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Friday, April 20, 2012

To Light, or Not to Light?

Fart lightning or pyroflatulence is the practice of igniting the gases produced by human flatulence, often producing a flame of a blue hue, hence the act being known colloquially as a "blue angel", or in Australia, a "blue flame". The fact that flatus is flammable, and the actual combustion of it through this practice, gives rise to much humourous derivation. Other colors of flame such as orange and yellow are possible with the color dependent on the mixture of gases formed in the colon.

Methane burns in oxygen forming water and carbon dioxide often producing a blue hue (ΔHc = -891 kJ/mol),[ as:
CH4(g) + 2O2(g) → CO2(g) + 2H2O(g)
Hydrogen sulfide also combusts (ΔHc = -519 kJ/mol)[3] to
2H2S(g) + 3O2(g) → 2SO2(g) + 2H2O(g)
The odor associated with flatus is due to hydrogen sulfide, skatole, indole, volatile amines and short chain fatty acids. These substances are detectable by olfactory neurons in concentrations as low as 10 parts per billion, hydrogen sulfide being the most detectable.

The act of fart lighting is performed by using an open flame such as a candle or a cigarette lighter. There are web sites on the Internet devoted exclusively to explaining proper lighting techniques.

Common problems reported are severe and painful burns around and about the anus. Reports of serious burns to body parts are not uncommon but clothing helps to protect one's skin. Wearing pants (e.g. thick cotton sweatpants) is a good safety precaution. As with all fire stunts, cotton clothes (particularly if damp), or even better, wool, are safer than synthetics. The fire point of cotton is 210 °C (410 °F), and it is hard to ignite accidentally. But many common synthetic fabrics such as polyester fleece or nylon can easily catch fire or melt to the skin.

Many experienced fart lighters suggest that denim be worn during the process of fart lighting; due to its thickness, it usually does a good job of protecting the skin from burns. Performing fart lighting in only underwear, in synthetic clothing (e. g. track pants), or no clothing at all could result in serious burns to the anus, scrotum, or vulva.

The manly art of fart-burning. Compression, ignition, combustion and exhaust.
—Frank Zappa

Fart lighting has been a novelty practice primarily among young men or college students for decades,[ but is discouraged for its potential for causing injury. Such experiments typically occur on camping trips and in single-sex group residences, such as tree-houses, dormitories, or fraternity houses.


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