Sunday, 26 July 2009

Altitude-Related Flatulence

The girls will disagree with me, but the lads will snigger affirmatively: farting is funny. We've all wafted a silent one the way of friends and gleefully anticipated their reaction; held our little brothers (or sisters down) and parted their hair with a bean-fuelled blast. You fart in a lift full of friends and everyone wants to claim it. A guilty pleasure is sneaking one out just as you get off the tube...leaving the other passengers to eye each other accusatorily. I remember a college mate of mine having to visit a doctor for some heavy-duty emmolient cream after lighting a particularly violent passing of gas, and have a vivid memory of Tim Cross and Neil Crabtree walking through a courtyard ahead of me at school, Crabby shouting he was going to let one off...and Tim actually bending down to sample it fresh from the source through his nylon Farahs. They lit each other's too. Strange days.

It always puzzled me as to why farts smell worse in the shower than in open air. Or better, most men would argue? I was further puzzled when in Bogota. This being the third-highest city in the world, the altitude has an effect on the bowels I'd never experienced before: I was farting like a racehorse after a night on the Guiness. I'd worried there was something wrong with me, until Jocky and Goof began peppering the room with clouds of noxious fumes, too. It was like Blazing Saddles. It's all due to Boyle's Law...relative in diving, too...which explains the relation between gas volumes and ambient pressure. Less pressure equals more volume. So the higher you go, the more you have to fart to release the body's gases (shame, eh?). I'm just glad it's not the other way around: imagine diving for an hour and coming up with a wetsuit full of hydrogen sulphide? Wouldn't be pleasant...

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