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"Every cocktail party I go to, I always get at least one wife who comes up to me and complains about her husband's farts."To clear the air (there will be no more puns in this story), Levitt says that his research has shown that on average the normal number of flatulatic occurrences a day is 10.There are scores more, but they are all internal explosions and since this gas technically never leaves the body, it can't really be considered flatulence.Every day he receives at least one long-distance phone consultation from a worried farter, almost always a man whose wife has prompted her husband to find out why he cuts the cheese so often.

Fart smells come in when sulfur gets stirred into the gaseous mix. So, now that we know what's in them, how do we make them go away?

Levitt says that over-the-counter items like Bean-O and Gas-Ex rarely work.

The larger the volume of gas expelled and the greater the pressure exerted, generally the greater the noise, although Levitt says that standing usually tends to minimize the sound over sitting, which can amplify the toot.

Besides food, antibiotics occasionally cause some people to fart more, Levitt says, because the medications can disrupt the natural flora of the colon, thereby making it more difficult to break down certain foods, and thus leading to more flatus.

(Pumpernickel, the dark-grain bread, means "goblin that breaks wind" in Old German.) In fact, some of the healthiest foods, touted as anodynes for cancer and heart disease, are the foods that produce the most gas. The fizz in most carbonated beverages comes from carbon dioxide, which is dissipated by the time it reaches your intestines. The act of eating quickly tends to induce the diner to take in air, thereby bloating the colon, as well as turning the air inside deadly. Exercising helps the body absorb gases in the colon, thereby dissipating them by the time they reach your anus.

But many soft drinks contain fructose, a sugar the intestines have a difficult time absorbing, thereby causing flatus, the medical term for farts (which comes from the Latin meaning "the act of blowing"). If you happen to fart while you are exercising, particularly in a health club, it's usually not so bad because most people wear headsets and listen to music, which tends to obscure the sound.

There are four possible reasons why some people fart more than others: They eat a lot of carbohydrates; they swallow air when they eat; the bacteria in their intestines are more efficient in turning carbohydrates into gas; or, conversely, the bacteria in their intestines don't consume carbohydrates efficiently, and therefore produce gas.

Levitt says an average male fart is made up of about 110 milliliters of gas (almost half a cup), with 80 milliliters for a woman's (a third of a cup).

The air filter, which you sit on, does a good job of eliminating fart odors but, of course, treats only the results, not the symptoms, of the noxious-smelling gas.

And as for masking the sound, Levitt says that depending on the anatomical peculiarities of a person's anus, sounds can vary when gas is squeezed through such a tight opening.

Americans are probably the most supercilious about farts. The British explorer and linguist Sir Richard Francis Burton, who first translated the "Kama Sutra" in 1883, contends in one of his many books that a tribe of Arabian Bedouins created a language of arcane codes and warnings through a series of intricately nuanced farts.

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