October 26, 2010

Fart-Propelled Astronauts?

Imagine this: You're in a space ship orbiting the Earth. Then you hear the astronaut beside you pass some gas.

Dude— It stinks!

And it's going to keep on stinking FOREVER! Or at least until you get back to Earth. I mean, you can't open up a window for some fresh air...unless you want to get sucked into outer space.

Not only that, but farting in a space ship could be dangerous. Many farts have methane in them, and methane is flammable!

"Touching Snoopy's nose
will keep my methane low."
That's why the U.S. government once employed a full-time "flatus researcher." Since flatus is a fancy word for farts, that means this scientist was a fart expert. And this expert discovered that about half of all people don't have any methane in their bombs. That's right, they could eat a big bowl of beans and not have any dangerous gas!

So Murphy suggested to NASA that only astronauts with safe farts should be allowed to go into outer space. NASA didn't listen, though. Instead, it just stopped sending beans and cabbage as food for them.

Now imagine this: You're still in orbit. And you're weightless and floating in zero-gravity. There's a large amount of gas in your butt. What if you force it out? Could you be propelled by your own fart across the space ship? To find out, read or listen to Robert Krulwich's fine report on the matter at NPR.
Top sketch by Robert Krulwich,
Snoopy picture from NASA,
2001 picture from IMDB.

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