Asides from the question itself (the answer is “yes, but the farter’s clothing catches most of them“, thanks Dr. Karl!), I just want everyone to take a moment to ponder the sheer level of human scientific and technological progress you reading these words right now represents.

Think of the advancements in science; the discovery of germs and microbes, medical understanding of the functioning of the gut, development of processes used to culture bacteria, even the very scientific methods used to conduct the experiments had to be discovered and refined and represent advances in-and-of-themselves.

Now think of the technology. Dr. Karl is a radio show host here in Australia, and the initial question was prompted by someone ringing him with the question on air. Think of the discovery of radio waves, of the digitisation of sound, of the telephone. Now think of the internet, where you’re reading these words right now. Think of the advances in computing the internet required, the creation and manufacture of microchips, the discovery and use of fibre optics, the very concept of software engineering… even in things like the graphic design of the typefaces used to set these words.

All of these advancements are things that have not only been discovered by human minds and made with human hands, but the vast majority of them have occurred in the last century or so. Just let that sink in for a moment, imagining your 18th century ancestors wondering to each other whether their farts carried germs. Chances are, they couldn’t even conceive of it as a question to ask, given understanding of germs (and concern over their implications for health) didn’t really become widespread until the 19th century.

The point is that, no matter how silly it seems, no knowledge is trivial and no factoid irrelevant. We stand on the shoulders of giants, atop a ziggurat of knowledge built by the generations of men and women who came before us. Some bricks of the ziggurat may be large and some may be small, but all of them lift us higher.

Our farts may carry germs, but our questions? Our questions carry us towards the heavens.