Science

Your Aura is Full of Poop Flakes

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Sorta transcript:

Sometimes I go to psychic fairs, because I enjoy laughing at inept frauds while simultaneously getting depressed at the depravity of human nature. At a lot of these fairs, there’s usually a guy with a camera who you can pay $20 to take your photo and reveal your aura, which is a colorful cloud that reveals your deepest secrets and personality traits. It’s a scam, obviously, because auras don’t exist. OR DO THEY?

They don’t. But a new study has shown evidence of a different sort of aura: instead of colorful clouds, it’s actually composed of skin flakes and poop particles. Yes, you live in a perpetual bubble composed of your own personal disgusting colony of microbes.

The first thing you should know about this study is that the study involved only 11 people in a strictly controlled environment. That doesn’t invalidate the results, but they do tell you to take them with a grain of salt and not automatically assume that these results apply to 7.5 billion people in the outside world.

That said, the results are worth talking about because they’re both interesting and hilarious, my two favorite traits in a thing! The study involved two trials, both of which took place in a room that was well-regulated in terms of air intake. Subjects wearing identical uniforms would come in one at a time and hang out in the room for awhile, and then the air was examined for microbes.

The researchers found that it was pretty obvious to tell when a person had been in the room compared to an unoccupied room, which shouldn’t be that surprising if you already know how much microbes love us, to the point that they outnumber the cells in our own body 10 to 1. So of course we’re going to leave some behind wherever we go.

More interesting is that the researchers found they could distinguish between subjects depending upon the content of the microbes they left behind. So your poop particles may be different from the people around you, and doesn’t that make you feel like a special snowflake?

People will be quick to say that this bodes well for a future where detectives can identify suspects based on the microbes they leave behind, but there’s nowhere near enough evidence to say that each person’s microbial signature is unique, or that it would be detectable in the messy world outside the confines of the laboratory.

All we can say is that this paper leaves us with a lot more disgusting research to be done, and it also leaves us with one of the best acknowledgements I’ve ever read, which I will end with now: “Finally, we thank 11 anonymous volunteer human occupants for shedding their bioaerosols into our sampling apparatuses.” Ah, the things we do for science.

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca leads a team of skeptical female activists at Skepchick.org. She travels around the world delivering entertaining talks on science, atheism, feminism, and skepticism. There is currently an asteroid orbiting the sun with her name on it. You can follow her every fascinating move on Twitter or on Google+.

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5 Comments

  1. September 29, 2015 at 2:02 pm —

    Rebecca Watson,

    Man this is disgusting!

  2. September 29, 2015 at 2:43 pm —

    So…
    The saying is actually: “I’m a unique, special poop flake.”

  3. September 30, 2015 at 8:08 am —

    So when my mom used to tell us to go outside an blow the stink off of us she might have had a point?

  4. September 30, 2015 at 4:07 pm —

    Someone shed their bioaerosols into my sampling apparatus while we were in an elevator the other day. I was much less appreciative than these guys.

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