Natural gas

A geologist at the safari guesthouse tells me that the Earth’s atmosphere once consisted of noxious gases such as methane and ammonia. In effect, our planet was engulfed in a gigantic fart cloud.

“It’s a good thing no one lit a match,” I remark.

“There was no one around to light a match,” he says. “The only living creatures were micro-organisms in the ocean.”

“Just how long ago was this?” I ask through narrowed eyes.

“A billion years or so,” he answers. “And the gases wouldn’t have been combustible, you’ve got your chemistry wrong.”

I wonder silently how the hell he knows what happened a billion years ago. Even someone who had lived that long would have forgotten about it by now. There are very few humans who can remember the Chimpanzees’ Tea Party at London Zoo, which was discontinued in 1972. And his assertion that farty gases are not ignitable is certainly wrong – I have evidence which proves that they are.

A correspondent recently alerted me to a
home video made by some college students. The opening scenes, in which a number of malicious hoodlums fart on the faces of their sleeping roommates, are not germane. I apologise for drawing attention to the behaviour of these humanoid skunks, whose lowly character is manifested in the hideous squeaky noises of their emissions. Farts like that are suggestive of a cowardly, sneaky nature. An honest, gorilla-like fart makes a low, rumbling noise.

Towards the end of the video, a couple of young ladies make an appearance and fart rather sweetly. After that, we get to the evidence. In a spirit of scientific inquiry, several fellows apply the naked flame to their flatulence. In each case, the fart burns with hues familiar to anyone who owns a gas cooker. It is the characteristic flame of the combustion of methane, which progresses according to the following chemical reaction:

CH4 + 2O2 = CO2 + 2H2O

Yes, Gorilla Bananas knows his chemistry. Apologies for showing off like this, but after mentioning the geologist’s ill-informed remark I needed to set the record straight. If he is reading this, I hope he is feeling sheepish.

Now the fascinating thing about methane is that it has no smell – the poo-ish odour of the fart is caused by hydrogen sulphide, which is useless as a fuel (although very effective in stink bombs). If someone could find a simple method of separating the flatus into its component gases, college boys and other enthusiasts could develop a thriving cottage industry. As the saying goes, it’s an ill wind that blows nobody any good.

The last thing I want to say about farts concerns a pathetic incident involving the Austrian police. It began when a 19-year-old lad called Hansi Sporer broke wind audibly at a music festival. Unfortunately for him, a pair of passing police officers heard the fart and took umbrage, apparently believing it had been discharged specifically to greet their arrival. They then slapped a fine of 50 euros on the boy, complaining that they had been “humiliated”. Did you ever hear of such a pair of sissies? Heaven help the Austrian police if all it takes to break their spirit is a fart. If Hitler were in a grave (rather than scattered in various pieces around Russia), he would surely be turning over in it.

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