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Wednesday, October 07, 2009

"The King of Farts"

I've mentioned Dr. Michael Levitt, the researcher who decided to dedicate his career to an an area of science and medicine that no one else wanted to approach, the study of farts and farting.

His son is Steven Levitt of Freakonomics fame, whose blog appears on the New York Times website. He wrote about his father this week, and about how he got the title "King of Farts."

Or did he?

It all starts with Oui magazine — a “gentleman’s” magazine that was all the rage in the 1970’s. They caught wind of some of my father’s research. In particular, my father had a patient who was severely lactose intolerant (before people really knew what that was). Anyway, my Dad figured out that milk led this man to have terrible gas. So in the name of research, my Dad put him on a milk-only diet for a few days and told him to count the number of times he farted. My Dad got a nice academic publication out of it; the man applied to the Guinness Book of World Records, but because there was no witness, they wouldn’t include his superhuman output in the book. It was this patient upon whom Oui magazine bestowed the title the “King of Farts.”

Eventually, however, the patient’s time in the sun would fade, and my father would come to be known as the king. It is not clear how or when this happened, but it is obviously still an issue of great sensitivity to him. Rarely have I seen my Dad angrier than the time a reporter referred to him as the “self-proclaimed King of Farts.” My father bellowed, “That title was given to me!”

Funny as this is, I can't help finding a previous week's column even funnier. Or at the least the comments section.

Levitt asked his readers to name the magazine in which the title was bestowed. If you scroll through the comments you'll see that Dr. Michael gave away the answer in comment #40. And people still kept making guesses.

Oh, Internet. This is why I hate you as much as I love you.

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