Question: How often do people produce multiple farts in quick succession?
Short answer: 15.7% of the time
Long answer: By now, most readers are probably aware of the flatological debate about what exactly constitutes a fart. The problem arises when listening to farts that are comprised of multiple phases. Here is an example:
From the point of the farter, the output consists of a single effort that simply waxes and wanes in volume as the fart is being released. But for a listener, it is easy to identify three distinct fart phases separated by silence. So is this one fart or three?
The issue is important, because we have seen that the smelliest farts are almost universally comprised of multiple phases. If we consider these elite farts to be individual outputs, then there is something remarkable about their smelliness that merits further investigation. But if we consider them to be multiple farts, then the elevated stink levels become less surprising, as we know that fart smell accumulates in the air. Indeed, this accumulation is the reason for the baseline miasma that can be found in indoor environments and for the flatosphere itself.
Within the flatological community, as in any branch of science, there are lumpers and splitters. Lumpers tend to consider any output from the same person in a reasonably short period of time to be a single fart. Splitters tend to find multiple farts in almost any flatological recording. This philosophical divide was first described in the context of phylogeny by Charles Darwin, and it can be found in almost any branch of scientific inquiry, as well as religion and philosophy.
To introduce some objectivity into this discussion, we have implemented a sound segmentation algorithm. This algorithm was devised as a method of detecting audio boundaries in speech, and we have adapted it for our purposes.
For the example fart provided above, the algorithm clearly identifies three separate sounds:
Here the blue lines indicate the sound boundaries identified by the algorithm. In a sense, the multi-phasic nature of this fart is not surprising, as the different phases of the fart are clearly quite distinct in the audio recording.
A more ambiguous case can be found here:
This one has multiple phases, perhaps as many as four, but they are not so obviously distinct. In this case, the algorithm actually identifies two farts:
The two segments are indicated by the blue and red lines.
When we ran this algorithm on our database of nearly 3000 farts, we found that indeed the majority of cases (84.3%) are comprised of a single fart. However, a small minority have several identifiable sound boundaries, with one fart having 8. The full distribution can be seen here:
Overall, this result favors the lumpers: Most of the documented farts in our sample are objectively a single fart. But the splitters also have a point, in that many have distinct sound epochs, which merit further investigation.