, (also called fart-burning
, blue flame
, blue angel
, flatus ignition
, and pyroflatulence
) is the practice of setting fire to the gases produced by human flatulence
, often producing a blue hue
Although there is little scientific discourse on the combustive properties of flatus, there are many anecdotal accounts of flatus ignition, and the activity has increasingly found its way into popular culture with references in comic routines; movies; and television, including cartoons.
The composition of flatus varies dramatically among individuals. Flatulence produces a mixture of gases
with the following five as major components:
Methane burns in oxygen forming water and carbon dioxide often producing a blue hue (ΔHc = -891 kJ/mol), as:
- (g) + 2(g) → (g) + 2(g)
Hydrogen sulfide also combusts (ΔHc = -519 kJ/mol) to
- 2(g) + 3(g) → 2(g) + 2(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 odorous.
The gases are produced by bacteria which live in symbiosis within the large intestines of humans and other mammals . The gases are created as a by-product of the bacteria's digestion working to break food down into elementary substances.
Because the methane
present are flammable, igniting the resulting gases can result in burns or explosions as well as the desired flame. Clothing or hair may catch fire and sensitive tissues can be damaged. The flame is not always blue but may also be orange or yellow as well, depending on the composition of the gas
and the microorganisms living in the colon.
Technique and safety
The act of fart lighting is performed by using a naked flame, such as a lit match, candle, or a cigarette lighter. So widespread is this activity that there are web sites on the Internet devoted exclusively to explaining proper lighting techniques. A major drawback of this popular practice is that it usually involves the hazardous coupling of fire, combustible gases and inebriated participants. 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 410°F, and it is hard to ignite accidentally. But many common synthetic fabrics, e.g., polyester fleece or nylon pants, can melt to the skin or catch fire.
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 single-sex group residences, such as tree-houses, dormitories, or fraternity houses
. With the advent of video sharing features online, hundreds of self-produced videos, both documentary as well as spoof, have been posted to sites such as YouTube
. The people appearing the videos are predominantly young males. In his book The Curse of the Self: Self-Awareness, Egotism, and the Quality of Human Life
author Mark Richard Leary explains how a great deal of unhappiness is due to people's inability to exert control over their thoughts and behavior and that "stupid stunts" including lighting flatulence was a way to make an impression and be included in group bonding or hazing.
The flammability of bodily gases has caused serious problems in the medical operating room and also in animal slaughterhouses
. There have been many reports in the medical literature of "life-threatening explosions" in patients undergoing electrocautery
of colon polyps
or other lesions. In one case, the explosion resulted in a six-inch (15 cm) hole in the patient's large intestine
. However, the hole was repaired, and the patient recovered.
Usages in popular culture
Many find a comedic value in fart lighting and the activity is increasingly represented in pop culture
possibly because "for adults, the allure of the vulgar is regressionary and often secretly pleasurable."
In comic routines
Radio personality Howard Stern
, dubbed a shock jock
for his controversial
use of scatological
humor on The Howard Stern Show
, cites a fart-lighting scene for losing his popular show's first NBC affiliate when WGIT in Hartford canceled the show.
The Flaming Gerbil Legend was reported by Robert D. Raiford on the John Boy and Billy radio show.
Fart lighting is the major plot device
that starts the film South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut
. Shortly after the characters are introduced, one character, Kenny McCormick
dies after attempting to light one of his own farts on a dare
. (Kenny's deaths from odd causes are a running gag
in the series). The children make this dare in response to seeing Terrance and Phillip
light each other's flatulence in the movie-within-the-movie, Asses of Fire
. After lighting his fart, Kenny combusts
and goes to the hospital; through a series of events the doctors replace his heart with a baked potato and it explodes, killing him and sending him to hell. Also, in the very first episode of the TV show, South Park
, ("Cartman Gets an Anal Probe
"), Cartman shoots fire out of his anus by virtue of an alien satellite dish inserted in his rectum.
A fantasy sequence in Dumb and Dumber depicts the lead character, played by Jim Carrey, lighting a fart as a party trick in polite company. These unusual circumstances for the trick are intentionally jarring; the character's fantasy is established as bizarre and unrealistic.
In the movie Dennis the Menace (1993) Dennis was a "captive" of small time crook Switchblade Sam who in his stupidity, allowed himself to be tied up by Dennis. The key (lost in the tin of baked beans) was to be found by feeding them to Switchblade Sam who was sitting by the fire. Hours later, the beans had their desired effect with flames licking his ankles.
In Extreme Days, the four main male characters are shown in one scene lighting farts in a dark hotel room and laughing hysterically.
In the 1985 movie Weekend Warriors, the guardsmen in the unit all cheer on, as one of their number eats beans and then proceeds to engage in pyroflatulence, just as a visiting congressman enters the room. The viewer can see the congressman's shocked face by the light of the flame.
In the film Beavis and Butt-head Do America the pair encounter their father(s) in the desert. Over the encounter, the elder man resembling Butt-head offers to show something really cool, then farts into the campfire with atomic results.
In the British comedy "Bottom
" the character Richard Richard, a 40-year-old virgin played by famous English comedian Rik Mayall
, attempts to sell his soul in order to have sex with beautiful women. In order to seal his pact he eats the "sprouts
of evil" (sprouts left over from last Christmas
cooked in curry
sauce.) Richard also forces his friends to eat some. When the characters regain consciousness hours later; they literally fart flames. One character sets a settee on fire while another ignites a volatile alcohol and destroys the conservatory.(a photo can be seen here
In UPN's sitcom Rock Me Baby, two disc jockeys perform the practice on the air. Shortly afterwards, an entire frathouse, inspired by the broadcast, is hospitalized for rectal burning and cauterization after attempting to light their farts—resulting in guilt, heavy fines for the station, and public backlash.
In the Beavis and Butt-head episode "Butt Flambé", the duo visit an emergency room after Beavis severely burns himself by lighting a fart.
In Family Guy Viewer mail #1, Chris Griffin received the powers of pyrokinesis, and lit Peter Griffin's fart, creating a flame several feet long. In 14 May 2006 Untitled Griffin Family History's episode, the history starts with God fart lighting to produce the Big bang with the objects of the Milky Way solar system apparently God's effluence.
A Bud Light 2004 Super Bowl commercial featured a horse-drawn carriage in which a couple is building romance and the man hands a woman a lit candle. While he leans down to retrieve the Bud Light; the horse farts and the gases, ignited by the candle flame, cause an explosion and we see the results of the woman's "blown out" hair and soot-covered face. At the end of the commercial a passer-by refers to it as a "Rocket Sleigh".
In the animated series Johnny Test a character, Johnny X, has the ability to produce farting flames called "power poots".
The opening theme song to The Man Show includes the line "Quit your job and light a fart" and made numerous references to the practice of fart lighting throughout the show's run.
In an episode of the satire puppet show "Spitting Image", Rupert Murdoch uses lighted farts to make toast.
In an episode of Kenny vs Spenny. Kenny Hotz attempts to light the fart of his infant nephew in hopes of making a viral video.
On 2 May 2000, a U.S. patent was issued for a "Toy gas fired missile and launcher assembly", a product that would allow one's "colonic gases" to be stored for later ignition to "fire the missile into space."