Sunday nibble #48: Five fart facts


Farts are an amusing subject, and jokes about them go back, well, about as far as jokes. In fact, the very first joke, c. 1900 BCE, was along the lines of “Something that has never happened: A young woman did not fart in her husband’s lap.”

Reading between the lines, I suppose there’s also a sex joke hidden in here, too. Those have also been popular from the beginning. If you’re interested, you can check out the ten oldest documented jokes.

But today’s article isn’t so much jokes about farts as it is interesting facts, so let’s let her rip.

  1. There’s actually a New York Times best-selling book about it called Does It Fart? The book itself has a fascinating origin story. Back in 2017, a teenage boy asked his old sister, zoologist Dani Rabaiotti, “Do snakes fart?” When she realized she didn’t know the answer, she asked Twitter, and the rest happened from there.

For one thing, she got her answer (“yes”), but her question also led to the creation of the hashtag #doesitfart, and soon experts were weighing in on the ability or inability of various living creatures to break wind.

Eventually, she collaborated with Nick Caruso — entirely via internet, they never met in person — and the book was born. Illustrations were provided by artist Ethan Kocak, and you can read all about the farting habits of eighty different creatures great and small.

  1. You’ve heard the term “silent but deadly,” I’m sure, but for one tiny creature, this is literally the case. The culprit would be the beaded lacewing, and it deals out a specialized form of toxic ass gas designed specifically to paralyze termites.

Adult lacewings lay their eggs near termite colonies, and then the larva proceed to use this weapon in order to hunt for food. They’ll back up to a termite, raise their ass to the termite’s face level, and open fire.

The deadly component of their flatus is an allomone, which is a signaling chemical, like a pheromone. The difference is that the latter are designed for a member of a species to use on another member of the same species for their mutual benefit.

And by mutual benefit, I mean it makes the target horny and ready to bone. Incidentally, it’s a myth that humans have or use pheromones. Sorry!

Once the allomone has paralyzed the termite, the larva digs in for a meal. And the chemical from this little anal cantata is so powerful that a single lacewing larva can take out half a dozen termites at once.

The ones that don’t get eaten will eventually die, either from exposure or predation, because they aren’t getting up again. It must be nice to have an asshole that’s also a superweapon.  

  1. On the other end of the scale, is the beloved sloth which, sadly, is the only mammal that cannot fart. This is entirely due to their slow metabolisms. They already only poop once a week at the most, so they’re very predisposed to not be able to build up enough gas to let off a thundering ripper.

All of the gas for those potential sloth farts is reabsorbed into the sloth’s bloodstream and excreted through the skin before it can build up. That’s probably good, though. Given the general pace of a sloth’s lifestyle, if they did fart, each one would probably last for at least half a day, and I’m sure no one else in the forest would appreciate that.

  1. Farts can be dangerous to more than just termites. Picture this scene: It’s a mid-autumn day in October 2015, and a Singapore Airlines jet, specifically a 747-400 freighter plane that had taken off from Adelaide, Australia was en route to Kuala Lampur Malaysia when potential disaster struck.

Fire alarms in the ship’s cargo hold went off and the plane diverted to Bali to make an emergency landing. Emergency services arrived at the scene, but determined that there was no fire and no smoke.

There was only a crew of four humans on board, but the cargo happened to be 2,186 goats. Their collective Capricorn-holes emitted enough flatulence that it tripped the alarms and altered the plane’s flight plan considerably.

I’ll let you imagine what it must have sounded like, as the bleating of over 2,000 goats intermingled with their reverberating farts.

  1. Finally, no article about farts is complete without a mention of this man:
Joseph Pujol. Both images are public domain

You probably won’t recognize the picture or know the name Joseph Pujol, but maybe you’ve been lucky enough to have heard his stage name: Le Pétomane. He lived from 1857 to 1945, and was born in Marseilles, France.

He discovered his super power accidentally when he was young. While swimming underwater, he held his breath and felt a sudden cold sensation in his lower abdomen. When he ran out of the sea, water started pouring of his anus.

Eventually, he determined that he could do this voluntarily with both water and air, and in his first career as a baker, he used to entertain his customers by doing impressions of musical instruments with his asshole, claiming to be playing them behind the counter.

The unique thing about him was that he was not actually farting gas from his intestines. Rather, he was sucking in air and shooting it back out. This and one good pre-rinse with water before the show kept his performances odorless, much to the benefit of his audience, I’m sure.

He made his professional debut in Marseilles at the age of 30. Five years later, he hit the big time when he became the star attraction at the famous Moulin Rouge, which had opened three years earlier in 1889.

In fact, he became a bigger draw than the renowned Sarah Bernhardt, with his shows pulling in twice as much at the gate as hers.

That’s the power of farts.

He would begin his act by performing a series of farts and naming them. A tiny, meek fart was “young bride on her wedding night,” while a drawn out rip was “dressmaker tearing two yards of calico.”

He could smoke a cigarette with his anus (well, via a long rubber tube, at least), as well as play a flute. Another part of his repertoire was a poem about a farm, and he would punctuate it with farts imitating the sounds of the animals.

I can only imagine how hilarious this all must have been, and the finale was spectacular. First, he would blow out a candle from a foot away, and then extinguish the gas lights at the foot of the stage one by one.

Eventually, after a tour of Europe and North Africa, he returned to Paris and decided to start his own theatre, which led to a falling out with Zidler of the Moulin Rouge, but Pujol’s continued success.

And then World War I broke out, and he retired, going back to being a baker in Marseilles, and then eventually running a biscuit factory in Toulon.

That’s actually kind of a fitting place for him to end up, though, making real biscuits, since he’d made his name and his fortune making air biscuits.

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