Carnal Carnival – everything you ever wanted to know about poop you will be able to learn in ten days from today

When people tweet on a late Saturday night, strange things can happen, including this – foundation of another science-themed blog carnival: The Carnal Carnival! Yup, it already has a homepage, and a list of hosts for 13 months in advance, and even a Twitter account.

What is The Carnal Carnival? A monthly collection of best blog posts covering, mostly from a scientific perspective, a variety of bodily functions, fluids and excretions that are usually not discussed in polite company over an elegant meal. But it is science! And it is important! And it is fun! And there is nothing that the Web has not already seen yet, as far as inappropriateness goes, so why not add some sense and some scientific rigor to these topics so people who search for strange words on Google end up actually learning something.

I volunteered to host the very first edition, here on this blog on August 20th in the morning, so you only have ten days to send in the entries.

The topic of the month is Poop! Yes, feces, excrement, frass, scat, droppings and everything about it. Let’s put together a complete online guide to every possible aspect of the topic, all in one place. Need ideas? Here are some:

How do you look for scat out in the field? What can it tell you: what animals are there, how many, where they are moving (perhaps tracking poop trails by satellite), what they are eating and how their digestive systems work? How about insect frass?

How and why various parasites use animal droppings as home during parts of their lifecycles? And what are dung beetles really doing?

Why some animals require time and privacy to poop, circling around, adopting un-natural postures, then straining (e.g., dogs, humans), while others can defecate on the run (have you seen horses pooping in mid-flight during jumping competition)? Penguin projectile pooping?

What determines the shape of the droppings? Why cows make pies, dogs and humans eject sausage-like objects, elephants and horses produce several large spherical droppings, while goats and rabbits make many little spheres? What determines color and smell?

What are the differences in anatomy and physiology of the large intestine in various vertebrates? How does a colon extract all that water from the digested material? Does that mechanism differ in animals that live in deserts and produce very dry poop versus animals that do not need to conserve water that much?

What is the physiological mechanism of defecation? What drugs and chemicals can affect it and how?

Paleontology and physical anthropology: what can we learn about extinct animals and ancient humans by studying coprolites?

Medicine (and veterinary medicine): when stuff goes wrong: causes and treatments of gas, excessive flatulence, incontinence, impacted colon (and cecum in horses), diarrhea, etc.

One word: coprophagy!

What is the best position for humans during the act of fecal excretion?

Anthropology, archeology and ethnography: historical and geographical differences in attitudes toward human (and animal) excrement.

Technology: from doing it in the woods to burying in holes in the ground to open pits to outhouses to squating toilets to sitting WCs to high-tech gizmos that sing to you and diagnose diseases from your poop. How do astronauts do it in zero gravity?

More technology: history and geographical variation in methods for getting rid of human waste. Comparative study of sewers of Great Cities.

Agticulture, environment and epidemiology: use of animal and human waste as fertilizer. Environmental effects of human waste and hog lagoons. How does fecal matter get into the food system and what can happen then? Open communal pits as sources of disease.

Have you read fiction, non-fiction or poetry that focuses on some aspect of poop? Review it!

If you have already written blog posts on these or related topics, send them in – old posts are welcome. If you have not, but have interest or expertise in something like this, you have ten days to send the permalinks of your posts to me at carnivalcarnal AT gmail DOT com (or, this month only, to Coturnix AT gmail DOT com).

If you have posts on other topics concerning strange bodily functions – check the schedule of hosts and topics for the next year and send the appropriate posts at appropriate times.


12 responses to “Carnal Carnival – everything you ever wanted to know about poop you will be able to learn in ten days from today

  1. Ooh, the anthropology Salivation Army (those of us who collect spit and piss) may be able to contribute as well!

  2. All my previous basenjis ate normal dog food, searched out cat feces, or their own, or each other’s, and gobbled it up. My youngest basenji, because of allergies, is on a vegetarian dog food. He searches for bunny nuggets. Mmmm, delicious!

  3. isisthescientist

    I still really love that picture.

  4. Yup, it is the icon of science blogging 😉

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  6. serendipitous to say the least that my friend Todd just reviewed the book “Holy Shit” for our local news website I’d like to submit his review for the carnival.

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