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The Science of Poop with Mary Roach

In this episode of Tumble, Lindsay and Marshall explore the very real and very gross science of poop, from diapers for astronauts to poop transplants.

Poop emoji pattern


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0212 - The Science of Poop - Transcript_
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Cover of Mary Roach's book "Gulp"

As yucky as poop is, we think it is just as interesting. One of our favorite writers Mary Roach agrees! She wrote a book called Gulp all about the epic journey food takes from your mouth to your rectum. She shared her investigations into the wonderful world of poop-related science and engineering.

We just couldn’t get enough. For those of you like us, here's more poop science stories to share. We guarantee any of these will impress/gross out your friends.

The Poop Cure Want to know more about poop transplants? Don't be shy, we know you do. Fecal transplants-putting one person's

poop into another person's gut-are surprisingly effective cures for the dangerous bacterial infection, Clostridium difficile. This video by one of our favorite YouTube science stars, Anna Rothschild of Gross Science, goes into the squirmy details of how this treatments works.


For more Gross Science with Anna, listen to our episode "The Tower of the Vomiting Robot with Anna Rothschild."


It takes you and an elephant the same amount of time to poop!

An elephant pooping

Scientists from the Georgia Institute of Technology created a unified theory of pooping. All mammals no matter how big or small take about 12 seconds to poop. By studying fecal sizes and shapes at the Zoo Atlanta, these scientists created a mathematical model of poop time. Yep that is a real thing!


Poop in Space! As scientists prepare for mars, they are thinking about every detail. Including how to go to the bathroom. Life in space is full of the unexpected, and astronauts will could be stuck in their space suit for a long time. NASA created a challenge to design a safe way for astronauts to go to the bathroom incase of such an emergency. If they can’t get to a toilet for days, what are astronauts to do? The winning design found a way to keep the suit on, but get the poop out, inspired by modern surgery techniques.

For more on NASA's space poop challenge and the winner listen to this story by Camila Domonoske at NPR.

When they aren't going #2 in super engineered space diapers, astronauts use the toilet just like you and me. Well sort of.... Here is a tour of a toilet in space by The European Space Agency.


Glitter poop, because well, science!

Glitter poop emoji

Poop can tell us if an animal is healthy or sick, who their family is, and even if they are stressed out. For zoologists poop is black gold. They don’t wash away poop when they clean up cages. They carefully track and catalog the poop of all the animals, with the help of an unexpected tagging technique – glitter. Watch this video by National Geographic about how and why Zoologists pick up poop:

We hope this stories give you enough fuel to start some interesting conversations with your friends, family, and teachers!

For more, check out our Patreon page with educational materials for this episode!

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