to Dutch oven his wife, they actually work pretty well.

15. Farting can be a profession. 

A performer named Mr. Methane bills himself as the world’s top flatulist, or professional farter—as well as perhaps the only one. He farts the tunes to well-known pieces of music. He’s following in the footsteps of Le Pétomane a French performer who wowed audiences at the Moulin Rouge in Paris with his flatulence at the turn of the century.

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London's Sewer-Blocking 'Fatbergs' Are Going to Be Turned Into Biodiesel
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UK officials can't exactly transform the Whitechapel fatberg—a 143-ton trash mass lurking in London's sewer system—into treasure, but they can turn it into fuel. As The Guardian reports, Scottish biodiesel producer Argent Energy plans to convert parts of the noxious blockage into an environmentally friendly energy source.

For the uninitiated, fatbergs (which get their names from a portmanteau of "fat" and "icebergs") are giant, solid blobs of congealed fat, oil, grease, wet wipes, and sanitary products. They form in sewers when people dump cooking byproducts down drains, or in oceans when ships release waste products like palm oil. These sticky substances combine with floating litter to form what could be described as garbage heaps on steroids.

Fatbergs wash up on beaches, muck up city infrastructures, and are sometimes even removed with cranes from sewer pipes as a last resort. Few—if any—fatbergs, however, appear to be as potentially lethal as the one workers recently discovered under London's Whitechapel neighborhood. In a news release, private utility company Thames Water described the toxic mass as "one of the largest ever found, with the extreme rock-solid mass of wet wipes, nappies, fat and oil weighing the same as 11 double-decker buses."

Ick factor aside, the Whitechapel fatberg currently blocks a stretch of Victorian sewer more than twice the length of two fields from London's Wembley Stadium. Engineers with jet hoses are working seven days a week to break up the fatberg before sucking it out with tankers. But even with high-pressure streams, the job is still akin to "trying to break up concrete," says Matt Rimmer, Thames Water's head of waste networks.

The project is slated to end in October. But instead of simply disposing of the Whitechapel fatberg, officials want to make use of it. Argent Energy—which has in the past relied on sources like rancid mayonnaise and old soup stock—plans to process fatberg sludge into more than 2600 gallons of biodiesel, creating "enough environmentally friendly energy to power 350 double-decker Routemaster buses for a day," according to Thames Water.

"Even though they are our worst enemy, and we want them dead completely, bringing fatbergs back to life when we do find them in the form of biodiesel is a far better solution for everyone," said company official Alex Saunders.

In addition to powering buses, the Whitechapel fatberg may also become an unlikely cultural touchstone: The Museum of London is working with Thames Water to acquire a chunk of the fatberg, according to BBC News. The waste exhibit will represent just one of the many challenges facing cities, and remind visitors that they are ultimately responsible for the fatberg phenomenon.

"When it comes to preventing fatbergs, everyone has a role to play," Rimmer says. "Yes, a lot of the fat comes from food outlets, but the wipes and sanitary items are far more likely to be from domestic properties. The sewers are not an abyss for household rubbish."

[h/t The Guardian]

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Thinking of Disinfecting Your Sponge? It’ll Do More Harm Than Good
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Common house-cleaning wisdom advises you to clean your sponges periodically. Some experts advise running them through the dishwasher, while others suggest microwaving a wet sponge. But a new study says that both of those techniques will do more harm than good, as The New York Times reports.

A trio of microbiologists came to this conclusion after collecting used sponges from households in Villingen-Schwenningen, Germany, a city near Zurich. As the researchers write in Nature Scientific Reports, they asked the 14 houses that gave them sponges to describe how they were used—how many people in the house handled them, how often they used them, how often they replaced them, and if they ever tried to clean them.

Analyzing DNA and RNA found on those sponges, they found a total of 362 different bacterial species living on them. The sheer number of the bacterial colonies was staggering—some 82 billion total bacteria were living in a cubic inch of sponge. (As co-author Markus Egert told the Times, that’s similar to what you’d find in your poop.)

As the researchers discovered by analyzing the bacteria found on sponges whose users said they regularly cleaned them, disinfecting a sponge using a microwave, vinegar, or a dishwasher is worse than useless. It seems that when you attempt to clean a sponge, you kill off some bacteria, but in doing so, you provide an environment for the worst species of bacteria to thrive. Sponges that were regularly cleaned had higher concentrations of bacteria like Moraxella osloensis, which can cause infections in humans. (Though it’s unclear how likely you are to get infected by your sponge.) It’s also the reason dirty laundry smells. By microwaving your sponge, you’re probably just making it smellier.

Sadly, there’s not much you can do about your dirty sponge except throw it away. You can recycle it to use as part of your cleaning routine in the bathroom or somewhere else where it’s far away from your food, but the best way to get a clean sponge, it seems, is to just buy a new one. May we suggest the Scrub Daddy?

[h/t The New York Times]

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