Fart lighting, also known as pyroflatulence or flatus ignition, 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", "blue dart", 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 humorous 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.
In 1999 author Jim Dawson argued that 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. 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 in 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, were a way to make an impression and be included in group bonding or hazing.
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. In Electric Don Quixote: The Definitive Story of Frank Zappa author Neil Slaven quotes Frank Zappa, "The manly art of fart-burning. compression, ignition, combustion and exhaust."
4(g) + 2O
2(g) → CO
2(g) + 2H
2S(g) + 3O
2(g) → 2SO
2(g) + 2H
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.
Some of 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 of food into relatively simpler substances. The oxygen and nitrogen component of flatus can be accounted for by aerophagy, while the CO2 component results from the reaction of stomach acids (HCl) with pancreatic bile (NaHCO3).
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." Fart lighting has been a novelty practice primarily among males or college students for decades.
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."
- Dawson, Jim (1999). Who Cut the Cheese?: A Cultural History of the Fart. Ten Speed Press. ISBN 9781580080118. Retrieved 2007-10-07.
- U. of California Press Web site Retrieved October 6, 2007
- Barnes, Steve (2007). "On YouTube, you too can be a star". Santa Cruz Live. Retrieved 2007-10-07.
- "Search Results for "fart lighting"". YouTube. 2007. Retrieved 2007-10-07.
- Leary, Mark Richard (2004). The Curse of the Self: Self-Awareness, Egotism, and the Quality of Human Life. Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780195172423. Retrieved 2007-10-07.
- Slaven, Neil (2003). Electric Don Quixote: The Definitive Story of Frank Zappa. Omnibus Press. p. 100. ISBN 0711994366. Retrieved 2007-10-07.
- Zappa, Frank; Occhiogrosso, Peter (1999). The Real Frank Zappa Book. Simon and Schuster. p. 85. ISBN 9780671705725. Retrieved 2008-08-17.
- Van Ness, M. M.; Cattau, E. L. (April 1985). "Flatulence: pathophysiology and treatment". Am Fam Physician. 31(4): 198–208.
- Hydrogen sulfide
- Levitt, M. D. and Bond, J. H. (1978) in Intestinal Gas and Gastrointestinal Disease
- BBC - h2g2 - Farts and Flatulence
- Twitchell., J. (1992). Carnival Culture – The Trashing of Taste in America. Columbia University Press, New York. p. 52.
- Mercer, Bobby (2009-04-18). How Do You Light a Fart?: And 150 Other Essential Things Every Guy Should Know about Science. Adams Media. p. 71. ISBN 9781440519871. Retrieved 2 October 2014.
- Zanakis, Michael F.; Philip A. Femano (2 May 2000). "Toy Gas Fired Missile and Launcher Assembly". U.S. Patent Office, Patent number: 6055910; Filing date: June 1, 1998; International Classification - F42B 406. Retrieved 2008-01-10.