Why We Fart More on Airplanes

Danish physician probes the science of flatulence
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 22, 2014 6:40 PM CST
Updated Dec 22, 2014 6:50 PM CST
Doctor: You Can Fart Less on Airplanes
This product image provided by United Airlines shows a caprese on Asiago baguette sandwich, one of a variety of the airline's new first-class food options.   (AP Photo/United Airlines)

When someone passes gas at 35,000 feet, there's nowhere to hide—so a Danish doctor has come up with ways to fart less on airplanes and better disguise the odor when we do, the BBC reports. The doctor, Jacob Rosenberg, says the topic grabbed him on a long flight when he saw his empty water bottle expand due to low pressure and crumple when the plane landed; the same happens to stomach gases when we fly, causing bloating and flatulence. "Since then, I've noticed just how much flatulence you have on a flight," he says. "Which is very much." So he studied the science of human gas, which includes a 1969 study warning that astronaut farts could cause fireballs, research that men actually don't fart more than women, and a look at why farts are so reviled (an anthropologist says they are "invisible" and "we cannot actively avoid them," reports Smithsonian).

So what to do on planes? Well, as Rosenberg learned interviewing airplane engineers, charcoal absorbs a variety of odors, and several airlines already spruce up their air conditioning with charcoal filters. But Rosenberg says charcoal could also be put in plane seats (which another study doubts, saying skirts and pants redirect fumes away from seats in a "tunnel effect") and fliers can buy flatulence underwear made along similar lines. People can also eat food that creates less stomach gas, like rice, fish, and strained fruit juice. In fact, airlines already make their meals high carb and low fiber, which calms the digestion. "Beyond that, mostly just try to keep it quiet," says Uproxx in a report on Rosenberg's paper. "Really, there's no need to torment your seatmate." (One inventor says he can make farts smell like chocolate.)

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