Thursday, January 22, 2009

poo poo platter

Yesterday I was walking down the hallway in my house and got a whiff of something that made me throw up in my mouth a little. Mister Ferguson had apparently had his morning coffee and had visited the bathroom a few minutes before. He likes to use the same bathroom every morning for number two. Unfortunately, I like to use it also and he always beats me to it.

Fast forward 30 minutes later. The stench was gone and I was heading in for my own little private time with the latest copy of the New Yorker. As I sat reading about Obama’s inauguration, my own brand of poo began to permeate the air. As usual, it did not faze me and I continued reading for the next 15 minutes in my own little stink cloud.

As I began to wrap up my little bathroom session, a strange thought entered my mind. Why are we repulsed by the smell of other people’s poo, yet don’t mind hanging out with our own toxic waste? I know my poo stinks. I smell it while I’m in there, and it’s bad. It doesn’t bother me, though. I’ll even re-enter and start brushing my teeth five minutes later if I’m pressed for time, even though it still reeks in there. Yet Mister Ferguson takes a dump and I can’t go within fifty feet of the bathroom. I literally start gagging and covering my nose with a t-shirt. It’s not that his poo smells any worse than mine, it just didn’t come out of my body so I’m disgusted.

Anyway, I tried to Google the answer to my question but came up short. Seems like there isn’t a scientific answer to why I think my shit doesn’t stink. However, I did find an answer to why shit stinks in general:

Poos are about 75% water. The remaining 25% is made up of a mixture of things: stuff your body can’t break down (have you ever noticed whole corn kernels in your poo) some salt, bile (bile is made up of dead red blood cells from your liver) and, of course, bacteria. Excrement is not very nice stuff and transmits lots of nasty diseases via the mean bacteria that lurks in it. it is bacteria, combined with food wastes, that turn bile in poo brown, explaining the characteristic brown color.

The smelly substance in excrement is called skatole (3-methylindole), and it is the substance to which the human nose is most sensitive on a per molecule basis. It is present in feces because it is a breakdown product from hemoglobin (found in red blood cells) that enters the gut via bile. The reason we have evolved to be so sensitive to the smell of this substance is that, by making poo smell so terrible to us, evolution has ensured that we remain repelled by our own poo. If we hate the smell, we know that its bad and we steer clear of it as much as possible.

There’s your science lesson for the day. If you’ll excuse me, I just got a new issue of the New Yorker in the mail.

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