BOOMbox at Home: The Elements of Farts
March 17, 2021
During spring, we're exploring the four elements of earth, air, fire, and water. This week, we’re exploring the element of air by investigating a natural source of wind--our farts.
Have you ever let a big one rip and wondered, where did this giant fart come from? Why does it smell so bad? Why is it so loud? Is it possible to create the biggest, smelliest, noisiest fart known to existence? Can you create a fart so lethal that it makes insects drop dead and forces planes to land, like these dangerous animal farts?
Farts are created when your body gets rid of the gases inside of your lower digestive system. However, there is another way out of the digestive system. Any gases that are in your stomach and closer to your mouth will come out as a burp.
The gases that make up a fart come from two different places. Farts have lots of oxygen and nitrogen from the air that you swallow throughout the day. Farts also have lots of carbon dioxide, hydrogen, and methane, which are created by the bacteria living in your gut to help you digest food. Gut bacteria also create small amounts of smelly gases like hydrogen sulfide and ammonia. You can learn more by watching Dr. Binocs explain why we fart, or go in-depth about the chemistry of farts.
Because everyone has different amounts and types of bacteria in their gut, you will need to experiment to find out how your body can create the biggest, loudest, smelliest fart. Grab some markers and a big piece of paper and make a fart chart so you can track what you’ve eaten and which foods give you the most impressive farts.
Here are some helpful hints:
You can increase the amount of air you swallow by drinking unsweetened carbonated water.
You can increase the amount of gas your gut bacteria create by eating foods like beans, cauliflower, and onions (Michelle says mushrooms and garlic are her biggest culprits).
Imagine how funny it would be if you could see farts with your own eyes. Some urban myths say that you can see farts with an infrared camera, but watch the Mythbusters prove that, sadly, this is not true.
Even though we can’t turn invisible farts visible, we can try visualizing farts in different ways. Using a plastic bag, vinegar, and baking soda, you can experiment with creating a gas. If you have a plastic bottle, a straw, and an adult to help you, you can even turn the chemical reaction into a fart powered boat!
We can copy the sounds farts make by using paper and a pencil to create a fart whistle. You can also use a balloon, sticks, and a rubber band to create a homemade whoopie cushion. Farts, fart whistles, and whoopie cushions all create noise by passing air through small holes that create vibrations that turn into sound.
How about copying the smell of a fart? The hydrogen sulfide gas in our farts smells like rotten eggs. If everyone in your house says you are allowed to, you can make a stink bomb by poking a hole in an egg with a pin and placing it somewhere warm for several weeks. This will help bacteria to get into the egg and create smelly gasses. Crack open the egg outside, and you will get a big whiff to rival the most horrible fart ever!
Scientist of the Week
Farting humans and cows aren’t the only sources of methane on this planet. Dominika Pasternak, a PhD student at the University of York, studies the amount of methane and sulfur in the air. To do this, she flies around in a passenger plane that has been converted into an airborne chemistry lab. You can see what the lab looks like when it’s flying through the air. From inside the plane, she measures the amount of sulphur that comes out of ships that move cargo around the world, and the amount of methane that comes out of wetlands. These measurements are important because they help scientists find out how much cargo ships and wetlands contribute to climate change.
We’d love to see about the results of your fart experiments! Tag @skokielibrary when you share photos of what you’ve created on social media, or send photos of your experiments to email@example.com.
Written by Michelle.