Question: Did Eric Swalwell fart during a televised interview on November 18, 2019?
Short answer: No.
Long answer: Eric Swalwell is some sort of politician in the United States of America, and in late 2019 he gave an interview, and during that interview a fart-like sound can clearly be heard in the background. Here is a short clip of the interview: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pk8I4gDN82Q
The fart sound caused quite a controversy, leading to a social media storm that has since been known as Fartgate. Ultimately, despite some amateur attempts at scientific investigation, the issue was never resolved.
As we have pointed out before, human farts have a distinct audio signature, as their peak sound frequencies are limited to a very narrow band around 275 Hz. People are actually not very sensitive to these frequencies, and so they often mistake non-fart sounds for farts. This is why, for example, Whoopie cushions are popular – they make sounds that are perceived as fart-like, despite being totally dissimilar to actual farts.
The fact that fart sounds can be measured objectively has allowed us to devise an algorithm for identifying farts in arbitrary sound clips. We have therefore deployed our Flatus Reflector to determine whether Swalwell farted. Recall that the Flatus Reflector scans an audio clip and produces an output that indicates the probability that a fart occurred at each time point. Here is the output for the Swalwell clip:
The sound in question actually occurs about 2 s into the clip, and our empirical detection threshold is 0.8. Clearly there is nothing in the clip that remotely resembles a fart.
Even without the application of this advanced technology, it is clear that Swalwell didn’t fart. By simply isolating the alleged fart from the audio, one finds that it has a peak frequency of 445 Hz:
This is utterly incompatible with the peak frequency of human fart sounds. Indeed, in our database of almost 3000 farts, we have never identified a single example of a fart with a peak frequency greater than about 410 Hz. So where did the sound come from? If the source was a living creature, we can estimate from allometric scaling laws that the creature would likely weigh about 1.87 kg, while Eric Swalwell weighs 88 kg. So, the likely source was an inanimate object.