Flying increases flatulence, according to an article published Friday in the peer-reviewed New Zealand Medical Journal, and passengers should release the gas — or risk painful medical consequences.
It’s simple. When altitude increases, pressure decreases. According to the thermodynamic principal known as the “ideal gas law,” as pressure drops, volume increases. While cabins are pressurized to compensate, the mechanisms can only do so much. When the plane is at a cruising altitude of 33,000 feet, inside it’s still the equivalent of 8,000 feet above sea level. That’s a lot of physics bearing down on your intestines.
So next time you’re on an airline flight and can’t help yourself, don’t be ashamed. Just shrug your shoulders and say, “Can’t fight the ideal gas law.” Even if the gas is less than ideal.
Perhaps we should all wait until the captain has illuminated the lamp which indicates that it is safe to equalize your pressure.
Unfortunately, no graceful phrase or gesture exists to completely smooth over the social awkwardness of releasing your personal flatulence inside a confined space where 50 percent of the air is recirculated. An “excuse me” can really only go so far. It can even draw its own unwanted attention.
“Almost anything you say can create embarrassment and make the situation more difficult,” said Post. “Your best bet is to keep your mouth shut.”
Unfortunately, close quarters makes it easier to offend and physics makes it easier to pass gas, yet it also makes it easier to pass blame. Your best bet is to point to a sleeping baby and hold your nose.
The article’s authors suggested airlines install seats embedded with active charcoal, which can absorb intestinal gases. Carriers could also pass out blankets with the odor-absorbing compound sewn in.
Which brings up the obvious question: Why aren’t all of our clothes made of this stuff?