Well, I can’t believe the last time I wrote on this thing was February 4th, 2015. A lot has happened since then that has caused advanced aging (mainly the result of a big career shift), but also taken me away from things I once loved – like making stuff and writing.
Since we’re nearing the time of ramped up consumerism (Black Friday just passed, Cyber Monday approaches, and Christmas is on the horizon), followed by the making of resolutions, I figured it’s time to get back into putting thoughts on pixels. I don’t really have anything in particular to say right now, but I’ve always taken comfort in the well-written words of others. So to kick off what I hope will be more time spent writing, I give you an excerpt from, What the Nose Knows: The Science of Scent in Everyday Life, a book I’m reading as part of my self-directed sensory research project.
If you’re reading this you’re probably just one of my friends, so you’ll not be scandalized by a discussion of farts. But, if you’re of a more delicate constitution, and prone to pop your monocle, you’ve been warned:
May I present, Avery Gilbert, author and sensory psychologist, on the composition of flatus:
“For years, medical students were taught that the main ingredients of fecal odor were skatole and indole, nasty-smelling molecules created by the breakdown of meat protein during digestion. This claim persisted in textbooks despite never having been confirmed by direct chemical analysis. The shit finally hit the gas chromatograph in 1984 when researchers in Salt Lake City ran some poop through a GC and sniffed the results. Skatole and indole, although present in the sample, contributed relatively little to the typical fecal odor. The key actors turned out to be sulfur-containing compounds such as methyl mercaptan, dimethyl disulfide, and dimethyl trisulfide.
Despite this dramatic reversal of conventional medical wisdom, the gastroenterological community remained unmoved. Finally, in 1998, investigators at the Veterans Administration Hospital in Minneapolis took the next step and performed an exacting chemical and olfactory analysis of farts. Their experimental methods were straightforward: ‘To ensure flatus output, the diet of the subjects was usually supplemented with 200 g pinto beans on the night before and the morning of the study.’ Gas capture was simplicity itself, through the details are squirm-inducing: ‘Flatus was collected via a rectal tube…connected to a gas impermeable bag.’ When the bags of ass-gas were analyzed, the main contributors were once again sulfur-containing molecules: hydrogen sulfide, methyl mercaptan, and dimethyl sulfide.”
I’ll close by thanking SCIENCE for helping to provide much needed clarity on matters of importance. In today’s mad, mad, and allegedly post-truth world, it’s comforting that there are still some things that can verifiably be known — like the true cause of smelly farts.