Things You Should Know About Farts

by Anupum Pant

Flatulence, an expulsion of intestinal gas, commonly known as fart, is something no one likes to talk about because it is considered a taboo, almost everywhere in the world. To top it all, some might even sideline this article by tagging it as a vulgar one. In my defense, that is exactly the purpose of my blog – To talk about things no one will talk to you at school (or anywhere else). Our inclination here is to learn.

Avoid shaming others for it.
Firstly, it is important to know that, irrespective or gender, race or nationality, farting is an invariable result of digestion and everyone does it about ten times a day. Even dead people fart. So, by shaming someone for letting it out in an accidentally loud way, is hypocritical on your part; it [shaming others] can be avoided. As Eric Auld says, it is okay to fart.

Do not hold it.
Secondly, it is not okay to hold flatulence to avoid embarrassment. Doing this, has the potential to cause a life threatening condition called diverticulitis. This disease is prevalent among the urban people for obvious reasons. Urban people have a greater societal pressure to hold it, than a free-living farmer. To give you an idea, 30 million Americans are currently suffering from it (old data).

What is it?

Principally, it is a mixture of gases taken in through mouth with food and gases which are produced while digesting food. The composition of ‘gas’ varies with, people, the kind of bacteria in their stomach and the kinds of food they eat. Oftentimes, people don’t hate their own smell; at the same time, detest the gases coming out from others. A fart is comprised of gases like Hydrogen, Nitrogen, Carbon dioxide, Oxygen and Methane. It smells bad due to the presence of Hydrogen Sulfide, Mercaptans and Ammonia. And the presence of inflammable gases like Hydrogen and Methane makes them inflammable.

Farts in a humid environment can seem worse because during such conditions, our sense of smell is enhanced. This is the reason why farts smell worse in a shower.

Minimizing the effect

Although, there is no way you can end this trouble from your life, you can adjust your diet a bit to prevent this from happening in excess. Beans, cauliflower, corn, eggs etc are some foods which are notorious for producing gas in your body. These foods release a relatively greater amount of gas than other foods while getting digested in the intestines. Cutting their intake can help (of course consult your doctor first).

Another way to lower the problem is to prevent the odor from troubling others. This can be done by using products like “odor-proof undies”.

Coughing or suddenly moving your chair could help you to mask the sound.

 

A Bat’s Inverted Sleep Position

by Anupum Pant

I have written about sloths in the past. In that post, we appreciated the way their bodies are engineered to stay inverted for most of their lives. It turns out, a bat’s body is designed (rather evolved) in a similar way, which enables them to relax and sleep upside down. In this post, I would like to discuss – why did they evolve this way and how do they do it?

If you are interested to know more about bats, you will definitely like this post from the archives. [Bats can See]

How can bats manage to sleep like this?

Humans sleep in a horizontal position, cows sleep with their eyes open, horses sleep in a standing position, and of course, bats sleep in an inverted position. What makes an animal sleep in the position they do, is basically their anatomy – the way their bodies are designed. While sleeping upside down might seem as an anomalous behavior to us, it is a normal position for the bat’s body. Like we don’t exert energy when we are lying down, bats’ bodies don’t consume extra energy for hanging down like that.

Firstly, a bat’s claw is like a hook. A better way to understand why this helps is, to look at a converse behavior – the way a human hand works. We use up energy to contract tens of muscles and make up a hook with our fingers; this is not a normal state of our hand. Also, our relaxed hands are open where we don’t exert any energy and we sleep with our hands in that position. A bat’s claws are designed in a completely inverse fashion; they are hooked in the normal position. They don’t take up energy to make them into hooks, they are like that. And they sleep like that – which enables them to hang without using energy.
So, unlike our hands, a bats’ closed fist is their relaxed position. They have to contract tendons and use energy to open them up. This anomalous talon design allows them to hang in a relaxed position.

Bat's Talons - Normal position

Secondly, unlike every other bird, a bat can’t take off from an upright position, or from the ground. They have to be inverted to start flying. This is because they have relatively weaker wings which can’t make them fly from a stationary position. Think of an X-51A Waverider, which has to be carried on a B-52 plane and dropped down to start a flight. They drop down for a very small amount of time and beat their wings vigorously to start a flight. Since, they have to wake up inverted to go flying and catch a meal, they go to sleep like that.

Why did they evolve this way?

They’ve evolved this way to simply stay away from the predators:

  1. By hiding up in a place where not many predators would look – under a bridge, roof of the cave and dark tree canopies. Also, at places like these, they don’t have to compete with other birds for a place.
  2. And by escaping quickly in case of an attack by attaining instant flight [see above].

That Sweet Scent of Rain

by Anupum Pant

When rain starts falling after a long dry spell, most of us notice a sweet-musky scent around us. Sometimes, it is as if you can smell the rain coming. Have you ever wondered what causes this peculiar smell?

Well, scientists have also wondered the same for a long time and now they have some concrete answers for us. According to them, this evocative scent is a mixture of several individual smells. In essence, there are three factors which combine to form the “petrichor” – The smell of rain.

  1. Bacteria – The best (my favorite) of all the three is caused because of a specific type of bacteria in mud called Actinomycetes. The force, with which the rain water falls, disrupts the bacteria-produced-spores in dry mud, and the moisture present in the air carries them to our noses. Most people love this odor and associate it with rain.
    So, spores of bacteria are responsible for the kind of smell you get, when rain falls on dry mud.
  2. Plant Oils – A blend of oils produced by plants during the dry spell is another main source of this aroma. When it rains, volatile parts of these oils get released into the air. It is the kind of smell you get when you are getting wet in the woods.
  3. Ozone – Another smell associated with the rain, is a minor part of petrichor and it smells like burning wires. This is produced by a reaction caused when lightning strikes, the Nitrogen and Oxygen present in air to form Ozone molecules.

Subjective senses

Besides that, smell is a subjective sensation. That means, you can’t explain a smell to someone, and you can never know what the other person smells. So, it becomes really hard for scientists to communicate to us, which scent is which.

Some of us like the bacteria smell, while others might like the third component of petrichor.

Some like the smell of rain, others don’t. But we’ll never know accurately, if the scent you adore is the same as the one your friend hates. One way to communicate some information about these scents is by comparing them with other popular smells (like I did above). This could probably give you a vague idea, but the exact sensation will remain elusive. It is like trying to explain the color red to a person who’s been blind all his/her life.