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Toot Sweet! Brit Fires 16-Foot Fart Machine at France

Flatulence Machine
English inventor and plumber Colin Furze stands in front of his flatulence machine. (Image credit: Colin Furze)

An English plumber welded an enormous fart machine, drove it to the White Cliffs of Dover and blasted it at France.

"Did you hear anything or did you not?" he asked after calling a woman across the English Channel in Calais, France, on July 24, according to a YouTube video of the fart machine. Her answer? Yes.

Colin Furze has a reputation for constructing eccentric creations, including the world's fastest baby stroller last year after the birth of his son. [The Top 10 Inventions That Changed the World]

The 34-year-old inventor went on holiday this week and didn't have time to talk about his machine, but Live Science still took a whiff at how this inventor broke wind.

The idea came to him from YouTube commenters, he said in a video. "People always say, 'I'd hate to live next to you. You make too much noise!' And it's fair to say I do make a bit of noise."

Inspired, Furze decided to make a valveless pulsejet — the loudest machine he's ever assembled. He decided to annoy not just his neighbors but also the French, his country's neighbor to the south.

"I'm going to make the biggest pulsejet I've ever made, and I'm going to take it down to the White Cliffs of Dover [along the English coastline], point it toward France, see if they can listen," he said.

He fashioned a U-shaped pulsejet, describing it as an engine that wastes most of its energy on heat and noise. Once the pulsejet is ignited with a mixture of air and fuel such as gas, a series of pressure waves pulse back and forth in the long tubes, creating a deafening noise.

In fact, the engine is similar to a U-shaped organ pipe, said Adam Bruckner, a professor of aeronautics and astronautics at the University of Washington in Seattle, who was not involved with the project.

"The way it works is that when you initiate a combustion by mixing some fuel — it could be propane or gasoline sprayed into it — it burns suddenly and makes pressure waves that go out in both directions," Bruckner told Live Science. "What you hear are the pulses of pressure waves coming out of the engine."

Toward the end of World War II, Germany used pulsejets to power the Nazi V-1 flying bombs against England. But pulsejets are incredibly loud, and they're so inefficient that few people use them anymore, Bruckner said.

"These things are really better at making noise than producing anything useful for a serious engine, [such as] for aircraft for producing thrust," Bruckner said.

But noise is what Furze wanted. To make the fart machine look realistic, Furze built a 16-foot (5 meters) "massive bum to stick it behind," he said in the video. He then rallied his fans to meet him at the White Cliffs of Dover, where he warned the French, yelling, "We will fart in your general direction."

Furze lit the fuel and a thunderous blare ensued. Two phone calls confirmed that people on the other side of the channel heard the blasts, but a video taken near the French Coast provided less definite results.

"The bit of video that I've been shown is basically quite a lot of wind noise, so you can't really take anything from it," Furze said. "But I do have two people who said they clearly hear a kind of a muffled mumbling coming over the water."

Whether the noise hit its intended audience depends on a number of factors, including atmospheric conditions, wind speed and direction, and temperature, Bruckner said.

"For example, back in 1883, the volcanic eruption that happen in Krakatoa near the island of Sumatra was supposedly heard in Chile thousands of miles away," Bruckner said. "But that was a much bigger explosion."

Follow Laura Geggel on Twitter @LauraGeggel and Google+. Follow Live Science @livescience, Facebook & Google+. Original article on Live Science.

Laura is an editor at Live Science. She edits Life's Little Mysteries and reports on general science, including archaeology and animals. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, Scholastic, Popular Science and Spectrum, a site on autism research. She has won multiple awards from the Society of Professional Journalists and the Washington Newspaper Publishers Association for her reporting at a weekly newspaper near Seattle. Laura holds a bachelor's degree in English literature and psychology from Washington University in St. Louis and a master's degree in science writing from NYU.