Patent: The Rockets’ Red Glare — And Nasty Odor

fireworksYou’ll be tempted to look this one up to be convinced it’s not made up.

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office issued a patent for a toy rocket powered by flatulence.

That’s right. U.S. Patent No. 6,055,910 is for a “toy gas-fired missile” that is prepared for takeoff by the operator placing “the inlet tube with its valve open adjacent to his anal region from which a colonic gas is discharged.”

After being loaded, “[t]he ignitor is then activated to explode the mixture in the chamber and fire the missile into space.”

The “Status of the Prior Art” section of the patent offers a dissertation on flatulence, including way TMI in the form of revelations that a normal individual produces 400-600 ml of flatus per day and that the major components, in descending odor, er, order, are: nitrogen, hydrogen, carbon dioxide, methane, and oxygen. The odor-causing ingredients are sulfide, skatole, indole, volatile amines, and short-chain fatty acids.

Why is this invention needed? For consumer safety, of course.

The inventors offer the invention as a safer alternative to the “popular practice” of “ignition of one’s own flatus” by lit match or candle, or a cigarette lighter. Of course, “[a] major drawback” of this practice is the “hazardous coupling of fire, combustible gases and inebriated participants.” Serious burn reports are not uncommon, according to the patent application, “especially … when the participants remove their clothing.”

Accordingly, “[i]n view of the foregoing, the main object of this invention is to provide a safe toy which exploits combustible properties of flatus to fire a toy missile into space.”

U.S. Patent No. 6,055,910, May 2, 2000. Thanks to David Barman.

 

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Andrew Jay McClurg is a law professor whose teaching and research interests include tort law, products liability, legal education, privacy law and firearms policy. He holds the Herbert Herff Chair of Excellence in Law at the University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law.
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