Listen Now Download as mp3 from the show How do Ants Count? QuestionMatthew asked: How much gas would a 10 stone human have to expel (and with what force) in order to lift themselves 1 inch off the ground? AnswerWe put this question to Dr Mark Lewney, awardwinning science communicator based in Cardiff... Mark  If you weigh ten stone, or 63.5 kilograms, then the Earth pulls on you with a gravitational force of 622 Newton which you have to then overcome if you want to lift off for even a fraction of a second. You have to direct a force at least this strong towards the ground, which according to Newton’s Second Law will be equal to the mass of the gas you expel multiplied by the acceleration given to it by your bowels. That means you could give an enormous amount of gas a small acceleration or give a tiny mass of gas a huge acceleration. So how much does the average emission weigh? This is quite tricky to measure since methane is lighter than air. You actually weigh more after letting rip a ripe humdinger on boxing day due to a slight loss of buoyancy. Assuming that is that you don't also follow through with nongaseous matter; an act commonly known as “sharting”. Incidentally, pure methane is also completely odourless which proves that every real fart is actually a “shart” in disguise. Having asked Jeeves what the mass of the average human trump is, given the density of methane and the pressures and temperatures found in the bowel, he returned  admittedly with his nose turned up even higher than usual  with an answer of 0.037 grams or 0.000037 kilograms. So, to generate the upward force required to oppose gravity, your bowel muscles must give this mass an acceleration of 622 divided by 0.000037, which equals 17 million metres per second per second, almost 2 million times the force of gravity. Assuming it’s expelled in a 1 second toot, that yields a final exit velocity of 17,000 kilometres per second which is equal to 37.6 million miles an hour or 18% of the speed of light. Anyone capable of achieving this feat is invited to contact the UK Space Agency with a view to highly profitable long term employment. Multimedia
Subscribe FreeRelated Content
CommentsCould use all your waste to produce biogas, which is mostly methane, If we are talking about a reaction engine (a jet of sorts) it's not so much the mass of gas as how much you can accelerate it.
Maybe store the gas in a robust CO2 type gas cylinder ... There is a fairly simple equation to figure out how much thrust you need to accelerate a given mass to a given "delta V" (change in velocity..."velocity" is a vector, speed and direction).
The fartliftoffphenomenon relies on Newton's lesserknown "turd" law... chris, Mon, 9th Aug 2010 That would alter the math quite a bit. If the "object" had sufficient mass and it was accelerated quite a bit, in a low gravity situation, liftoff might actually be possible. If they ever build a base on the Moon, they might want to consider installing seat belts on the cans. Geezer, Tue, 10th Aug 2010 
Not working please enable javascript
