That was brief

President Bush’s statement during his State of the Union address that “America is addicted to foreign oil” has generated some predictable skepticism around the country.

As Mark Sandalow of the SF Chronicle puts it:

President Bush’s call for Republicans and Democrats to work together, for America to engage the world and for the nation to quit its addiction to oil will sound to many skeptics like Barry Bonds calling for an end to steroid use in baseball.

Bush’s call to reduce America’s dependence on foreign oil follows five years of promoting U.S. oil production and rejecting calls for conservation. In the first year of Bush’s presidency, Cheney dismissively observed, “you cannot conserve your way to energy independence.”

Well, not to worry. Turns out – that bit about cutting back on oil imports? He was just kidding.

Administration backs off Bush’s vow to reduce Mideast oil imports

One day after President Bush vowed to reduce America’s dependence on Middle East oil by cutting imports from there 75 percent by 2025, his energy secretary and national economic adviser said Wednesday that the president didn’t mean it literally.

How’s this for a science fair project?

My family alerted me to this gem of scientific research, which made the rounds back in 2001.

Hot air?

“It all started with an enquiry from a nurse,” Dr Karl Kruszelnicki told listeners to his science phone-in show on the Triple J radio station in Brisbane. “She wanted to know whether she was contaminating the operating theatre she worked in by quietly farting in the sterile environment during operations, and I realised that I didn’t know. But I was determined to find out.”

Dr Kruszelnicki then described the method by which he had established whether human flatus was germ-laden, or merely malodorous. “I contacted Luke Tennent, a microbiologist in Canberra, and together we devised an experiment. He asked a colleague to break wind directly onto two Petri dishes from a distance of 5 centimetres, first fully clothed, then with his trousers down. Then he observed what happened. Overnight, the second Petri dish sprouted visible lumps of two types of bacteria that are usually found only in the gut and on the skin. But the flatus which had passed through clothing caused no bacteria to sprout, which suggests that clothing acts as a filter.

“Our deduction is that the enteric zone in the second Petri dish was caused by the flatus itself, and the splatter ring around that was caused by the sheer velocity of the fart, which blew skin bacteria from the cheeks and blasted it onto the dish. It seems, therefore, that flatus can cause infection if the emitter is naked, but not if he or she is clothed. But the results of the experiment should not be considered alarming, because neither type of bacterium is harmful. In fact, they’re similar to the `friendly’ bacteria found in yoghurt.

“Our final conclusion? Don’t fart naked near food. All right, it’s not rocket science. But then again, maybe it is?”

Reprinted from the Canberra Times, 17 July 2001; spotter, Michael Doyle.